Labour chief: Leaks during leadership race bring party into '˜disrepute'

Scottish Labour's General Secretary has hit back at a leak of private correspondence during the leadership contest, branding the leaks as an 'attempt to undermine the leadership process'.
Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard at Labour leader hustings. Picture; John DevlinAnas Sarwar and Richard Leonard at Labour leader hustings. Picture; John Devlin
Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard at Labour leader hustings. Picture; John Devlin

Brian Roy said the unauthorised disclosure of a letter written by Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray, who expressed concern about how members and trade union members could vote, was an “intentional act” to shame the party and bring the entire contest into ‘disrepute’

Following the departure of Kezia Dugdale, the leadership battle betweeen Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard, has been marred by infighting.

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Mr Roy called for an end of such conflict and called for all members to get on the same page. In an apparent dig at Ian Murray he urged colleagues not to act as “intermediaries” going forward.

It is believed that the controversy has erupted over the strategies adopted by supporters of both MSPs to sign up new members and supporters ahead of the ballot.

Reports suggest that Anas Sarwar’s supporters have been on a campaign to round up support, while a number of Mr Leonard’s backers in the Unite trade union are believed to have recruited thousands of “affiliated” supporters,

Last week a mass text message from Unite urged members to sign up and back Leonard, leading to complaints from supporters of Sarwar.

Writing about the incident, Ian Murray said: “There is no doubt whatsoever that the way in which Unite has signed up affiliate members to vote in the leadership election is against the rules of the Scottish Labour Party and the process.

“We are in danger of undoing all the progress we have made in the last year because the defence of the leadership election process is, at best, clumsy and, at worst, being rigged for a particular process.”

Brian Roy expressed his anger at the public nature of the feud in an email to Labour’s governing Scottish Executive Committee (SEC).

The message that was meant to remain private, was leaked to The Herald and read: “A private letter to me from a member of the SEC was leaked to a national newspaper. I believe this to be an attempt to undermine the leadership process, and an intentional act of bringing the Labour Party into disrepute.

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“I accepted this letter as private correspondence and responded to it after consultation with the Procedures Committee. It was clear to me that this was concerns raised by a member of the SEC, not on behalf of any third party.”

Mr Roy added: “Had it been clear to me that this letter was on behalf of anyone in particular,

“I would have asked for their details to contact them directly, or for them to contact me. Members of the Scottish Executive Committee have no need to act as intermediaries between me as Procedural Secretary and party members.”

In his letter, Mr Roy concluded: “This briefing to the press is counter-productive and cannot go on. I would appeal to all of you. Please use whatever influence you have to deter this wilful and intentional damage to our party.”

Mr Murray declined to comment on Mr Roy’s email.

The leadership ballot opens in two weeks, with results expected on November 18.

Labour refused to comment on the leaks, however the SNP said: “There will be no winners in this embarrassing Scottish Labour leadership contest that’s seen the dirty laundry of both candidates gracelessly aired in public.”