Richard Leonard promises ‘radical’ move left for Scots Labour

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Newly-elected Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard will today set out plans for a “radical” left-wing policy overhaul to sweep the party back to power at Holyrood as he is joined by Jeremy Corbyn in Glasgow for his first keynote speech.

Mr Leonard will unveil plans for 12 reviews across areas covering the NHS, council funding and the environment, as well as a commission on tax as he sets the goal of ousting Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister.

Jeremy Corbyn, left, greets new Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard in Glasgow yesterday. Picture: John Devlin

Jeremy Corbyn, left, greets new Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard in Glasgow yesterday. Picture: John Devlin

The shake-up will also be seen as an indictment of predecessor Kezia Dugdale’s more moderate approach to policy. Mr Corbyn will say today that he expects a close working relationship with the new leader in Scotland, amid claims of friction with Ms Dugdale.

The Central Scotland MSP will unveil his proposals at the Lighthouse in Glasgow today after yesterday attending his first meeting as leader of Labour’s ruling Scottish NEC in the city along with Mr Corbyn.

Mr Leonard will say that Mr Corbyn has been able to “reshape and recharge” Labour’s core message during his time as Westminster leader and will propose a similar approach in Scotland in the coming years. “Over the coming months, we will set up 12 policy reviews and a commission on tax to further develop our policies on the vital issues facing Scotland,” Mr Leonard will say.

The areas covered will include the funding and powers of local government, the housing crisis, children’s health, tackling climate change and developing green energy as well as extending public ownership.

“This moment can be a turning point for our party in Scotland but also for the UK as a whole,” Mr Leonard will add.

“We can and must change our society. We will challenge austerity from the SNP in Holyrood and the Tories in Westminster.

“Inequality, injustice and poverty are not inevitable. Together, we can seize the day and, as John Smith said when he became Labour leader, ‘persuade millions of the strength of our vision, the relevance of our policies and the urgency of our demand for change’.

“Labour has changed, and now we are determined to change Scotland. That is our task; it is one I am confident that we can achieve together.”

Mr Leonard will explain how he will bring policies he stood for as a leadership candidate to Scottish Labour’s next conference in Dundee in March, as part of a rolling programme of policy development.

He will also declare that his leadership will be measured by three goals: to win for Labour in Holyrood and become First Minister; to give the Scottish people confidence that they can make real change; and to lead a Labour surge in Scotland that will help Labour win the next Westminster elections.

The new leader took over nine days ago after beating Anas Sarwar in the race to replace Ms Dugdale. He has spent the past week dealing with the fallout of his predecessor’s appearance on the ITV reality show I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here.

Mr Leonard, seen as the “Corbynista” candidate in the battle to replace Ms Dugdale, is poised for a closer relationship with the UK leader than his predecessor who had called on the Islington MP to stand down last year. Mr Corbyn will say: “Richard laid out a bold and radical agenda for Scottish Labour and showed his determination to bring real change to Scotland. I look forward to working as closely as possible with Richard.

“Now our whole party and movement must campaign together to inspire people to have the confidence to be a country that genuinely cares for all.

“It is Labour that offers the Scottish people real change and a break with the failed and rigged system that has held our people back.”