Richard Leonard told to 'consider his position' by Rachel Reeves

Scottish Labour's embattled leader has been urged to recognise that polls were “pretty dire for Labour” in Scotland by a leading member of Sir Keir Starmer’s frontbench.
Richard Leonard has been told to "consider his position" by Rachel Reeves.Richard Leonard has been told to "consider his position" by Rachel Reeves.
Richard Leonard has been told to "consider his position" by Rachel Reeves.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow cabinet office minister, has added to the pressure on Richard Leonard to quit as Scottish Labour leader, after she was asked if she backed the calls of four of his MSPs, who yesterday demanded he resign stating Labour was heading for “catastrophe” in next year's Holyrood elections.

While Sir Keir’s office neither came out in support of Mr Leonard yesterday, or backed calls for him to go, Ms Reeves gave the strongest hint yet that the UK Labour leader does not believe he can continue to lead the party in Scotland.

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She told Sky News: “I think that Richard Leonard needs to think about his position. The opinion polls in Scotland are pretty dire for Labour. We’ve got important elections next year. But those are decisions for Scottish Labour.”

She added: “It is a decision for Scottish Labour. I think he needs to consider his position and do what he thinks is right for Scotland and for Scottish Labour. It’s not a decision for me to make.

"It wouldn’t be right as an English MP to instruct what happens in the Scottish labour party but he needs to look at the opinion polls, consider his position and do what he thinks is right for Scotland and for Scottish Labour.”

Reacting to Ms Reeves's comments on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Leonard insisted he would carry on as leader. He said: “Rachel Reeves is not a member of the Scottish Labour party and I am elected by members of the Scottish Labour party. That’s who I am accountable to.

“They elected me back in 2017 to lead the Scottish Labour party into the May 2021 Scottish Parliament elections – that is what I am on course to do.

“I have received a huge number of messages of support from right across the party and the trade unions and I am confident that I’ve got the backing of the members of the Scottish Labour party.”

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, was also asked about Mr Leonard’s position on Sky but said she had “no view one way or another” if he should remain as Scottish Labour leader.

She said: “I've lost count of the number of leaders Labour have had – it doesn't seem to make much difference who it is. They're at sea on the key issue of Scotland's future.

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"I’ve listened to Richard Leonard justify his position, and his main justification seems to be that the things he believes in are being done by the SNP in government and so it begs the question what are Scottish Labour for? Until they get an answer to that and a way to distinguish themselves from the Conservatives on the future of Scotland they will continue to struggle."

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Joy Yates

Editorial Director