Scottish Labour leadership hopefuls vow to unite behind winner

Richard Leonard MSP and Anas Sarwar MSP both said they would get behind the victor. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Richard Leonard MSP and Anas Sarwar MSP both said they would get behind the victor. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
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THE two rivals fighting to become the new leader of the Scottish Labour party have pledged to accept the result of the election after a bitter 
campaign.

The pledge came after Anas Sarwar admitted he had raised concerns over the way the Unite union recruited party members, allowing thousands to get a vote in the contest with Richard Leonard.

Questions have also been voiced about a drive by the Sarwar campaign to sign up new members, amid claims that many share mobile phone numbers while living at different addresses.

Mr Sarwar told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics: “We raised concerns that were brought to us by individual members around the sign-up process from one particular union.

“We sought advice from the Labour party. We also sought legal advice on that as well, but that was never to pursue it.”

The Glasgow MSP said he was keen to ensure there was a “level playing field” in the contest to replace Kezia Dugdale, which is why the issue was taken to the party’s procedures committee.

Pat Rafferty, Unite’s Scottish secretary, has rejected the criticism of his union. He told its Scottish conference in Aviemore last month that the claims were “absolutely outrageous and totally unfounded”.

Mr Sarwar also referred to recent suggestions in some newspapers that members with “Asian-sounding names” were being recruited by his campaign and warned against “any suggestions that somehow we should racially 
profile the membership”.

Asked if he would challenge the result in court if he loses, Mr Sarwar replied: “No, I will support Richard if Richard is the leader.”

He added: “After this contest, whoever wins, we unite behind them and get in behind them. If Richard wins, I will be a solid supporter of Richard.”

Mr Leonard also ruled out a challenge if he loses the race to become party leader later this month.

The Central Scotland MSP said: “I will accept the result and I haven’t sought QCs’ advice or opinion on any of this.

“I put my faith in the internal Labour party process. I think it’s a fairly robust process.

“In cases where people have been found out that shouldn’t have a ballot, their names have come to light precisely because the scrutiny and 
balances and checks work inside the Labour party.” He added that the growth in 
party membership was a “good thing”.

Mr Leonard is widely seen as the torch-bearer for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing policy agenda in the campaign and also the frontrunner, although Mr Sarwar has the backing of most MSPs.

The result of the election will be announced on 18 November.

• READ MORE: http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics