Labour leadership hopefuls claim to be ‘change candidates’

Both Anas Sarwar and Monica Lennon spoke of the need for the party to change.

Labour leadership hopefuls claim to be ‘change candidates’ Getty ImagesGetty Images

Both Scottish Labour leadership candidates have claimed to be the “change candidates” in the race.

During a joint interview with the BBC, Anas Sarwar and Monica Lennon spoke of the need for the party to change to avoid electoral failure in May’s Holyrood election.

Lennon described the party as “a bit broken”, pointing to decisions on disciplinary issues, such as the case of the nine Aberdeen councillors who were suspended after forming a coalition with the Conservatives.

Writing in the Daily Record last January, Lennon said the Scottish Labour Party would need to undertake “epic changes” and potentially split with its UK counterpart to ensure it did not hit “rock bottom”.

On Sunday, she said: “I stand by the comments about ‘epic change’, that’s why I’m standing to be the change candidate in this contest.”

Just minutes later, Mr Sarwar laid claim to the moniker as well.

“I am the change candidate in this election,” he said.

“I wasn’t part of the continuity of the last few years.”

Sarwar was recently appointed the party’s constitution spokesperson while Lennon has held the health portfolio since 2018, when she replaced her opponent.

When asked if she still believed the Scottish party should be an entirely separate party, Lennon said: “No, I think there’s a way forward.
“I think we can keep the party united but I think we need to change internally.”

She added that she has contacted UK leader Keir Starmer and would be “willing to work co-operatively”, but believes disciplinary issues should be resolved north of the border.

When asked if she will be “another branch manager” if she wins the leadership, Lennon said: “I’ve never been a branch manager in my life. I’m standing to be my own woman and to lead a modern Scottish Labour Party that is fit for the 2020s.”

Sarwar said if he won the contest there would be no doubt where the power in the Scottish party lay.

“There will be no doubt who leads the Scottish Labour Party and who speaks for Scotland in the Labour Party,” he said.

“I want Keir Starmer to be the prime minister of the UK, I will respect him, I will support him, I’ll help him in that goal, but I’ll never be afraid to tell him it like it is, tell him when he’s wrong and to stand up for Scotland.”

Sarwar took aim at former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who said the party would not block another independence referendum during an event at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2019, contrary to the Scottish Labour position at the time.

“I want us to have a robust and autonomous Scottish Labour Party so we never again have the situation where a shadow chancellor can come to a comedy festival and blast out the park a Labour Party policy position and damage us in terms of votes and in terms of seats – that’s never going to be allowed to happen again.”

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