Labour needs to show Scots it can “do politics differently”, leadership hopeful Monica Lennon said – insisting the party can no longer rely on “party grandees getting wheeled out to preach to the nation”.
Lennon said if she becomes Scottish Labour leader at the end of next month, she would work to showcase the talents of more people within the party.
She also argued that Labour’s image needs to change – and said that as she had not held a leadership post within the party, she was the best person to achieve this.
Lennon, Labour’s health spokeswoman at Holyrood, is running against fellow Labour MSP Anas Sarwar – who has previously served as both Scottish Labour deputy leader and interim leader.
And while he is seen by some as the favourite to succeed Richard Leonard, Lennon insisted after five years at Holyrood, and five years in local government before that, she was ready to take on the job.
The Labour MSP successfully pushed legislation through Holyrood, making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products those who need them, with Lennon persuading the Scottish Government to back her Bill, despite ministers’ initial opposition.
She said: “When people are polled on policies they do like Scottish Labour policies – they just don’t like the brand, and that tells me the party’s image has to change.
“I am coming into this as someone with a fresh perspective, who hasn’t been part of the leadership team before and I have shown in Parliament I can be really effective and speak about the issues that matter most to people.”
Speaking to PA Scotland, Lennon stressed Scottish Labour needs to be a “party of the future, not a party of the past”.
And she added: “That’s why I want to showcase all different people in the party – it can’t always just be about party grandees getting wheeled out to preach to the nation.
“We have to show that we are a modern political party, that we are changing, we have got fresh faces.
“We have got to show our best is still to come, we do that by showing we have got energy, that we have got a grass roots movement, that we are working really closely with trade unions.”
Lennon declared: “I know that Scottish Labour needs to change, we need to do politics differently, that is true for the party and true for the country.
“I’ve got experience at the Scottish Parliament as an MSP, as a local councillor, and as someone who has been a grass roots member and a chair of the local party, so I have got a lot of experience.
“I’ve been doing a lot of listening to party members and to our activists and they want the party to change.
“So I am standing because we need a new generation of leader, and that is what I represent. My politics is very practical, it is about getting stuff done, that is what I have been doing – my Period Products Bill is a good example of that.
“But I want to have that ambition for all the other parts of our society that aren’t working for people.”
She continued: “I didn’t go looking for this contest – I was sad that Richard (Leonard) resigned.
“For me this was not a light decision, I think this is the most important job in Scottish politics, even in UK politics just now, so it is a big job. But I feel ready to do it and I feel I am the right candidate at this time because we do need to change the way we do politics.
“We have had the same old same old elections, and we keep getting the same results or even worse results, so I am really hungry for that change because I see that people are hurting in our communities.”