In comedy timing is essential, likewise in politics, it is also essential and generally more pressing. The leadership contest between Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard didn’t impress me in the way it was conducted from the Sarwar side. In the end, the right person won in Richard Leonard, what transpired in that contest should have been a heads up for Richard Leonard.
Yesterday, Richard Leonard did something which he should have done nearly a year ago, he sacked Anas Sarwar as Shadow Health spokesman. You could make a case that by giving Anas a chance to get onboard with the new leadership, Richard Leonard was being fair.
A Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet reshuffle was long overdue, you can say one thing about Anas Sarwar’s stint as Health spokesman, he did a decent job, but beyond his brief, his other activities were to prove his undoing, according to Richard Leonard, Anas Sarwar was sacked for “political reasons”.
One of the reasons which more than warranted his removal was his ‘playing the race card’, after he was removed, SNP MSP Humza Yousaf tweeted:
“Scottish Labour denied Asian members voting rights in an internal selection battle, allegedly discounted Asian members postal ballots and have now chucked their only Asian front bencher to the back benches. Structural racism within Scottish Labour?”
The sense of entitlement is laughable, but the snide question on racism is pure Humza, like Anas Sarwar, Yousaf is a ‘race card player’, in fact, to someone looking at this from the outside, you might be tempted to ask the question;
“are they operating as a double act?”
One big mistake yesterday in the reshuffle was the appointment of Monica Lennon as Health spokesperson, I doubt she will be as good as Anas, he had experience and also knowledge of working in the NHS having been a dentist.
His presentation was pretty good, and he managed to get a lot of mileage at the expense of the SNP. The SNP incompetence in health is a running sore, so there were lots of issues to jump on to use, which is always pretty handy. Although the same issues will be there for Monica Lennon, I doubt she will be as effective as Anas.
Yesterday’s sacking were all about Richard Leonard’s attempt to assert his authority over Scottish Labour which is going through an unhappy time due to the issue of Kezia Dugdale’s court case which has divided the party in how it was managed. Kezia put herself into the position she is in, she wrote what she wanted to write and there followed consequences.
The Labour Party should have not got involved, and left it as a matter between her and the Daily Record, but they did get involved, and it all went sideways when they pulled out of funding her. Once the party had committed, they should have seen it through to the end, even if they thought it would result in a loss.
Kezia Dugdale was lucky that the Daily Record stepped back in to help her, as they promised they would do from the start.
At a recent meeting of Labour MSPs, it was apparently not cordial, which I think explains why Jackie Baillie was shown the door also, however, I wouldn’t have sacked her myself, not for speaking out in favour of Kezia. What I would have said to her was that ‘we are where we are re Kezia, and as the Daily Record is funding her defence’, we need to step back from this infighting’.
This entire episode is a huge mess in how it was handled but Richard Leonard shouldn't carry the can.
If you add in the running sore of Anas Sarwar losing the leadership contest and being seen in the eyes of the Leonard’s camp as part of a briefing operation against the leader, you can only wonder how this will further play out.
One thing that Anas Sarwar better get used to is being on the backbenches for a rather long time.
Not unexpectedly, Scots Labour MP Ian Murray tweeted:
"The purge of good, capable and committed people goes on merely for standing up for what they believe in. I don’t know whether to be angry or sad. I thought Richard was better than this?"
Former Kirkcaldy MP and Labour defence minister Lord Lewis Moonie added on Twitter:
“My party is soooooooo f***ed.”
Well that is a bit OTT, but certainly this damage, but there is no such thing as the indispensable man or woman in the Labour Party.
A source said it this episode is further evidence of poor leadership on Richard Leonard:
“You don’t take your two best players off the pitch when you’re in trouble.”
You do when they aren’t acting as Team players!
Scottish Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said:
“Labour is a party more divided than ever, and with this chaotic reshuffle have underlined again just how weak an opposition they are. They've removed their best performers from the frontbench on the same day their media chief confirms he can't take it anymore. This is a bewildering and ridiculous political fiasco. The only two MSPs capable of leading have now been sacked by their increasingly hapless leader. Richard Leonard couldn't lead a circus, even though that's what he increasingly seems to aspire to.”
This is just politicking on the part of Jackson Carlaw, false support for Anas Sarwar and Jackie Baillie, I am sure he would much prefer less able people to be up against, especially since the Conservatives plan to mount a serious bid for Holyrood in 2021.
Nicola Sturgeon joined in to Labour’s woes and taunted Mr Leonard at First Minister’s Questions, she read out a quote from someone in his own party;
“‘Richard has no authority over the group. If he is serious about leading Scottish Labour, he should be apologising”. I could not sum it up any better.”
Finally, Sturgeon has her own problems re leadership, and usually her assessment of anything is usually wrong.
Richard Leonard has nothing to apologise for to anyone, his reshuffle was about picking a new team to work as a team. I wouldn’t have sacked Jackie Baillie because I didn’t think it was necessary, but Anas Sarwar by his own actions crossed his rubicon, hence sacked for “political reasons”. In his time on the backbenches, Anas should reflect on how he got there, one reason was lacking in leadership, and the other was inability to work as part of the team.
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