After months of debate and multiple moves from both candidates to outflank each other on the left, the Scottish Labour leadership contest is over. Richard Leonard has emerged victorious, beating his only rival and fellow MSP Anas Sarwar.
Leonard’s win is widely being hailed as a victory for Corbynism and the final nail in the coffin for New Labour north of the border. But who is Scotland’s newest party leader? Here are 7 things you need to know about Richard Leonard.
1. Yorkshire born and raised
Anyone who has listened to Leonard speak will have heard his unmistakable Yorkshire twang. According to the Times, Leonard grew up in Yorkshire and was educated at private school. He does not see his English past as a weakness, and told the Times that it should not make a difference.
Giving interviews about the leadership contest outside Parliament. Only 24 hours until voting closes with the result being announced on Saturday morning! pic.twitter.com/rkxdc47IYo— Richard Leonard (@LabourRichard) November 16, 2017
2. Alma mater
3. Work before parliament
4. 2016 election
Corbyn, like his rival Sarwar is a relative newcomer to the Scottish Parliament having only been first elected last year. Leonard was the candidate in the Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley constituency – a seat which had been held by Labour right up until the SNP’s 2011 majority win – but lost to the SNP by a significant margin in 2016. However, he was elected via the Scottish parliament’s top-up list for the Central Scotland region.
5. The Corbynite candidate
According to the New Statesman, Leonard has said he is not a “Corbynista”, but he has heaped praise on the UK Labour leader and stood by him when he was told to step aside by many, something he made clear in a Labour List article.
During the contest, he was widely viewed as the Corbynite candidate, and his victory is a clear win for Labour’s left-wing.
6. Leonard’s plan for Scotland
Scottish Labour’s new leader has bold and ambitious plans that could end up pushing the SNP further to the left and even tread on the toes of the left-wing Scottish Green Party. Leonard’s ten-point plan positions him – and now the Scottish Labour party – as a left-wing force to be reckoned with, saying that he wants to “end poverty”, promote “public ownership” and pursue “full employment”.
7. He has a mountain to climb
This fact would be true had either candidate won the leadership contest. In 2016, Scottish Labour came third at Holyrood, and in 2017 – while they did make progress – they fell behind the Tories.
To become First Minister of Scotland, Richard Leonard needs to win back support from SNP and Tory voters. The next few years at Holyrood will be fascinating to observe.