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Unite chief backs Richard Leonard to lead Scottish Labour

Len McCluskey claims the MSP would 'build on the foundation laid by Jeremy Corbyn'.

Unite: Len McCluskey said Richard Leonard would 'speak for workers'.
Unite: Len McCluskey said Richard Leonard would 'speak for workers'. Reuters

The leader of the UK's largest union has backed left-wing MSP Richard Leonard to be the new leader of Scottish Labour.

Len McCluskey, the general secretary of the Unite trade union, also said his leadership could help Labour back to power across the UK and "build on the foundation laid by Jeremy Corbyn".

Mr Leonard is competing with the more moderate MSP Anas Sarwar, who is Labour's Holyrood health spokesman, to succeed Kezia Dugdale.

Speaking at the Unite Scottish policy conference in Aviemore, Mr McCluksey said: "Scottish Labour needs a leader who speaks for workers.

"We have one in Richard Leonard."

This time last year Mr McCluskey said "Labour in Scotland had fallen off the electoral perch".

But he admitted the party's success in the June general election, winning seats back from the SNP to return seven MPs to Westminster, had helped turn things round.

'Just as people warm to the honesty and decency of Jeremy Corbyn, voters in Scotland can look at Richard Leonard and say 'he's on my side'.'
Len McCluskey

The Unite leader did stress that there was still a lot to do to rebuild from the 2015 "wipeout" when Scottish Labour lost 40 MPs to Nicola Sturgeon's party.

But he added: "Who would have thought, even a few months ago, that we would be talking about Labour's fortunes in Scotland being the key to open the door to Labour in No 10."

Mr McCluskey claimed that while voters were fed up with the "weary same old politics", politicians such as Mr Corbyn and Mr Leonard had "something genuinely new on offer".

He added: "Just as people warm to the honesty and decency of Jeremy Corbyn, voters in Scotland can look at Richard Leonard and say 'he's on my side'."

A spokesman for the Anas Sarwar campaign said: "We know that many ordinary members of Unite and other trade unions are backing us because we're running a positive campaign focused on radical ideas.

"Anas is standing in this contest as the only candidate who has never, and will never, leave workers behind by voting against the Labour Party and with the Tories on Brexit.

"Nobody can credibly claim they want to protect jobs and not support membership of the single market and the customs union.

"That's why Anas supports permanent UK membership of the European single market and the customs union."

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