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Reshuffle Rumour Mill: The Richard Leonard Edition

Henry Anderson

After ten weeks, the Scottish Labour leadership election is now over and speculation has turned to the composition of Richard Leonard’s frontbench team. Presumably, Leonard will want to promote his allies - those who backed his campaign. His challenge is that he must do this without alienating his colleagues, the majority of whom backed his rival.

Despite a contest marred by accusations of plotting, underhand tactics and rule-breaking, both candidates and the wider party are now eager to show a united front. The day after the result was announced both sides campaigned together at the Rutherglen by-election, while Leonard has confirmed Anas Sarwar will remain on the front bench.

The finance role is a key appointment to watch out for. Kezia Dugdale is still officially listed as Labour’s finance spokesperson and could remain so. But with criticism rising over her trip to the jungle, the decision may need to be made sooner rather than later given the Draft Budget is mere weeks away. Throughout his campaign and since becoming leader Leonard has forthrightly argued for a transformative economic agenda. He may, therefore, wish to promote someone who shares this vision, or he could follow the precedent Dugdale set and take on the role for himself. Another important position is the party business manager. It has been reported that Leonard might seek to replace Sarwar-supporter James Kelly with a closer ally.

But who will fill these roles? An obvious answer would be Leonard’s supporters, although just five of Labour’s 22 MSPs backed him. Of these, Claudia Beamish and Rhoda Grant already hold frontbench positions, leaving Elaine Smith, Monica Lennon and Neil Findlay as Leonard’s only supporters not currently in a frontbench leadership role. Monica Lennon is the party's Inequality spokesperson but she might be due a promotion to Shadow Cabinet Secretary given her prominent role in the leadership campaign.

There is also the small matter of the vacant deputy leadership. Alex Rowley has resigned from the role after allegations about his personal life. It’s worth noting that the new deputy could be an MP or Councillor, and Danielle Rowley, newly-elected MP for Midlothian, has indicated that she “would be interested”. Scottish Labour will soon be in the midst of another election…

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