Exclusive: Labour MSP says party are “in very big trouble”

Labour-hopefuls

Scottish Labour’s upcoming leadership election won’t be enough to turn around the fortunes of the struggling party, a prominent Labour MSP has claimed.

Malcolm Chisholm, a well-known party figure who has held high-ranking positions such as Health Secretary and Shadow Minister for Culture and External Affairs, said that none of the candidates would be able to give the party what they need to move forward.

“I think they’re in very big trouble and I’m not sure it will make much difference whoever the leader is on Saturday,” Mr Chisholm said. “It’s a bit unfortunate now that so much is focused on the leader and it’s become almost presidential in both the UK and Scottish elections.

“I’m not sure if any of our leadership candidates are going to be outstanding leaders but we’ll just have to work with what we get.”

Mr Chisholm said that he hadn’t decided who he would vote for but was pessimistic about the chances of candidate Sarah Boyack, who he had previously backed, saying: “to be honest, she’s not got a chance of winning.”

The previous leader of the party, Johann Lamont, stood down in October after accusing her Westminster colleagues of trying to run Scottish Labour “like a branch office of London”. Mr Chisholm said this perception could remain a big issue for Labour going forward into the 2016 election – especially if Jim Murphy is the man leading the party.

“It’s a common criticism and we’ll get it if Jim becomes our leader – as he probably will next week,” Mr Chisholm said. “You can predict what the SNP are going to say about him. Part of that will be: ‘Oh, London Labour; they just do what they tell them.’

“I think the perception that we’re controlled by London is actually quite damaging for Labour and I think that will be a continuing problem for us if Jim Murphy is the leader.”

A spokesman for Jim Murphy was keen to play down any divisions in the party, focusing instead on what Labour will look to do after the leadership campaigns are over.

“No matter who wins this election, everybody in the Scottish Labour party and the trade union movement will get behind the new leader,” the spokesman said. “We need to take a confident, positive and united message of change out across Scotland with a united voice.”

Mr Chisholm has been notoriously outspoken throughout his Labour career and resigned from his role as Minister for Communities in 2006, following his criticism of the deal to renew Trident. He will step down at the next Holyrood election and retire from politics.

The Scottish Labour party declined to comment.

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