Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay has branded his colleagues “spoiled brats” who have harmed the party.
In an extraordinary outburst, the veteran politican who is standing down in May’s Holyrood elections urged members to to banish a “self-entitled destructive group” from its ranks.
Findlay will be interpreted as targeting deputy leader Jackie Baillie, former leadership contestant Anas Sarwar, MSP Jenny Marra and former justice spokesman James Kelly.
Findlay, one of Scottish Labour’s most effective parliamentarians for a decade, accused his comrades of “internal sabotage”.
He said: “The people doing this are not inexperienced politicians, they’re some of the longest-serving members of the parliamentary group.
“They have never accepted responsibility for failed political and strategic direction.
“They couldn’t accept it when their anointed candidates failed in their role as leader or lost internal elections.
“Like the spoiled brat who thinks he or she has the divine right to all the spoils, their destructive tantrums have caused repeated and lasting reputational damage.
“Labour faces a fundamental choice – change or die. It is that serious.”
Findlay pointed to significant political victories for Scottish Labour including its recent Period Poverty Bill, along with campaigns for victims of mesh implants, the scrapping of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act and helping expose the Covid-19 care home crisis. But he urged members to use their vote for regional list candidates to get rid of “arrogant” MSPs.
Findlay added: “Imagine how much more we could achieve without those directing an internal campaign of self-harm. Scotland needs an effective, campaigning Labour Party delivering real change. But it’s clear to me this can only come with a change of personnel.
“In the next few weeks, Labour members will be selecting list candidates for the Scottish Parliament elections in May. We need a new group of MSPs who are not under the illusion that they have some divine right to be in Government.
“Instead, they should be driven by an ethos of hard work, commitment to a cause and respect for party members and the MSP colleagues they will have to work with over the next five years.”
Findlay’s criticism comes after the party’s Holyrood group voted against Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.
Ian Murray, Labour’s only Scottish MP, voted for the deal. Findlay added: “In the run up to the Scottish Parliament vote on giving consent to the UK Government’s Brexit bill, confusion over Labour’s position caused uproar among party members and MSPs.
A hastily arranged meeting of the Labour group of MSPs took place first thing on Wednesday morning to put together a plan and media strategy to accompany it. The meeting was barely over when all of the ‘private’ discussions we had just had were leaked to the media.
“This treacherous behaviour is not new, it has gone on for years, but has been at its worst over the last five years and intensified when Richard Leonard was elected as leader. Week in, week out there’s been a constant and repeated campaign to undermine him, the staff he has appointed and anyone who offered him support.”
Findlay has been a Labour Party member for 30 years and was Scottish campaign chief for Jeremy Corbyn during the 2015 Labour leadership election, He has been a leadership contestant and was previously Richard Leonard’s Brexit spokesman and business manager.
The MSP said: “There have been times when it has been very tough. Iraq and the Better Together disaster are two of the most obvious examples but there are so many more positive examples of what the Labour Party has achieved that has led me to remain loyal to the cause of democratic socialism.
“The Scottish Parliament, the National Minimum wage, the Equality act, record investment in the NHS, peace in Northern Ireland, free personal care, the smoking ban, free bus travel for pensioners, land reform and reductions in child poverty, all made for a better country and made me proud to be a Labour Party member.”
A Scottish Labour source said: “Neil was in charge of our European election campaign when we came fifth on nine per cent so a period of reflective silence from him would be welcome.”