FIGURES on the right of Scottish Labour are “challenging the authority” of leader Richard Leonard by plotting to remove two of his left-wing allies from the party’s governing body.

Leonard’s interim chief of staff Lesley Brennan and shadow cabinet member Monica Lennon are facing calls to stand down on the grounds that their positions conflict with sitting on the ruling executive.

However, a senior Leonard supporter said the manoeuvring was a “blatantly political move” as it would help the Right regain control of the executive.

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In November, Leonard succeeded Kezia Dugdale as leader after a decisive victory over MSP Anas Sarwar in a bitter contest.

However, although the left-wing leader has strong backing amongst party members and the trade unions, his supporters are believed to have a narrow majority on the Scottish Executive Committee (SEC).

Whichever faction controls the SEC effectively runs the party machine and determines the selection rules for aspiring candidates.

It is understood party members on the Right - who see themselves as 'centrists' - believe a way of regaining a strong foothold in the party is seizing control of the Executive, which met yesterday.

Centrist sources told this newspaper there is unhappiness in the party about the presence on the Executive of two Leonard loyalists.

Brennan, who was briefly an MSP, was elected as a constituency representative to the Executive last year, but she has since become Leonard’s interim chief of staff at Holyrood.

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Critics believe her job as the leader’s gatekeeper means she will never go against Leonard on the governing body, particularly if she gets the job on a permanent basis.

Lennon sits on the Executive as a representative of the Holyrood group, but she was elevated to the Shadow Cabinet recently. MSPs believe this post is not compatible with the SEC role.

One insider said: "The SEC can't just be a rubber stamp for the party leader. CLP reps like Lesley Brennan are there to represent rank and file members, and you can't do that if you're the leader's chief of staff.

“Backbench and junior members in parliament also need a voice on the SEC, and you can't do that if you're in the Shadow Cabinet and bound by collective responsibility. That's why several members of the Holyrood group have urged Monica Lennon to stand down. This is about ensuring the party remains a democratic organisation."

A second source said: “There’s no way Richard’s interim chief of staff should be sitting on the SEC, and it’s poor form for a shadow cabinet member to be there. Both should stand down.”

However, a senior figure on the Left of Scottish Labour said: “It is a blatantly political move. They are challenging the authority of the leader and can’t get over the fact they lost."

Replacing Brennan and Lennon, the source said, would make the arithmetic on the Executive “tight” for Leonard.

Meanwhile, the scale of the internal party tensions has been revealed by the circulation of a “code of conduct” to members of the SEC.

The new document, produced after a flurry of leaks from the governing body, lays out guidance for “speaking to the media”.

SEC members are urged to inform the party press office before discussing SEC business with journalists and avoid going “head to head” with each other.

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In the past, SEC members have engaged in rows in full public view on Twitter.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “Scottish Labour are fighting like ferrets in a sack. With behaviour like this, they will never be a credible opposition, never mind a government.”

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party does not comment on staff. All politicians on the SEC are there in accordance with standing orders of their nominating groups.”