RICHARD Leonard is under pressure as Scottish Labour leader after a leak revealed his party’s membership figures had fallen in every local area.

Labour has lost nearly 5,000 members over the last twelve months across all 73 local parties, a nosedive of around 20%.

In Eastwood, a constituency with a sizeable Jewish population, membership figures have slumped by nearly 40%.

Sources have cited the party’s handling of antisemitism allegations, as well as Leonard’s stance on Brexit, as reasons for the freefall.

Another insider said the decrease related to hundreds of members who signed up to support centrist Anas Sarwar’s leadership bid no longer being in the party.

Leonard, a backer of Jeremy Corbyn, defeated Sarwar in a bitter contest in late 2017 to become his party’s ninth leader in the devolution era.

His victory resulted in Labour on both sides of the border having left wing leaders for the first time.

With Labour eyeing power at Westminster, the Scottish party will play a pivotal role in determining whether Corbyn ends up in Downing Street.

The party has seven MPs in Scotland and wants to win at least ten more seats to help Labour form the next Government.

However, a leak of the organisation’s membership figures, which provide a comparison between January last year and the same month in 2019, show Leonard is struggling to hold on to his foot soldiers. The numbers go all the way back to 2012.



Images: the leaked figures

In January 2018, weeks after his victory over Sarwar, the Scotland-wide total stood at 25,836, but on Leonard’s watch it has plummeted to 21,162, a fall of 4,674.

The drop covers every CLP, from Aberdeen Central to Uddingston & Bellshill, spanning urban and rural areas. It is understood the current total also includes individuals who are in arrears.

In Edinburgh, a city Labour is hoping to make gains in at the next Holyrood and Westminster elections, the party’s membership across six CLPs has fallen by nearly 15% from 3,921 to 3,360.

In Glasgow, a former party heartland, Scottish Labour has lost 1545 members in twelve months, falling from 5814 in nine CLPs (including Rutherglen) to 4269.

Over 500 losses occurred in one constituency, Glasgow Southside, and there was a 231 reduction in Pollok.

Left wing sources said many of the examples in Glasgow are a throwback to the contest between Sarwar and Leonard.

Sarwar’s team embarked on a vigorous drive to recruit new members, which resulted in questions being raised about the veracity of some of the applications.

An insider said some of the Glasgow leavers appeared to have joined for the sole purpose of voting in the leadership contest and left after Sarwar lost. Southside and Pollok account for around 17% of all the former members in Scotland.

However, sources said dissatisfaction with Scottish Labour under Leonard is a bigger reason for the exodus.

Leonard was criticised after he supported Corbyn during last year’s row over antisemitism by initially holding back on endorsing all of the examples associated with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Jewish prejudice.

Critics believe he should have spoken out about well-publicised cases of alleged antisemitism, including that of councillor Jim Sheridan who was suspended but then reinstated to the party.

In Eastwood CLP alone, membership has fallen from 621 in January last year to 385 last month, a 38% drop. It is understood the number may be closer to 300 once members who are in arrears have been taken into the consideration.

Senior party figures believe another explanation for the steep drop is Leonard's staunch support for Corbyn on Brexit.

Many Labour members across the UK are anti-Brexit and would welcome another referendum, but Corbyn is sceptical and wants a deal to leave the European bloc.

Leonard, who was grilled about his position on the EU during the leadership contest, has echoed Corbyn’s position by calling for a general election and resisting supporting a so-called “people’s vote”.

Edinburgh Southern, one of Labour’s largest local parties, is staunchly pro-Remain and has witnessed a membership drop of 119.

An insider said: “Every Labour MSP knows at least one long-serving activist who has quit in disgust at our ambivalence about Brexit or our toleration of racism.

“The numbers are staggering, but what’s particularly worrying is the kind of people who are quitting – members who have grown up in the Labour family and devoted their entire lives to our cause and trying to get Labour into power.

“In the rest of the UK they’re being replaced by Trotskyist entryists who are part of the Corbyn cult, but in Scotland we’re just in freefall. Over a year into his leadership, there’s deep frustration at Richard’s complete inability to build on the party’s recovery. This is a damning verdict on the state of the Labour Party today.”

The statistics also appear to spell bad news for Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet. Leonard is expected to stand in Airdrie and Shotts in 2021, but nearly 30% of party members have left this CLP over the last twelve months.

His shadow health secretary Monica Lennon’s local party, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, has suffered a near 28% drop, while the figure in Almond Valley, a seat shadow Brexit Secretary Neil Findlay stood in two years ago, has fallen from 370 to 315.

A number of party members have gone public with their decision to quit recently. Susan Dalgety, who used to work for former First Minister Jack McConnell, wrote in September:

“I am not anti-Semitic, I am not pro-Brexit and I don’t believe a command economy will work in Britain. And I am no longer a member of the Labour Party.”

She continued: “At a time when our country needs the best possible opposition to win the best possible Brexit deal and so protect our economy, the Labour Party is tearing itself apart over whether its leader is a racist. That is shameful.

“It is one of the toughest decisions I have ever made, but in the end one of the easiest. I just couldn’t stomach it anymore.”

Tom Harris, a former Labour Minister in the UK Government, also quit last year. He was tight-lipped about the reason for his departure, but it is believed the antisemitism row was a factor.

“It’s not a comment on any people who have chosen to remain. This is just what’s right for me. It’s just a personal thing,” he said at the time.

The figures also provide a glimpse into the ebb and flow of the party membership over nine years.

The total was as low as 12,723 in December 2013, but shot up to 17,367 by August 2015, a recruitment surge which coincided with UK and Scottish leadership contests.

It rose to 22,404 by August 2016, an increase believed to have been caused by a leadership challenge to Corbyn, and increased to 25,836 by January last year.

A Scottish Labour source said: “Membership of Scottish Labour has almost doubled since the independence referendum and new members are joining the Party every day. We are committed to tackling antisemitism in all its forms wherever it arises, in our Party and wider society.”

SNP MP Kirsty Blackman said: “Labour are on the path to terminal decline and total irrelevance in Scotland. No one will be surprised that their toxic support for Tory plans to drag Scotland out of the EU against our will has led to a mass exodus of party members right across the country.

“If Labour continue to facilitate Brexit they will be just as culpable as the Tories for the devastating impact on Scottish jobs and living standards. They will never be forgiven for the lasting harm Brexit will inflict on Scottish people’s livelihoods, our economy and public services.

“Labour members are clearly just as fed up as voters are with the party, which continues to side with the Tories and carp from the sidelines of Scottish politics, with no credibility."

A spokesman for the Scottish Tories said: “It is no surprise to hear that Labour members across the country are deserting the party in droves.

“Labour is too weak to stand up to the SNP - and voters can see that it is only the Scottish Conservatives that can take on the Nationalists and win.

“These figures would also suggest that the abject failure by Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Leonard to stamp out anti-semitism is also alienating many former supporters in places like Eastwood.”