“All happy families are alike,” wrote Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina, before adding: “Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”.

The 19th century Russian novelist’s wise words could apply to Scottish Labour, perhaps the most dysfunctional brood in UK politics.

Richard Leonard heads to Dundee this week for his second party conference as leader. He wants to pitch himself as a potential First Minister and present his party as a united family to voters.

Gary Smith, who leads a trade union that employed Leonard for more than 20 years, appears not to have been sent the harmony memo.

According to Smith, Scottish Labour has failed on Brexit and been weak on anti-Semitism. Damningly, he says Leonard’s strategy of “riding on the coat-tails” of Jeremy Corbyn won’t work. In boxing terms, Smith has delivered a first-round knock-out.

His analysis also happens to be shared by a growing body of opinion within Scottish Labour. I accept Leonard and Corbyn are close politically, but ideological similarities do not require a leader to surrender his autonomy and behave like a parrot.

Brexit is his biggest failure. Leonard, much to the frustration of his MSPs and party members, has echoed Corbyn’s Euroscepticism and opted to say as little as he can get away with on a second referendum. Both men want to strangle this option.

Leonard’s hostility to a public vote is against the backdrop of over 60% of voters in Scotland supporting Remain in 2016. Opinion polls show that backing for staying in the European Union has grown since the referendum. And yet, despite these facts, Leonard has bizarrely manoeuvred himself into the position of being the most pro-Brexit leader at Holyrood.

His sleepy approach to the anti-Semitism row provides further evidence that his gut instinct is to defer to Corbyn. When the UK Labour leader resisted the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism last year, Leonard’s response should have been swift and decisive.

“The party should sign up to the IHRA and all the associated examples, without hesitation. We must make amends with the Jewish community,” the statement should have read.

Leonard instead gave a feeble interview to the BBC during which he offered warm words to Jews, but nothing else. Corbyn eventually performed a U-turn and, as if by magic, so did Leonard. It is clear some of his supporters believe the anti-Semitism scandal has been exaggerated to damage the Corbyn project.

As a result of his back-seat leadership, Leonard’s fortunes are now tied to the electoral performance of Corbyn. He has failed to exercise the autonomy many of his predecessors worked so hard to extract from the UK party. His team is effectively a satellite of the Leader of the Opposition’s Office at Westminster.

He may also regret trying to use Corbyn as his meal ticket to Bute House, as there is little evidence of a “JC” bounce in Scotland. As Smith pointed out, although Scottish Labour made gains at the last general election, the party only put on 10,000 votes compared with the previous poll. Around 7,000 of these were in Edinburgh South, where Ian Murray was explicitly anti-Corbyn.

Two rows are brewing that will inevitably fuel Labour faction-fighting. On Holyrood selections, Leonard allies want him to use his majority on the party’s Executive to hand-pick List candidates for next Scottish Parliament election. Such a move would be brutal, and could inject fresh blood into a jaded group of MSPs, but it would backfire if it was used to install middle aged under-achievers from the trade union movement.

The party’s “organisational” review, led by deputy leader Lesley Laird, is the other potential flashpoint. Scottish Labour Kremlinologists see it as an attempt to restrict the power of general secretary Brian Roy and his team. Insiders say UK Labour is already micro-managing Scottish Labour finances in an unprecedented way.

Leonard is a nice man. He has a big heart and was a more authentic representative of Labour values than Anas Sarwar, who he defeated for the leadership. But he is flailing and his party is heading towards another thumping defeat. Scottish Labour needs a leader, not a follower.