KEIR Starmer was accused of “working in the shadows against Scottish democracy” as a motion condemning his sacking of Richard Leonard fell at the STUC Congress.

In an interview with The Times earlier this month, the Labour leader said that he had pushed Leonard out of the leadership role in Scottish Labour in February 2021.

Starmer had told senior party colleagues and potential donors that he had no confidence in Leonard’s leadership, and the Scottish leader resigned the next day, just months before the Holyrood election.

In the interview, Starmer had suggested that creating change in his party had required “some pretty ruthless decisions … the Scottish leader was gone two years ago”.

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Jim Malone, of the Dundee Trade Union Group, spoke in favour of the motion and accused him of being part of a “shady conspiracy”.

“To remove Richard as the Scottish leader ignoring the interests made at the behest of Scottish Labour members, but also those trade union activists that Richard has supported his whole life and his whole career,” Malone told delegates.

“This was done to serve the interests, no doubt, of the corporate donors who support Starmer. Those on the right, the cabal right-wing MSPs and MPs and also those unelected lords and ladies, who also seem to be in his pocket, those who infect our movement.

“Starmer is the direct opposite of Richard, neither a democrat or a socialist.

The National: Trade union delegates showed support for Leonard at the STUC annual CongressTrade union delegates showed support for Leonard at the STUC annual Congress

“Working in the shadows against Scottish democracy, Starmer has continued with ferocity blocking trade union candidates throughout the country and the UK, many with socialist principles like our comrade Richard Leonard.”

Malone pointed to the deselection of socialist Labour candidate hopefuls, Matt Kerr in Glasgow, and Jeremy Corbyn in Islington.

Richard Hardy, representing the general council by speaking against the motion, said the STUC recognised the “anger” felt by some delegates over Starmer’s remarks.

He said: “However, congress, in the view of the general council, this motion moves it into territory that we have traditionally avoided.

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“Our movement is made up of a number of major unions that were affiliated to the Labour Party, but also a large number of unique unions, who like my own, are not affiliated.

“The STUC status as non-affiliated to any political party is integral to the role that we play in the wider political debate and in Scottish civic society."

While this hasn’t stopped the STUC from joining in wider political debate and policy positions of parties, Hardy added, the general council were “reluctant” to involve themselves in internal processes, including Leonard’s sacking.

The National asked current Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who replaced Leonard, if he was embarrassed that the internal party row had made it on to the conference agenda.

“The matters that are debated at congress are for members of congress,” he said.

The full motion read: "That this congress condemns the leader of the UK Labour Party, Keir Starmer MP, for what was widely interpreted as a boast in The Times newspaper on April 4 that he had effectively 'sacked' our friend and comrade and then-Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP.

"Congress offers solidarity to Richard and all trade unionists and socialist Labour members under attack by the current Labour leadership."

It fell with 152 votes in support, and 740 votes opposed.