Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly launched a bizarre attack on the Scottish Green Party in an open letter following the launch of the Green campaign for the upcoming Scottish Parliamentary Elections. Mr Kelly claimed to be “puzzled” that the Greens are concentrating on the regional list and fielding only a few candidates in constituencies.
As a member of the Scottish Parliament for 14 years it is strange that this has come as surprise to Mr Kelly as this has been the strategy of the Scottish Green Party over the last two decades since the inception of the Scottish Parliament. However Mr Kelly seem to see something nefarious in this established strategy and thinks this is all a plot to help the SNP.
He went on in his letter to urge the Scottish Green Party to stand a candidate in the Rutherglen constituency. Mr Kelly is attempting to reclaim the seat he lost in 2016, to the SNP’s Clare Haughey, having presided over an ever-declining Labour vote in the area since he took over from former Rutherglen Labour MSP Janis Hughes in 2007. Although losing the Rutherglen Seat Mr Kelly was returned as a Glasgow list MSP.
It is unusual to find a politician demanding political opponents stand a candidate and is a change of stance for Mr Kelly who spent much of last year demanding his own party leader Richard Leonard stand down after Leonard demoted him in a reshuffling of his front bench. This move get the Greens to stand seems to be motivated by desperation on Mr Kelly’s part after only managing to be elected fifth Labour’s Glasgow List which is unlikely to get him back into parliament. Perhaps he feels his only chance of being returned as an MSP at May’s election is to unseat the popular SNP MSP Haughey in the constituency vote and the only way he can do so is to try and split the pro-independence vote.
The Glasgow List MSP’s open letter stunt backfired spectacularly when Green Co-convenors Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater sent their own open letter in response. With their tongue planted firmly in their cheek the Co-convenors thanked “James” for his letter and said they were “delighted” that he was so keen to have every chance to vote Green. They claimed to have spoken to many people like James who once backed the Labour Party, but who have been disappointed with its continual refusal to use the opportunities of parliamentary influence to make a difference in Scotland”.
The letter goes on to explain that decisions on fielding constituency candidates are taken democratically by the local Green branches contrasting this with the situation in Glasgow Kelvin where the Labour Party forced out candidate Hollie Cameron, who had been democratically selected by her local constituency party, for daring to suggest Labour should respect the democratic will of the Scottish people regarding a second independence referendum. This action by Labour HQ resulted in mass resignations from Glasgow Kelvin Labour.