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The former Shadow Chancellor and MP for Hayes and Harlington made the remarks ahead of a Scottish Labour meeting in Holyrood. Four MSPs from the party broke ranks last week to urge Mr Leonard to quit his position as leader. Mr McDonnell and Mr Leonard have been partly blamed by the MSPs for Labour’s disastrous defeat in the 2019 general election.
Mr McDonnell, in a defence of the Scottish Labour leader, accused the four rebel MSPs of trying to “to climb a few inches further up the greasy political pole”.
He also pointed to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Scotland, where he said people were “suffering, dying and losing their livelihoods”.
Mr McDonnell labelled the MSPs as “plotters” who thought the pandemic was “immaterial” to them.
The former Shadow Chancellor also claimed Scottish voters would not forgive the MSPs for “putting their own jobs and careers ahead of the jobs” of workers threatened by the pandemic.
Ahead of the MSPs meeting, the former frontbencher said: “My advice is get real. Get a sense of proportion.
“Now is the time to put personal political career ambitions to one side and work together as a team to support Richard in making sure that the COVID pandemic is tackled effectively in Scotland and people’s income and jobs are protected.”
Monday saw 145 new cases of coronavirus in Scotland.
SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently reintroduced lockdown measures in Glasgow and other areas due to the rising cases.
The former Shadow Chancellor’s warnings came after dismal poll performances from Mr Leonard’s party.
Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman James Kelly resigned from his position last week over fears the party leader would oversee a “catastrophic result” at next year’s Holyrood elections.
Jenny Marra, Daniel Johnston and Mark Griffin then joined Mr Kelly in calling for the leader to resign over election fears.
Mr Griffin, formerly the party’s social security spokesman, said to Mr Leonard: “I do not have confidence in your ability, after three years in post, to turn the situation around.”
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But Mr Leonard has refused to step down, and insisted he will leader Scottish Labour into 2021’s Holyrood elections.
He said yesterday Scottish Labour’s polling woes are “part of a long-term trend”, and pointed out he took over as leader with their party polling in third and “it still is in third place”.
He added when asked if he would step down as leader: “No, I’m not and I think that those people that have been calling this week for me to step down have underestimated both my resolve but also the mandate that I got.”
The latest opinion poll by ComRes has Labour on 17 percent for the next Scottish elections to be held in May 2021, a slight fall from 2016.
In 2019, Labour lost six of its seven seats in Scotland to the SNP.
The only Labour MP who successfully retained their seat in Scotland was Ian Murray, a critic of then-leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Scottish Labour’s infighting comes as Ms Sturgeon has been criticised for attempting to push for a second independence referendum amid the pandemic.
Douglas Ross, Scottish Tory leader, said Ms Sturgeon and Jeane Freeman, former health secretary for the SNP, should be “ashamed” of Ms Freeman’s calls for nationalist constituencies to be united in a push for a second independence referendum.
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