Labour leader hopefuls make pitch to Scottish party

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Labour leadership candidates
Image caption,
Candidates [from left]: Diane Abbott, David Miliband, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham

Candidates for the Labour leadership have supported calls to give Scottish colleagues more influence in running the UK party.

David Miliband, his brother Ed, Andy Burnham and Ed Balls all said Scots Labour leader Iain Gray should have a seat on Labour's ruling body, the NEC.

And speaking at a special party hustings in Glasgow, Diane Abbott gave her support to devolution.

The successor to Gordon Brown will be chosen by the party in September.

The candidates spoke of the need to look to look north of the border following Labour's UK election defeat, where the Scottish party won 41 out of 59 seats.

Devolution 'respect'

However, as the contenders debated in front of more than 500 people at the Royal Concert Hall, former Scottish minister Hugh Henry attacked Labour for failing to give MSPs the same voting rights as MPs when it came to choosing a new party leader.

Mr Miliband, the former foreign secretary, backed the suggestion for more influence for Mr Gray - put forward by the Scottish Labour leader himself - adding: "I believe in devolution where possible and unity where necessary and we've go to strengthen both.

"It's crazy were not learning properly from what's happening in Scotland."

His brother Ed went further, saying Mr Gray should be attending meetings of the shadow cabinet to ensure a "properly integrated relationship" within the party as a whole.

Mr Miliband added: "Frankly, London needs to lighten up in relation to its relationship with Scotland and the Scottish Parliament because actually we benefit from difference, we're not hung by it."

Left-winger Ms Abbott said more devolution made "a lot of practical sense", but added: "You don't need me to point out that the SNP and the Tories are united in one thing, that they hate the Labour Party.

"The trick is to be able to move forward on the devolution agenda without playing into the hands of the SNP."

Mr Balls, a close ally of Mr Brown, said: "I'm fully in favour of a very strong partnership - that does mean having Iain on the NEC but I think its very important we respect each other's roles."

The former schools secretary said areas such as the Scottish NHS were being driven forward at Holyrood, while the wider topic of jobs was also being tackled on a UK-wide bases.

Mr Burnham, the former health secretary, urged party supporters to concentrate on a Labour victory at next year's Scottish Parliament elections, adding: "We also need to look internally at our own rules in the Labour Party to ensure the Labour Party and the way it selects candidates is also fully reflecting and respecting our own devolution settlement."

The new leader is chosen by an electoral college system made up of three sections - Labour MPs and MEPs, party members and members of affiliated unions and other affiliated organisations.

People are balloted individually in each of the three sections, with the results from each of the three parts of the electoral college making up a third of the final result.

But former Scottish education minister and Labour MSP Mr Henry said the system was grossly unfair on the party's Holyrood group and called on the candidates to support a change in the system.

Mr Henry added: "In the election for leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Labour MPs and MEPs have the same voting and nomination rights as Labour MSPs in the electoral college.

"Yet in the contest for leader of the Labour Party, only MPs and MEPs have nomination and voting rights in that part of the electoral college."

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