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EDITIONS
Donald Dewar Friday, 20 October, 2000, 19:19 GMT 20:19 UK
McConnell in 'keep out' warning
Leadership graphic
Scottish Labour leadership candidate Jack McConnell has issued a "keep out" warning to Westminster amid reports that he was urged not to enter the contest.

The finance minister said he would not stand for "interference" in Saturday's election of the successor to the late party leader and First Minister Donald Dewar.

He is standing against enterprise minister Henry McLeish, who was due to launch his manifesto on Friday evening.

Mr McConnell would not be drawn on reports that he had refused to bow to pressure from Chancellor Gordon Brown not to stand, giving his opponent a free run.


I think it's important that...we have the decision and then we look ahead

Henry McLeish
However, he told BBC Scotland: "I hope there's going to be no interference over the next 24 hours and if I'm first minister of Scotland I would certainly stand up for the Scottish Parliament and make sure there is no interference in the parliament either.

"That's the duty and responsibility of the first minister of Scotland."

Mr McConnell suffered a setback when he lost the support of ministerial colleague Frank McAveety - meaning all of the cabinet was endorsing Mr McLeish's campaign.

However, he expressed the belief that the parliamentarians and executive would make their decision based on "policies, values, vision and leadership skill".

Mr McConnell spent Friday on a whistlestop tour of the country seeking backing for his leadership bid.

However, Mr McLeish is now claiming the support of key backbenchers, as well as all Scottish ministers.

Ballot box
The crucial vote will take place in Stirling
The enterprise minister's manifesto contains pledges on youth unemployment, drugs and child poverty.

It also proposes several internal measures, including switching the time of cabinet meetings and shaking up the Scottish Executive's media communications profile.

BBC Scotland's political editor Brian Taylor said: "Most significantly of all he is talking about establishing a political unit around the leader, which answers long-standing concern that there is simply no strategic direction at the top."

Both candidates have agreed that there should be no re-run of the contest once the interim leader has been elected in Stirling on Saturday.


I would certainly stand up for the Scottish Parliament and make sure there is no interference in the parliament

Jack McConnell
The death of Mr Dewar last Wednesday threw up a unique situation for the Labour majority in the Scottish Parliament.

The party leadership election is usually a long drawn out affair but it has been condensed because of the Scotland Act, which says a new first minister must be elected within 28 days.

Party officials decided to convene this weekend's meeting of the 27 voting members of the executive committee of the Scottish Labour Party and the 54-strong Scottish parliamentary Labour group to reach a decision more quickly.

However, that could have left the door open for a further challenge by the loser during a vote by the full electoral college, which involves MPs and MSPs, trades unions and ordinary party members

Both candidates ruled that possibility out during interviews on Friday.

'Look ahead'

Mr McLeish said the party was not in the mood for a further contest in the run-up to a general election.

He said: "Because I think it's important that we have Saturday, we have the decision and then we look ahead.

"There are so many challenges - the general election a few months off, we've got possible by-elections a few weeks off and of course there are big issues around such as Govan.

"So I think the party wants to make a decision and I feel it's the mood of the party and also the mood of the country to carry on the dignity of the past week and get on with the new government's business."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Chief political correspondent John Morrison
"The selection depends on the whim of 81 Labour Party MSPs and members"
BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor
"Mr McLeish is talking about establishing a political unit around the leader"
Henry McLeish on BBC Radio Scotland
"What I want to do is to show leadership qualities and drive the policies we've started"
Jack McConnell on BBC Radio Scotland
"It's about leadership style and vision and the tough decisions that need to be made"
Henry McLeish on BBC Radio 4
"It's the mood of the party...to carry on the dignity of the past week and get on with business"

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19 Oct 00 | Donald Dewar
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13 Oct 00 | Donald Dewar
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13 Oct 00 | Donald Dewar
27 Apr 00 | Scotland
29 Oct 99 | Scotland
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