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Donald Dewar Saturday, 21 October, 2000, 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK
Leadership win for McLeish
Mr McLeish and Mr McConnell
Mr McLeish and Mr McConnell address the media
Henry McLeish has been chosen to succeed Donald Dewar as the leader of Scottish Labour and will effectively take over as first minister.

He was elected interim leader in a secret ballot at a meeting of MSPs and members of the party's Scottish executive in Stirling on Saturday.

He defeated Jack McConnell by 44 votes to 36 after a brief two-day campaign.

Mr McLeish, who had been the bookies' favourite for victory, said it was a "deep honour and a privilege" to be given the role.

Ballot box
80 voted in the secret ballot
Mr McConnell said he would accept the decision and that Mr McLeish would make a first class minister.

Mr McLeish is expected to be confirmed as successor to Donald Dewar as first minister in the Scottish Parliament next week.

Mr McLeish, who had chosen "integrity" as his theme for his election campaign, said: "I think you'll understand this is a time of mixed emotions for me.

"It is such a tremendous honour and privilege to be given the interim leadership of the party but it is also tinged with mixed emotions about the background against which this contest took place.

"The last week has been a tough and testing time for all of us. Donald's death was tragic and I think you can see how the party and the parliament have been affected."

Social justice pledge

Mr McLeish went on: "Can I also say that I have tremendous ambitions for our country because we should be aspirational, we should be confident, we have so much to build on.

"Of course, over the years, we have tackled some serious issues which are now at the top of my agenda and I hope (the agenda of) every member of the group of MSPs and the executive.

Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish: "Tremendous honour"
"These are simply put:

"Social justice and the first time in a generation of the possibility of getting rid of child poverty.

"Secondly, a job for every Scot that wants one.

"Dignity and security for our older community and, of course, quality public services.

"This may be a traditional agenda for Labour, but it is an agenda which will drive me forward and drive colleagues forward in a very united way."

Mr McConnell said: "I said a week past on Wednesday that Donald Dewar was irreplaceable, but we have elected today a fine leader of the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament and someone who will be a very fine first minister for Scotland.

Unofficial deputy

"I'd like to accept the result without question. I'd like to say that Henry McLeish and I have been good friends for many years, he is a first class minister and he will do Scotland proud and he will do Donald Dewar proud.

"In that parliament we will continue our mission for social justice for Scotland."

Mr McLeish will take over from Acting First Minister Jim Wallace.

Mr Wallace said: "He has been handed the daunting task of attempting to fill Donald's shoes, but I know he will commit himself to the challenge of making the parliament succeed in delivering a more socially just and a more prosperous Scotland."

The sudden death of Mr Dewar threw up a unique situation for the Labour majority in the Scottish Parliament.

Tragic death

Labour's party leadership election is usually a long drawn-out affair, thanks to an electoral college procedure which involves MPs and MSPs, trades unions and ordinary party members.

However, the timescale had to be condensed because of the Scotland Act, under which a new first minister must be elected within 28 days of Mr Dewar's death.

Party officials decided to convene the 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.

A full electoral college will now open on Tuesday and run until 20 December.

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"It had been a hectic build up to the ballot"
Henry McLeish
"Unity is absolutely crucial"

A man's a man
An audio tribute to Donald Dewar
AUDIO/VIDEO  real 14k
Click on the stories to find out more

Key stories

The tributes

Filling the void


See also:

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