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EDITIONS
McLeish resignation Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 18:39 GMT
Free run shortens leadership race
Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell faced no challengers for the job
Jack McConnell could be crowned as Scottish Labour's new leader within days after no other challenger came forward to contest the post.

The electoral procedure approved by the party's Scottish executive was to be cut short because there was only one candidate for the top job.

The party had put in place a system whereby the new leader - and the person who would then go forward to become the country's next first minister - would be chosen through a ballot of members early next month.

But that changed as Mr McConnell was the only candidate to have the seven nominations required at 1700 GMT on Tuesday.

Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish resigned last week
Labour officials said that one validly nominated candidate meant a meeting of the party's 55 MSPs and its 29-member Scottish executive.

An "affirmative ballot" would then be held in which all those present would vote.

If the education minister secured more than half of those votes, he would become leader of the party.

Sources have suggested that logistics meant that meeting was likely to be held within the next few days.

Once Labour has chosen its new leader that person would be nominated for the post of first minister.

The Scottish Parliament must then endorse the party's choice - a step that has to be taken within 28 days of Henry McLeish's resignation.

First minister

If there had been a contest for the leadership, Labour members would have been balloted on 3 December after a series of hustings.

The result would be announced two days later, with the new leader going before the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, 6 December to be endorsed as first minister.

It would normally take the party three months to elect a new leader, but under the Scotland Act the appointment of a new first minister must take place within 28 days.

Labour should normally elect its new leader using an electoral college system where the successful candidate has to secure enough support from three bases.

The first two comprise affiliated trade unions and ordinary party members. The third contains MPs, MSPs and MEPs.


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