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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 March, 2003, 14:37 GMT
Labour chief in unity call
Labour delegates
Mr Leonard sought to rally delegates
Scottish Labour's chairman has appealed for unity as tensions over the Iraq conflict emerged at the party's spring conference.

Richard Leonard made the plea as delegates forced a debate on the issue despite unwillingness from the hierarchy.

Party bosses eventually agreed to the debate, albeit in private with no media access.

Addressing delegates at the Caird Hall in Dundee, Mr Leonard said members should remember that the party was built on "tolerance, freedom and social and economic justice".

If we get outright victory, this conference and this country can rest assured there will be no proportional representation in Scotland's council elections
Richard Leonard
Turning to the war, he said: "Whether you're pro-war or anti-war, let us not forget that this Labour movement has been built on co-operation, internationalism and peace.

"We are a democratic socialist party, so we exist not just to challenge poverty at home but the needless poverty, hunger and squalor right across the world's poorest countries.

"And that's a war we should be waging - not just today, but every day - the war on world poverty and inequality. Let us not forget that."

Mr Leonard said the thoughts of people at the conference should "go out to the armed forces in the Gulf and to their civilian support staff, many of them trade union members".

"No matter where you stand on Iraq, let us not forget them," he said.

'Outrright victory'

The party chairman then went on to urge delegates to victory in the Scottish parliamentary elections on 1 May.

He said Labour had an "historic task of representing those who depended on the party to improve their qualify of life: our traditional supporters, those whose hopes and aspirations we must support and value and those who we ignore at our peril".

Mr Leonard said his party was intent on securing outright victory in the elections.

The led to a warning for the Liberal Democrats, who are coalition partners in the Scottish Executive and committed to proportional representatiion.

He said: "If we get outright victory, this conference and this country can rest assured there will be no proportional representation in Scotland's council elections.

"Because our purpose in politics is not to get entangled with other parties, nor is it to retain office at any price.

"It is to win a mandate to govern for a purpose, to build a new society of tolerance, freedom and social and economic justice."


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