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Last Updated: Friday, 17 August 2007, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Labour was 'at fault' for defeat
Wendy Alexander
Wendy Alexander believes the party has to face up to voter rejection
Wendy Alexander has launched her Scottish Labour Party leadership bid by saying the party was at fault in the May election defeat to the SNP.

She said Labour stood at a "political crossroads" and could not merely hope to regain power at Holyrood by default.

Ms Alexander remains the only confirmed candidate, but MSPs on the left are expected to try to mount a challenge.

Nominations for the leadership have now opened and will close at noon on 21 August, the party confirmed.

Speaking at her campaign launch in Edinburgh, Ms Alexander, a former Scottish minister, said Labour had lost the election because too many voters felt let down.

In May the people of Scotland told us loud and clear they wanted change
Wendy Alexander MSP
Scottish Labour leadership candidate

"Iraq and cash for honours allegations played their part, but we would be fooling ourselves if we didn't recognise that we, in Scottish Labour, were also at fault in that defeat," said the Paisley North MSP.

"The SNP didn't just win with slick presentational tricks. Nor did they win thanks to their manifesto.

"They won because they seized Labour's agenda of hope and aspiration. Well I'm here to tell you that we're going to seize it back."

'Proper contest'

But Ms Alexander, who is bidding to succeed former first minister Jack McConnell who quit as leader earlier this week, insisted that the people of Scotland had not lost faith with Labour's values but had questioned the party's ability to deliver on them.

"In May the people of Scotland told us loud and clear they wanted change," she said.

"They didn't whisper - they shouted it."

"So change we must. Change how we behave, change how we engage and change how we respond to the people we represent."

Ms Alexander, who argued Labour had to take a radical road, promised party organisational reforms and policy renewal under her leadership, saying it had to shake off its image as a party of west central Scotland.

And a debate on Scotland's constitution, she said, was not to be feared, adding: "We need to make the case for a new partnership in the UK and make it with the voice of confident Scots."

Bill Butler
The left winger Bill Butler has been encouraged to stand for leader

The convener of the Campaign for Socialism, Labour MSP Elaine Smith, told BBC Scotland that she thought party members deserved a contest.

She said she would back fellow left winger Bill Butler, the Glasgow Anniesland MSP, to stand.

"If it's just a coronation then that doesn't fully involve [party members] in the decision making," said Ms Smith.

"We want to talk about issues like PFI, like bus re-regulation and transport in Scotland, like sustainable economic jobs. We want to talk about affordable housing. We want to talk about Trident in Scotland.

"I think we can only have that debate if the members are involved and we have a proper contest."

Lesley Quinn, secretary of Scottish Labour's procedures committee, which is overseeing the election, said a new leader at Holyrood would bring renewed energy to the party.


SEE ALSO
Alexander to stand for leadership
15 Aug 07 |  Scotland
Second chance for Alexander
15 Aug 07 |  Scotland
Left-wing ponders leadership bid
16 Aug 07 |  Scotland
McConnell quits Labour leadership
15 Aug 07 |  Scotland
SNP pips Labour in Holyrood vote
04 May 07 |  Scotland
Labour front bench at-a-glance
16 Aug 07 |  Scotland

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