Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 16:18 UK

Q&A: Labour leadership election

Wendy Alexander in the back of a car

Moves to elect a new Scottish Labour leadership team following Wendy Alexander's resignation as leader are under way - but how does it all work?

Here, BBC Scotland political reporter Andrew Black demystifies the process.

Who can stand?

For starters, you have to be a Labour MSP and any member can nominate themselves, or be nominated by another. Nominees for leader and deputy leader need the backing of five Labour MSPs to go forward to the next stage.

Who are the main contenders?

Andy Kerr, the former health minister, seems to be a front-runner, as well as Cathy Jamieson, who has stepped down from her long-serving role as deputy leader, which would give her a clear run at the top job.

Iain Gray, a former enterprise minister who returned to Holyrood last May after loosing his seat to the Tories in 2003, is also standing.

Former minister Margaret Curran, at one point a second favourite, is unlikely to stand for leader after she failed to hold onto the Westminster seat of Glasgow East in the recent by-election, won by the SNP.

The question of which MSPs may seek to go forward on a joint leadership ticket has now raised its head.

How does the election process work?

It is run in accordance with party rules by the procedures committee of the Scottish Labour executive committee, headed up by Scottish General Secretary Colin Smyth.

Candidates with nominations go forward to a one-member, one-vote postal ballot.

There are three different groups of people entitled to vote: Labour MSPs, Scottish Labour MPs and Scottish Labour MEPs; all members of the Scottish Labour Party; and members of affiliated trades unions and societies.

Affiliated trades unions are only allowed to ballot eligible political levy-paying members.

The votes from each section are then weighted equally to count for one third of the total vote.

There will also be a series of eight hustings around Scotland.

Phew, sounds like an awful lot of work. Is it much less complicated if there is only one nominee?

Correct - but there is not much chance of that. It is becoming generally accepted that there must be a proper contest this time round.

This is partly because Wendy Alexander was installed as leader without a contest, yet, ironically, it was donations to her campaign fund which proved to be her downfall.

If there is one nominee, a joint meeting of the Scottish executive committee and Labour MSPs would simply confirm that person as the new leader.

When will it all be over?

Labour decided to put the leadership election contest on hold during the Glasgow East by-election campaign - but party officials have decided the new leader and deputy will be unveiled on 13 September, not long after the start of the new term at Holyrood.


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