Scotland

Alistair Darling's view on Scots Labour leader contest

Former chancellor Alistair Darling believes the next Scottish Labour Party leader needs to "command the respect" of the people of the country.

The Edinburgh South West MP, whose memoirs have been published, made the comment in an interview with the BBC.

Mr Darling said it was important that the winner was able to "cut through the fog of politics".

Current leader Iain Gray is to stand down this autumn, but a timetable for the contest has yet to be finalised.

Mr Gray announced his decision to go after his party's drubbing at the Holyrood election in May.

Key seats in traditional Labour heartlands were lost across Scotland, including constituencies which had been held by former ministers Andy Kerr and Tom McCabe.

Mr Darling said Mr Gray's successor needed to engage wholeheartedly in a "proper debate" about the future of Scotland.

So far, Johann Lamont, who is Labour MSP for Glasgow Pollok, has said she intended to stand as a candidate and Glasgow South MP Tom Harris has stated his interest also.

Mr Darling told the BBC: "I would like to see a wider choice [of candidates]. You need someone that can cut through the fog of politics and command the respect of Scotland."

He added: "I'm going to see what the field is like. We haven't even decided who is eligible, let alone who the candidates are."

Asked whether he would consider standing for Holyrood, Mr Darling said "I don't think so."

He went on: "I'm still a member of parliament and intend to remain as a member of parliament.

"Who on earth would decide now they were going to stand in an election in five years time? Honestly I don't think at the age of 60 I'm going to start saying I'm going to stand for somewhere else."

Mr Darling spoke about the independence question and said there was a "grave risk" that First Minister Alex Salmond would be allowed to "sleepwalk Scotland into separation".

That remark echoes that of the former first minister Lord McConnell who said the unionist parties were "asleep on the job".

Full support

Mr Darling writes in his memoirs of the "chill in his stomach" the day Royal Bank of Scotland shares collapsed.

He told the BBC: "It was almost like a nuclear attack. You think it will never happen, will it? If someone were to tell you the missiles are on their way, it's like that. It was really tough stuff."

The politician said he did not believe his book would destabilise the Labour Party.

Mr Darling said any party that had lost an election needed to face up to what had gone wrong.

He added that the current leader, Ed Miliband, had his full support.

"As far as the future is concerned there is absolutely no reason why we can't win back public support and I will do everything I can to help do that," said Mr Darling.

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