Scotland politics

Four steps to becoming Scottish Labour Party leader

If you want to become leader of the Scottish Labour Party, then who do you need to be and what do you need to do? Here are four essential steps......

STEP ONE - Get nominated

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Nominations officially open on Friday, 31 October, but candidates are expected to declare their intentions to stand from today onwards.

They have to get their nomination in by Tuesday, 4th November.

Now, in order to be nominated you have to get the support of at least one eighth of Scottish Labour parliamentarians - that is all MPs, MSPs and MEPs and given there are 81 at the moment I think that means you have to get the support of 11 of them.

That 11 has to include parliamentarians from at least two of the three institutions. Therefore, for all practical purposes you've got to at least get some support at Holyrood and at Westminster.

STEP TWO - Understand the system

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After nominations we turn to the matter of the hustings and the ballot.

The ballot is conducted through the Labour electoral college.

It's NOT being done under the one-member-one vote system that Ed Miliband forced through for the UK leadership.

There are two explanations for this - one being they didn't change the rules for the Scottish Labour leadership when they changed the rules for the UK leadership, and the second reason is that actually the procedures that are required to implement the new UK rules are not yet in place.

And why not? Well, that's because it is going to require members of trade unions to declare if they want to become individual members of the Labour Party and that process, believe it or not, doesn't actually start until the next calendar year.

So, even if Mr Miliband were to resign tomorrow, we might still be talking about the electoral college.

STEP THREE - Have friends in lots of places

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There are in effect three separate ballots which are each worth a third of the vote.

One third of the vote goes to all of those parliamentarians (that's 81 from Strasbourg, Holyrood and Westminster).

One third goes to the members of the party in Scotland and one third goes to those who are members of affiliated trade unions and affiliated societies - but in those organisations they have to conduct an individual level ballot.

It is not the days of the union block vote, Unite for example will have to ballot their members in Scotland and then their vote will be distributed according to how they vote.

So, that is how it will work out. It does, therefore, mean that for example there is no guarantee that the winner will have the majority support of the parliamentarians, or the majority support of the membership.

Whoever is going to emerge is going to have to be somebody who certainly has quite good support among the trade unions; has to appeal to the membership but also has to appeal to parliamentarians.

STEP FOUR - Get elected to Holyrood (if required)

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Will there be dissent at Holyrood if the leader turns out to be an MP?

Not necessarily. Firstly, that person would have the respect and authority over Westminster MPs, but secondly, they would then be saying "what do we need to do here for me to be elected to Holyrood"?

And to that extent, ironically, it may be that an MP is required to bind the wounds of the party together - as long as that MP said: "Yes I am running the party in Scotland and yes I am going to focus, not just on rescuing the party's seats at Westminster in May 2015, but to try to find a winning strategy for May 2016."

Current opinion polls suggest that both of those are not inconsiderable tasks at the moment.

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