SNP condemns Labour candidate who suggested shipping smuggler gangs to Scotland

Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of conducting a “purge” of the left in his party, as Labour also came under fire for selecting a General Election candidate who suggested smuggler gangs could be “shipped to Scotland”.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn hit out after Josh Simons was chosen as the Labour candidate for Makerfield in north-west England.

Mr Simons, director of the Labour Together group, previously suggested smuggler gangs should be put on a barge, which could then be shipped to the north of Scotland.

Mr Flynn said that at the time the comments were made, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar had said Mr Simons “doesn’t represent the Labour Party” – with the SNP politician adding: “He does now.”

SNP candidate for Glasgow North, Alison Thewliss, challenged Mr Sarwar to “come clean and admit whether he backs the selection of a Labour Party candidate who said smuggler gangs should be put on a barge and shipped to Scotland”.

She branded Mr Simons’s comments “a disgrace”, and said: “Sarwar previously claimed Josh Simons’s views don’t represent the Labour Party, despite Mr Simons being a key ally of Keir Starmer, but now it’s indisputable that they do.”

David Linden said Labour’s treatment of Diane Abbott has been ‘shameful’ (Ian West/PA)
David Linden said Labour’s treatment of Diane Abbott has been ‘shameful’ (Ian West/PA)

The row over Mr Simons’s selection erupted as Labour veteran Diane Abbott accused Sir Keir of an “appalling” cull of left-wingers as she faced continued uncertainty about her own political future.

Ms Abbott said she wants to fight to retain her seat “as long as it is possible”, but she criticised decisions made by Labour to exclude candidates from the party’s left.

David Linden, the SNP candidate for Glasgow East, said: “Keir Starmer’s purge of the Labour Party left, and anyone who disagrees with his Tory-lite policies, shows why it’s vital to vote SNP on July 4 for a strong voice to stand up for Scotland’s values and put Scotland’s interests first.

“Scotland needs a strong team of SNP MPs to ensure Scotland’s voice is heard – and the SNP will have an essential role to play in holding Starmer’s government to account to protect Scotland as the Labour Party drifts even further to the right.

“The way Diane Abbott and other progressive candidates have been treated is shameful – but what is more worrying for Scotland is that Starmer wants to remove all opposition so he can impose Tory policies including Brexit, austerity cuts, creeping NHS privatisation and denying Scotland any say over our future.”

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said “This desperate SNP attack is proof the party is well and truly out of positive ideas on how to deliver the change Scotland needs.

“Instead of worrying about a months-old interview by a candidate in Makerfield, the SNP should focus on fixing the chaos it has made in Scotland – from sky-high NHS waiting lists to a flat-lining economy.”

The spokesperson insisted Labour “has selected a fantastic group of candidates in place for the General Election”, adding the SNP “is fielding candidates that will continue their record of decline and put the party interest before Scotland’s interest”.