2008 Scottish Labour leadership election

The 2008 Scottish Labour Party leadership election was an internal party election to choose a new leader of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, and was triggered following the resignation of Wendy Alexander following a row over donations to her own leadership campaign in 2007.[1] Iain Gray won the contest and was announced as leader on 13 September 2008.

2008 Scottish Labour Party leadership election

 2007 1 August - 13 September 2008 2011 
Candidate Iain Gray Cathy Jamieson Andy Kerr
First preferences 46.0% 33.3% 20.7%
Second round 57.8% 42.2%

Leader before election

Wendy Alexander

Elected Leader

Iain Gray

It was the second Scottish Labour leadership election in as many years, the first being caused by the resignation of Jack McConnell,[2] following the Scottish National Party's victory over Labour in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, however in this election, Alexander was unopposed, meaning that no ballot actually took place.[3]

The timetable for the election was finalised on Monday 28 July, having been put on hold for a month to allow the party to focus on the Glasgow East by-election,[4] which ultimately saw the Scottish National Party overturn a 13,507 Labour majority to gain the seat.[5] Nominations closed at noon on Friday 1 August with the result being declared on Saturday 13 September.

A deputy leadership election was held alongside the leadership election following the resignation of Cathy Jamieson on 28 July. Johann Lamont was elected deputy leader.

Successfully nominated candidates

Source: Scottish Labour

All three declared candidates received more than five nominations from MSPs, which was the minimum requirement for them to get onto the ballot paper by the close of nominations at 12:00 UTC+1 on 1 August 2008[6][7]


Candidates are initially nominated by their parliamentary colleagues from within the Scottish Parliament, following which Westminster MPs, constituency Labour parties and affiliated trade union organisation can submit 'supporting nominations', providing their backing to a specific candidates. These nominations can be seen in the tables below;


The election took place using Alternative Vote in an electoral college, with a third of the votes allocated to Labour's MSPs, Scottish MPs and Scottish MEPs, a third to individual members of the Scottish Labour Party, and a third to individual members of affiliated organisations, mainly trade unions.[6]

In order to be elected, one candidate must have achieved a majority of votes, i.e. 50% plus 1 vote.

Round 1

Candidate Affiliated
Iain Gray 39.2% 45.2% 53.7% 46.0%
Cathy Jamieson 42.3% 30.8% 26.8% 33.3%
Andy Kerr 18.6% 24.0% 19.5% 20.7%
Andy Kerr eliminated

Round 2

Candidate Affiliated
Iain Gray 48.5% 57.3% 67.6% 57.8%
Cathy Jamieson 51.5% 42.7% 32.4% 42.2%
Iain Gray elected leader

Source: The Citizen: Campaigning for Socialism

Suggested candidates not standing

The following either publicly suggested they were considering standing for election or received media speculation to that effect. However at the close of nominations they had not been nominated by any MSPs.[8]

Timeline of events

Date Event
28 June 2008 • Wendy Alexander announces her immediate resignation as Scottish Labour leader.[1]
• Cathy Jamieson takes over as acting leader.
29 June 2008 • Cathy Jamieson announces her intention to stand for leadership.[14]
30 June 2008 • Labour MP David Marshall resigns his parliamentary seat of Glasgow East due to ill health, prompting a by-election.[15]
Margaret Curran says she is "actively considering" whether or not to run for leadership.[11]
1 July 2008 Charlie Gordon, the MSP who accepted the illegal donation that ultimately led to Wendy Alexander's resignation, announces he intends to stand in the leadership election.[9]
2 July 2008 • Scottish Labour announce the postponement of the leadership election in order to concentrate on Glasgow East by-election.[4]
7 July 2008 • Scottish Labour select Margaret Curran as their candidate for the Glasgow East by-election.[16]
24 July 2008 and
25 July 2008
• Glasgow East by-election: The SNP's John Mason overturns previous Labour majority of 13,507 to gain the seat causing what many dub a 'political earthquake'.[17]
28 July 2008 • Scottish Labour's procedure committee meet and agree the timetable for the leadership election.[18]
• Cathy Jamieson announces her resignation as deputy leader of Scottish Labour, meaning a deputy leadership election will be held alongside the leadership election.[18]
• Nominations for both elections open.
Iain Gray formally announces his candidacy in the leadership election.[18]
29 July 2008 • Cathy Jamieson formally launches her campaign for the leadership.[19]
30 July 2008 • Scottish Labour confirm that both Cathy Jamieson and Iain Gray have received sufficient nominations and are therefore official candidates.[20]
31 July 2008 • Scottish Labour confirm that Andy Kerr has received sufficient nominations and is therefore the third official candidate.[20]
1 August 2008 • Nominations closed with three candidates having been successfully nominated.
13 September 2008 • Declaration of result made – Iain Gray elected Scottish Labour leader.

See also