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Glenrothes Labour hopeful Richard Baker sets sights on SNP upset as he returns to politics

He will take on the SNP in Glenrothes and Mid Fife, with polls suggesting he has a chance of success even in the face of a huge nationalist majority.

Labour candidate for Glenrothes and Mid Fife, Richard Baker
Richard Baker has spent eight years out of politics, but hopes voters in Glenrothes will help him make a comeback. Image: Allan Milligan

Labour’s candidate in Glenrothes is hopeful voters will help him re-enter the political fray eight years after he quit Holyrood for the third sector.

In 2016, Richard Baker, who was then an MSP for North East Scotland, left the Scottish Parliament to take up a new role with Age Scotland.

He has spent the years since as a campaigner, most recently working with disabled Scots to push for change.

But when Labour suddenly re-opened the Glenrothes and Mid Fife selection battle over concerns one of the candidates had written novels considered “too sexy and satanic”,  Mr Baker says he decided the time was right to head back to the frontline.

‘It was the right time to come back and play a role’

He revealed his reasons in an exclusive interview with The Courier, saying: “It was unexpected. I hadn’t initially gone for selection, but when it was re-opened I just felt it absolutely was the right time to come back and play a role.”

Councillor Altany Craik, the candidate Labour forced to stand down over his work as an author, has been out on the campaign trail supporting his successor.

Mr Baker added: “For the past eight years I’ve been working with disabled people as head of campaigns for a major disability charity, so I’ve seen how some of the people who most need our support are being failed.

“The people I work on behalf of today have fewer chances in employment, in education, there’s huge issues around the social care system. You see that every day.”

Richard Baker left parliament in 2016. Image: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament.

While he enjoyed campaigning for change, Mr Baker said he couldn’t resist the opportunity to be back in politics and potentially be part of a change in government.

He added: “We’ve got a really great chance to change the UK Government, and to have a government that will put this country back on track.

“The opportunity to be part of that; to contribute to making our society and country fairer, is what I really wanted to be involved in.”

When Mr Baker stood down from Holyrood in 2016, his party was in a very different place to when he was first elected in 2003 as the youngest sitting MSP.

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Claire Baker with her husband, Richard.
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Claire Baker with her husband, Richard.

At the election that followed, Scottish Labour would go on to suffer it’s worst ever defeat in Scotland, winning only 24 seats and coming third behind the Scottish Conservatives and the SNP.

Mr Baker’s wife, Claire Baker, has remained in parliament as the Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife.

It allowed him a passenger’s seat view of the party as its tried to rebuild under a succession of party leaders.

But despite being dealt a series of bruising defeats over the past decade, polling this week suggests Scottish Labour is ahead of the SNP for the first time since 2014.

And MRP studies, which provide an indication of how each constituency will vote, suggest Glenrothes and Mid Fife could be up for grabs.

Labour taking on huge SNP majority in Glenrothes

Peter Grant, the incumbent SNP MP, is standing down, with well-known Fife councillor John Beare selected by the party to defend it’s majority of 11,757.

Mr Baker potentially causing an upset is a feat even the most optimistic in Labour supporter  would have struggled to believe possible even two years ago.

Such a result would rely on him convincing vast swathes of the SNP supporting constituency to vote Labour.

Asked how his campaign will achieve that, Mr Baker said: “In the past three weeks we’ve been meeting people on the doorstep, and what they’re saying is that they’ve voted SNP in the past but their priority in this election is to change the UK Government.

“What they want is to have a government working for them that has a plan to improve public services and the economy. SNP voters, many of them, their preference is for a Labour government.

Councillor John Beare will stand for the SNP. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson.

“This election is not about independence. Independence is not on the table. It’s about changing the government that will reflect the needs people have in this constituency.

“I think people want an MP who will be active in Westminster working for a government that will actually change things in the constituency.

“What we’re saying to SNP voters is this isn’t about sending a message to Westminster. People are much more focussed on what a Labour MP and what a Labour government can do.”

An SNP spokesperson said voting SNP was the only way to “rid our country of Tory MPs and ensure Scotland’s voice is heard”.

They added: “Keir Starmer’s Labour Party and the Tories are aligned on more issues than not – from Brexit to NHS privatisation to public spending – and only the SNP is offering an alternative to broken Brexit Britain.

“Whether it be demanding action to tackle Westminster’s cost of living crisis or protecting our NHS from privatisation, it is only SNP MPs who are willing to speak out for what is right and stand up for Scotland’s values.”