KEIR Starmer is arguably “the worst Labour leader ever”, the SNP’s Tommy Sheppard has insisted as he slated his lack of principle and the party’s treatment of left-wing politicians.

Edinburgh East MP Sheppard – who was a member of Scottish Labour until the early 2000s – said the party is heading in a “worrying” direction where it is not only scared of Corbynism, but is attacking the soft left in pursuit of “achieving office”.

During an appearance on MP Drew Hendry’s Scotland’s Choice podcast, he said Starmer doesn’t appear to believe in anything and reminds him of American comedian Groucho Marx, who once famously said “those are my principles and if you don’t like them, well, I have others”.

Meanwhile, Sheppard has attacked Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar for disregarding the idea of an independent Scotland when he believes it could actually be their “salvation”.

Asked if he felt Starmer was different to some of the Conservative leadership candidates, Sheppard said: “I think there is a case to be made that Keir Starmer is the worst Labour Party leader ever.

“He doesn’t appear to believe in anything and has no message to the public in Britain apart from ‘we’re not these guys’ [the Tories].

“I don’t think you can mobilise people or change the world with such a lack of ambition.”

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Sheppard – who once ran for election to the UK Parliament on a Labour platform – then went on to say how he was concerned about the way Labour’s left-minded politicians were being treated.

“I’m still friendly with some people in the Labour Party, particularly in London, and it’s really worrying what’s happening now,” added Sheppard.

“They’ve got this phobia about Corbyn and Corbynism and they’re trying to excoriate the party from that, but they’re now actually coming after what used to be called the soft left [as well].

“They see that as a gateway drug to Corbynism.

“It’s not even a right-wing version of social democracy they are offering, it’s simply a matter of achieving office and keep the policy prospectus as empty as possible.

“Keir Starmer reminds me of that guy [Groucho Marx] who said ‘these are my principles and if you don’t like them I have others’.”

There has been more than one example of how Labour has seemingly attempted to do away with those on the left in recent months.

Ilford South MP Sam Tarry was sacked as shadow transport minister last month after joining a rail workers’ picket line.

And Tarry is now embroiled in a selection battle to remain Labour’s candidate in the area after all 10 local Labour branches voted against him automatically becoming their candidate at the next election sparking a trigger ballot – where local party members can vote to keep him as their candidate or opt for someone else.

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He is likely to face Jas Athwal, leader of Redbridge Council, who stood to contest the seat in 2019 but was suspended from the Labour party on the eve of the vote following sexual harassment allegations. He was later cleared of wrongdoing and reinstated.

The selection contest is likely to be held in September.

Meanwhile, Labour MP Apsana Begum – a member of the left-wing Socialist Campaign Group – is also facing a vote over whether she will be allowed to stand at the next election after the threshold for a trigger ballot was passed last month.

In June she announced she was taking time away from work because of the strain caused by “misogynistic abuse and harassment” linked to efforts to make her seek formal reselection.

The party rejected calls for votes against reselecting Begum to be invalidated in light of her being sick. A National Executive Committee (NEC) member from the Labour left called the reaction “shameful” and “heartless” adding: “They deliberately turned the debate [into] a stick to beat the left with rather than address the party’s own duty of care.”

Sheppard also expressed confusion over the way in which Sarwar is refusing to entertain the idea of Scottish independence or working with the SNP.

Keir Starmer has been branded 'the worst Labour leader ever' by former party member Tommy SheppardAnas Sarwar suspended two Labour councillors in Edinburgh after they refused to support a deal with the Tories and LibDems

A few weeks ago two Labour councillors in Edinburgh - Katrina Faccenda and Ross McKenzie - were suspended from the party for rejecting a “grubby” deal with Conservative and LibDem councillors.

Labour group leader Cammy Day struck an administration arrangement with the Tories and LibDems to keep the party in power instead of bargaining with his former coalition partners, the SNP.

Sheppard said he felt independence would actually be Scottish Labour’s “salvation”, but instead Sarwar is cooking up a “recipe for failure” by trying to out-Unionist the Tories.

He said: “Even though a lot of people have transferred their support away from Labour, of the people that still remain, a third of them support independence, and yet Labour makes no recognition of that.

“He [Sarwar] has nothing to say to those people who want to change the way we are governed and that’s got to be a recipe for failure. It’s very disappointing from the party that was once the party of home rule.

“You cannot out-Unionist the Tories, so why they are trying this, I don’t know. I firmly believe the salvation of the Labour party in Scotland is independence, that gives it a rationale.”

The Labour Party and Scottish Labour have been approached for comment.