How utterly humiliating. As England was taking Scotland apart at Twickenham, Jeremy Corbyn was ensuring his Scottish subordinate suffered a similar fate.
Asked by a reporter if Labour would block a second referendum on Scottish independence, Corbyn replied: “If a referendum is held then it is absolutely fine, it should be held. I don’t think it’s the job of Westminster or the Labour Party to prevent people holding referenda.”
Make no mistake, the comments from the UK leader fatally undermines the authority of Kezia Dugdale. Speaking at last month’s Scottish conference, the Scottish Labour leader re-affirmed her intention to oppose a second referendum.
She said: “Conference, I do not want another referendum on breaking up the UK.
“Our country still bears the scars of the last one, and no one wants to go through that again anytime soon.
“That’s why Labour will never support one in the Scottish Parliament.”
Corbyn’s intervention is a massive blow for Dugdale as she prepares to lead Scottish Labour into the local council elections. The MSP has based her campaign on her constitutional stance in the hope of attracting the fundamental Unionist vote from Ruth Davidson. Corbyn’s implicit backing for a second referendum has undermined that strategy, perhaps fatally.
Dugdale, if she wasn’t already, has been rendered a lame duck leader of a branch office. Johann Lamont resigned when the UK leadership elbowed her out of the way in a row over a party aide. If anything, Dugdale hasn’t even been elbowed; she’s been trampled on, with Corbyn wiping his feet on the prostrate MSP as he walks on.
Corbyn has exacted revenge after Dugdale publicly backed the failed coup attempt last year. How ironic now her claim that Corbyn would find it difficult to remain leader of the party.
If she had any self-respect she’d resign. But she won’t.
The reality of her situation won’t occur to a leader who refused to step down despite steering her party to its worst ever Holyrood election result. Dugdale doesn’t do reality.
Scottish Labour politicians have reacted to Corbyn’s comments with fury. MP Ian Murray tweeted: “Often asked why I resigned from Shadow Cabinet. Ladies & Gentlemen I give u Jeremy Corbyn. He’s destroying the party that soo many need.”
His anger was echoed by others with Labour MSP Jackie Baillie issuing a statement in which she said “Jeremy Corbyn does not speak for me on this …”
Kezia Dugdale now faces the prospect of arguing a second independence referendum should be blocked despite knowing her party leader doesn’t support her. Ruth Davidson will seize on Scottish Labour’s weakened Union credentials. The local elections were already going to be a bloodbath for what remains of the Labour party in Scotland. This won’t help.
The irony is that all that Jeremy Corbyn has done is to accept the right of the Scottish Parliament to carry out the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland. The UK Labour leader has confirmed he would respect the result of a Holyrood vote. He has shown our Parliament the deserved respect his own party MSPs deny the institution.
It’s this stance that Kezia Dugdale has set herself against. She has no respect for the parliament within which she serves. Her humiliation is deserved. Her end, when it comes, will be ignominious.
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