Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election as leader of the UK Labour party is a disaster for that party, if Kezia Dugdale is to be believed.
The leader of Scottish Labour is already on record proclaiming Corbyn can neither unite the Labour party nor win a general election.
Dugdale’s remarks, made this summer, coincided with a leadership challenge mounted by Angela Eagle and then Owen Smith. Eagle of course dropped out. Dugdale publicly backed Corbyn’s sole remaining rival saying only Smith could unite the party and win a general election.
The Scottish Labour leader had already attacked Corbyn after Labour MPs mounted a coup attempt. In June Dugdale announced she would have resigned if she found herself in a similar position. How’s that for knifing your party leader in the back?
I have always believed that poor advice led to Kezia Dugdale making statements she ought not to have made. There was no good reason for her to publicly denounce Jeremy Corbyn unless she firmly believed that the coup could not possibly fail.
But fail it did when the ruling NEC confirmed that the incumbent did not have to secure support from MPs in order to be included on a leadership ballot.
Kezia Dugdale’s ill-advised comments have allowed her to become a hostage to fortune – it’s now ransom paying time. Corbyn’s re-election, with an even stronger mandate than last time, has made her position as leader of Scottish Labour untenable.
Her laughable attempt to rewrite history is already being headlined by BBC Scotland. Contrast the BBC headline after Corbyn’s re-election with one from The Telegraph one month earlier. The BBC will protect Dugdale as best it can for as long as she remains in place.
It’s been a disaster of a week for the hapless Dugdale who took over in August last year after serving as Jim Murphy’s deputy. Her announcement this week of ‘full autonomy’ for the mythical party known euphemistically as ‘Scottish Labour’ was laughed at. So unconvincing were her claims that she went into hiding almost immediately and Labour’s sole MP Ian Murray was sent out to deflect questions.
Things went from bad to worse with her apparent inability to operate the electronic voting system at Holyrood. Dugdale has now been reduced to a political figure of fun, a malaise that no party can afford.
I have long held the opinion that Dugdale would see out the local authority elections before sliding back into deserved oblivion.
However Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election with an enhanced mandate has caused me to reconsider.
I now expect Dugdale to go before the local authority elections. Can Scottish Labour really fight the SNP with a leader who has implicitly confirmed the party cannot defeat the Tories in a UK election?
Scottish Labour is already expected to take a hammering next May. Most observers expect the long-time stronghold of Glasgow to fall. Whoever replaces Dugdale has absolutely nothing to lose.
The new leader of the party in Scotland would be perfectly justified in blaming his or her predecessor if there was another bloodbath. Remember Dugdale was also at the helm when Labour lost all but one of its Scottish based MPs under Murphy.
The person touted to replace Dugdale is the equally hapless Anas Sarwar. However in this newly confirmed Corbyn era it would make sense for a Corbynite to replace Dugdale. Alex Rowley fits the bill.
Despite being Dugdale’s deputy, Rowley has distanced himself sufficiently from Kezia with his public backing for Corbyn and his implicit backing for indyref2. Rowley has also displayed some mettle with his public condemnation of anti-Corbyn plotter Ian Murray.
Whatever happens though, one thing is certain. Kezia Dugdale’s reign as leader of her party in Scotland is drawing to a close. Her coronation was too soon. Her naivety was ruthlessly exposed during the Holyrood election campaign with some bizarre policy pledges [income tax rebate – later U-turned] and idiotic gaffes [Brexit indyref backing … later U-turned].
Those of us in the Yes movement cannot believe our luck at what has become of Labour across the UK in general and in Scotland in particular. Brexit has dragged indyref2 back onto the political agenda, meanwhile Labour’s civil war is still not over [watch what happens with Shadow Cabinet elections] and Scottish Labour has been relegated to third place behind Ruth Davidson’s Tories. In terms of the constitutional debate, the stars are aligning in our favour.
I may be wrong about Dugdale’s short term future as leader of Scottish Labour. Part of me hopes she does indeed remain at the helm as we approach the local authority elections. What happens after May 4th 2017 though is almost certainly academic. Article 50 and the Brexit negotiations will make sure of that.
Edit: 15:30 – Kezia Dugdale interviewed by the BBC after Corbyn’s re-election. Note at 1 minute 06 seconds Dugdale says of her warning that Corbyn cannot unite the party and lead Labour into government “I’m not changing that view”.
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