Scottish Labour is in crisis. You might not know it but it is. There’s a split at the top of the party over the situation regarding Jeremy Corbyn.
Kezia Dugdale has given her public backing to the plotters who are seeking to oust the democratically elected leader of her party. The Scottish Labour leader is in effect backing mutineers against her boss.
Dugdale though has her own problems. Her deputy Alex Rowley has refused to support his Scottish boss and has instead publicly attacked the plotters. Rowley, along with fellow Labour MSPs Neil Findlay and Richard Leonard, are standing four-square behind Corbyn.
On July 1st, the three issued a joint statement in support of Jeremy Corbyn which read:
“Jeremy Corbyn was democratically elected as leader of the Labour Party with almost 60% of members supporting him.
“His campaign succeeded because he offered an alternative to the austerity driven divisions within our economy and society. The events of the last few days have broken the hearts of Labour Party members across the UK.
“Labour Party members are not passive onlookers to be used and exploited at election time, only to be ignored thereafter – they are the lifeblood of our party, we are nothing without them.
“Democracy wherever it is found is a precious thing – we therefore want to make it clear that we wish to uphold the democratic rights of Labour Party members and support the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.”
The statement came days after an announcement from Dugdale that she was giving her support to the plotters. BBC Scotland cameras were despatched to film the Scottish Labour leader on the day she ‘applied pressure’ to her UK superior.
Dugdale’s undermining of Corbyn was backed by thirteen of her MSPs. The Labour party has twenty four MSPs at Holyrood. Even allowing for Rowley, Findlay and Leonard, that leaves eight MSPs unaccounted for.
Scottish Labour is split over the issue of Jeremy Corbyn. But the split isn’t confined to the Holyrood group of MSPs. Scottish Labour’s sole MP Ian Murray was attacked by seventy one members of his own local party after he resigned his Shadow Scottish Secretary position. They accused Murray of ‘disloyalty’ and gave their support to Alex Rowley. Rowley, it should be remembered, is a close ally of Gordon Brown.
Scottish Labour is in open civil war. But you wouldn’t know it judging by the near zero coverage of the split on BBC Scotland. The corporation has barely acknowledged the ‘Corbyn Coup’ has travelled north. Save for the clip below from Newsdrive on July 1st, there is little coverage of the split.
Kezia Dugdale has faced not one hostile question over the issue. Repeated requests for interviews have apparently met with refusal from the Scottish Labour leader as the clip below from Good Morning Scotland on July 4th reveals.
The only Scottish Labour MSP who has faced any questions over the Corbyn situation is Neil Findlay who appeared on GMS on July 8th to discuss his new role as convenor of Holyrood’s Health Committee.
Even then, the interviewer failed to press Findlay on the situation within Scottish Labour, preferring instead to ask him whether Jeremy Corbyn should remain – something we already knew the answer to. Whether Hayley Millar was being steered by someone speaking in her ear we cannot know. What we do know is that an opportunity to explore the extent of the division within Scottish Labour was wasted.
Dugdale’s refusal to be interviewed is a clear sign that things are not good within Labour’s Scottish branch. The Sunday Herald newspaper recently claimed that the relationship between her and her deputy had deteriorated to the point where it was non-existent. Despite this, we have yet to witness anything like the profile and door-stepping that senior SNP politicians always seem to have to endure at the slightest whiff of trouble.
The Scottish Labour civil war is a huge story and follows Dugdale’s disastrous performance during the Scottish election campaign when she led her party to third place behind the SNP and Tories. Days ago Dugdale floated the idea of Federalism despite having shot-down calls from her deputy for Scottish Labour to adopt a similar stance after the Scottish election humiliation.
Labour is in meltdown in Scotland and our national broadcaster is averting its gaze. BBC Scotland shows no appetite for pursuing this story. Just like the ‘PFI Schools scandal’ and broken indyref promises, the culture that has led to a circle of protection of the once dominant party of Scottish politics, remains intact at Pacific Quay.
Things will not get better for Dugdale if, as expected, Corbyn is successful in his bid to appear on the ballot paper. If the incumbent takes part in a contest with Angela Eagle and Owen Smith, he’ll win hands down. Kezia Dugdale’s position as leader of the branch party will then be untenable.
Will BBC Scotland wait until the bitter end before giving this story the profile it deserves? Sadly I think it will.
Edit: Good Morning Scotland presenter Gary Robertson has this morning [Tues July 12th] claimed to have been told by Scottish Labour that Kezia Dugdale is on holiday. Scotland faces being dragged out of the EU, the UK has a new PM and Labour is in civil war north and south of the border. Going on holiday makes Dugdale an even bigger story.
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