As I See It
Kezia’s devolved Labour will confuse voters
Kezia Dugdale has presented a confusing message to voters from the moment she threw her hat in the ring to succeed Jim Murphy as Scottish Labour leader. This latest plan to have different policies north and south of the border confirms that she is continuing to walk on crazy paving.
From her hair-brained plan to relocate the House of Lords to Glasgow to her misjudged assertion that Jeremy Corbyn lacked credibility to lead the country, she is steadily helping to undermine rather than unite the party.
She has reached an agreement with Mr Corbyn on some degree of autonomy in Scotland. It would be interesting to read the detail of that agreement and to understand exactly what Mr Corbyn has agreed. If he really has allowed his Scottish members to pick and mix policies then he has made an error of his own that may prove costly.
Ms Dugdale’s statement of “intent” clearly does not stop at devolving subscriptions and leafleting duties. She wants a party within a party, one that can determine its own policies.
So what are the positives in her plan?
Her reasoning is that Labour must be able to design policies and strategies around Scottish issues and those matters which are devolved. It must also be able to challenge other parties, notably the SNP, on equal terms. Fundamentally, this is an acknowledgement that Labour faces a different party in government in Scotland and must be in a position to respond accordingly.
To that extent, Ms Dugdale is right to want the flexibility these circumstances require.
However, if she adopts policies for Scottish Labour that contrast significantly with UK Labour she will not only confuse voters, but also her own candidates.
If, for the sake of argument, Scottish Labour opposes nationalisation of the railways while Mr Corbyn trumpets such a plan, what is a Scottish Westminster candidate supposed to tell the voters?
Ultimately, this potential for flashpoints in the party will be for Mr Corbyn to resolve. It will be a test of his, rather than Ms Dugdale’s, leadership.