As Corbyn heads to Scotland

Labour facing ‘ugly mess’ says Dugdale

Kezia Dugdale
Kezia Dugdale at SimplyFixIt (Photo by Terry Murden)

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale today described the party’s troubles as an “ugly mess” as she defended her decision to back Owen Smith in the leadership contest.

Ms Dugdale said it would be “entirely possible” to work with Jeremy Corbyn despite her view that he is not the man to win a general election.

Speaking to Daily Business during a visit to a living wage employer in Edinburgh, Ms Dugdale gave a frank assessment of the problems facing the party.

“These are difficult times for the Labour party in the UK. We have spent the summer fighting ourselves. It is an ugly mess,” she said. “But we are where we are.”

She said that as “an ordinary member” she was justified in declaring her preferred candidate.

Referring to her dealings with Mr Corbyn she said that she speaks to him almost every day, but she had “no plans” to meet him during his trip to Scotland this week.

“I have no plans to meet Owen Smith or Jeremy Corbyn, as yet,” she said. “I would not meet them when I can speak to them on the phone and I am in regular contact.

“We are grown-ups in this debate and we have an open and democratic contest.

“It is nothing new [that she does not think Mr Corbyn can lead Labour to victory]. It was known that I voted for Yvette Cooper last time.”

Asked if her position would be affected if Mr Corbyn were to win the contest, she replied: “It is entirely possible to work with someone you do not agree with all the time.”

Ms Dugdale declared her support for Mr Smith because she felt he can reunite members and win a general election.

Writing in the Daily Record, she said: “Owen Smith gets my vote. I believe Owen can unite our party, and move us on from the divisions that exist under the current UK leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.”

She said Mr Corbyn has lost the confidence of parliamentary colleagues and would be unable to galvanise the electorate to beat the Conservative Party.

“We can’t pin our hopes on a leadership that speaks only to the converted rather than speaking to the country as a whole,” she wrote.

He has the backing of most of the local parties in Scotland but Ms Dugdale pointed to his failure to take MPs in Westminster with him.

Ms Dugdale said: “If 80% of my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament didn’t support me I wouldn’t be able to do the job – even though I received 72% of the votes when party members and trade unionists in Scotland elected me to be their leader.

“That remains my position today. I don’t think Jeremy can unite our party and lead us into government.

“He cannot appeal to a broad enough section of voters to win an election. I believe Owen Smith can, and that’s the most important issue for me.

“There will no doubt be some people who think I should stay out of this contest.

“The argument goes that as leader in Scotland I will have to work with whomever is elected. That’s true, but now more than ever our party needs leaders who will stand up and be counted.

“As the most senior female elected leader in the Labour Party across the UK I feel a particular responsibility to speak out. I believe Owen Smith can deliver the Labour government this country needs and that’s why he gets my vote.”

Ms Dugdale questioned Mr Corbyn’s capabilities before he was elected leader, saying he lacked credibility, but later she softened her views.

Following the EU referendum in June she said it was “extremely difficult” for him to continue as leader after his failure to strongly back the Remain campaign.

Mr Corbyn is this week expected to rule out any chance of what has been called a ‘progressive alliance’ between Labour and the SNP ahead of the 2020 General Election.

Mr Corbyn will engage in a head to head debate with Mr Smith in Glasgow on Thursday.

Mr Corbyn’s two-day visit begins in Livingston earlier in the day followed by a rally for members in a Glasgow hotel before the leadership debate.

He is also due at a ‘Corbyn Gets Creative’ event on Friday morning at the Edinburgh Fringe, before another rally in Dundee in the evening.


Kezia Dugdale with Scott Wilkinson and colleagues (Photo by Terry Murden)
Kezia Dugdale with Scott Wilkinson and colleagues (Photo by Terry Murden)

> Ms Dugdale visited the Simply Fix It repair shop in central Edinburgh as part of her support for the Living Wage.

The company introduced the Living Wage across all its shops and has been held as an example to other employers.

Manager Scott Wilkinson said: “It makes staff feel happier and customers are also happy to know we pay our employee a proper wage.”

Jack Evans, an accreditation officer for the Living Wage, said: :”Low wages are mainly in the retail, hospitality and care sectors so it’s a massive boost to see a retail chain introducing the Living Wage.

There is a target to raise the number of accredited employers in Scotland from 577 to 1,000 by autumn next year.

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