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Corbyn criticism will always colour Kez’s reign

Terry smiling headAfter announcing her resignation as leader of the Scottish Labour party Kezia Dugdale spoke of her devotion and passion for the movement. Few will doubt she was dedicated to the job.

Sadly for Ms Dugdale, Labour supporters did not show enough devotion to her leadership and, despite her claims to have rebuilt the party, it has slipped behind the Tories at Holyrood.

She insists her decision has nothing to do with her working relationship with Jeremy Corbyn, though everyone knows she was critical of his style and chances of success. Voters are not likely to be impressed long term by such obvious doubt and division.

This has encouraged some criticism of Ms Dugdale from supporters of Mr Corbyn. Internal strife may not always become public, but it has a withering effect on morale and confidence.

Ms Dugdale says that personal matters are behind her decision to go, not least the death of close friend and motor neurone disease sufferer Gordon Aikman. Her new relationship with SNP MSP, Jenny Gilruth was warmly received on a personal level, but there was clearly some potential for awkward political situations.

While these matters may have been factors, there is no escaping speculation around her ability to take the party forward and to convince voters that she was in tune with the UK leader.

She enjoyed some unexpected success at the June General Election with a higher number of seats than expected, but this only adds to the mystery of her going.

Some say June’s gains were based on growing support across the UK for Mr Corbyn and the positive general election campaign run from London, but Ms Dugdale could claim that she had stopped the rot in Scotland.

Her departure, however, seems at odds with previous claims that she was on a long journey. After her election to the post said she would stay on beyond the 2021 Scottish election, insisting that the work of rebuilding the party was a long term personal goal.

Even so, her record has been patchy. Aside from her ill-judged criticism of Mr Corbyn she also called, bizarrely, for the House of Lords to be moved to Glasgow. She was at odds with Mr Corbyn over the future of Faslane and has risked alienating voters by campaigning for income tax rises.

She was humiliated during the general election campaign when the First Minister disclosed during a live TV debate that she had privately told her immediately after the Brexit vote she believed Labour may support an independence referendum.

At times her comments have appeared naive, and also out of touch with the mood of Labour voters who either switched to the SNP because of its commitment to Scotland, or the Tories and LibDems who have been more in tune with the aspirant working classes. Labour needs to re-engage with its core voters and that starts with uniting its policies north and south of the border.

As things stand Labour has been left in a no man’s land, and for the next leader – the sixth since the SNP came to power a decade ago – that is a not a place where he or she will want the party to linger.

 

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