Scottish Labour is now ran by Corbyn’s mob mentality
Kezia Dugdale's departure, whether her own doing or otherwise, leaves both Jeremy Corbyn and Ruth Davidson in stronger positions.
The only woman elected to a high Labour Party office is no more as the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, Kezia Dugdale, bowed out after over two years at the helm. Kezia’s legacy is a mixed one; on the one hand, she lead the Party to come third in the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections, while in 2017 she saw six new Labour MPs elected in Scotland after all but one were wiped out in the SNP landslide of 2015. Dugdale may have chosen this time to go, and that is probably right; the loss of her close friend and personal circumstances absolutely led to this being the time to resign for her, but that is no excuse to whitewash what was actually happening in Scottish Labour.
Kezia Dugdale has always stood against the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, consistently differentiating her Scottish Labour Party from the Party ran by the Islington North MP south of the border. Having been attacked from the left for her disloyalty, Dugdale has also been attacked from the right for her position of ‘serial ambiguity’ on the issue of independence. The revelation in the Scottish TV debates that Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale had shared conversations following the EU Referendum vote about Labour supporting a vote on independence saw some on the right of the party grow distrustful of their leader. In the end, Kezia was forced out by men on both sides of the party.
Team Corbyn will now hope to influence the outcome of this subsequent leadership election and bring on-board the Scottish Labour Party to his way of doing things. It will also allow Corbyn to grow his presence in the party; the Scottish Leader automatically sits on the Labour National Executive Committee and Kezia Dugdale’s resignation automatically puts the ‘centrist majority’ there at risk. A Corbynite as Scottish leader would cement Corbyn’s position further, even in the body that is still largely sceptical of him. It would also make it harder for any of the new Scottish Labour MPs to disobey the UK leadership with0ut the protection of the Scottish leader.
It’s undoubted, therefore, that Kezia was pushed out, perhaps with the threat of a leadership contest. Some on the left blame her for what they see as an ‘under-performance’ in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK, focusing on a message of being against a second independence referendum that some said should be left to the Conservatives as it alienated some younger and working class supporters that left two years ago for the SNP. Corbyn’s own tour of marginal seats in Scotland in an effort against the SNP largely side-lined the Scottish leader from the spotlight with pro-Corbyn groups calling for and end to disloyalty from the Scottish leader’s office. Kezia’s time was limited the minute her UK Leader stepped North of Hadrian’s Wall.
So yes: this improves Corbyn’s personal position in both Scottish Labour and the UK-wide party. But it also improves one other woman’s chances of becoming First Minister; Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.
Davidson is already on the left flank of the Conservative Party and a powerful figure among liberal Tories; she runs the Scottish Tories from the centre of British politics and has largely detoxified the party north of the border. Kezia’s resignation ensures that Scottish Labour will fight old issues – battles over Labour policy on independence, on what to do with Brexit, and from what direction to attack the Nationalists – and possibly ensure a rush to the left by both the SNP and Labour. It would result in the Tories attacking the SNP as extremist separatists and attacking Labour as simple extremists.
But also it allows Ruth to play the SNP’s game. Labour is now ran not from Scotland, but from London. That is an assertion that the SNP certainly cannot label Ruth Davidson’s party as considering her recent success and Theresa May’s decline, and so it leaves the SNP as Scottish left-wingers and Labour as London-ran left-wingers. Only the Tories would be able to claim that they provide a fresh, Scottish voice come the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2021. A cat fight of the left is exactly what the Tories need to take power at Holyrood.