Tom Peterkin: Scots Labour fray lacks Corbyn-mania

Scottish Labour leadership contenders Ken Macintosh and Kezia Dugdale. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Scottish Labour leadership contenders Ken Macintosh and Kezia Dugdale. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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THE lacklustre Scottish Labour leadership contest lacks the excitement of the Corbyn factor, writes Tom Peterkin

Compared with the Corbyn-mania sweeping the UK Labour party, the race for the Scottish end of the party leadership has been relegated to a Cinderella contest.

The battle being fought between Kezia Dugdale and Ken Macintosh lacks the excitement, which has been injected on the UK stage by the rise of that veteran of the left Jeremy Corbyn.

The very idea – shock, horror – that Corbyn might triumph over Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham has given the UK contest a dramatic tension that is entirely absent from events north of the Border.

A week on Saturday the public will find out who out of Dugdale and Macintosh has been chosen to take the fight to the SNP at Holyrood.

With the support of two-thirds of the parliamentary party, Dugdale is the clear favourite. As one Labour insider put it, “it is hers to lose”.

In some ways Macintosh has done the Scottish party a favour by standing once again for the leadership.

Having been beaten by Johann Lamont in a bygone contest, no-one could have blamed Macintosh if he opted for a quiet life and cheered from the sidelines as Dugdale was crowned. But Macintosh’s willingness to stand and prevent a Dugdale coronation does not hide the fact that the resulting contest has been pretty disappointing.

It has been bereft of the ideological questions posed by Corbyn’s challenge from the left.

Macintosh has used a bit of anti-austerity rhetoric – but blink and you might have missed it. The truth is that it has been difficult for Macintosh to sell his message that he is the candidate for change when one considers that he has been a Labour MSP since the birth of devolution in 1999.

Dugdale is a fresher face and is a politician of great promise. However, it is difficult to escape the impression that she has been deliberately keeping a low public profile during her campaign.

This low-risk approach may prove successful in the end, but it hardly indicates that Scottish Labour is a party which is bursting with ideas on how to make inroads into the SNP’s unprecedented domination of Scottish politics.

Make no mistake, the challenges faced by whoever wins a week on Saturday are enormous.

At a time when the SNP’s fortunes are at their zenith, Labour’s are at a nadir.

Pulling Labour from its slough of despond cannot be done with the sort of lacklustre performances that have characterised this contest.