Kezia Dugdale: I'm used to dealing with snakes and rats
The MSP has been accused of taking an “unauthorised leave of absence” to appear on I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! but will not face suspension, the party announced on Tuesday.
Her entrance was teased on Wednesday night’s show and as she prepares for the jungle, Dugdale said her biggest worries about the reality show were insect-related as she was well practised in the art of “dealing with rats and snakes”.
She added: “I’ve never had to deal with creepy crawlies before... I ran upstairs when I saw a spider the other day and I’ve got a big fear of birds that stems from when I saw a scary picture of a pigeon as a toddler.”
Ms Dugdale said she expected colleagues to be “angry” about her decision to head to Australia, but that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would be “pretty relaxed”.
She added: “I think he (Corbyn) will have a good laugh at my expense.
“I think he will be more than happy to see me do it.”
When quizzed over her decision last week, Mr Corbyn said Ms Dugdale should not be suspended, adding it was “her choice” to enter the show.
She said because of the vacant leadership role until last week, there had been “no obvious person” to seek permission from.
Of the wider party’s reaction, the MSP said: “I think people’s overriding emotion will be, first and foremost, of shock. I think there will be a few people angry.
“They will be angry because they will say I should be doing my day job and I am going to be away. I understand that anger.”
Explaining her decision, she said she had sought permission to go abroad for three weeks to work from the two candidates bidding to succeed her as Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard and Anas Sanwar.
Mr Leonard, who won the leadership contest last week, had claimed his predecessor had been refused permission to take part in the reality TV show.
Ms Dugdale said: “Did I tell anyone beforehand? Other than my partner and office manager, I didn’t tell anyone about the show.
“I went to the two people who were running for Scottish leader and told them I was going abroad for three weeks to work. They were both cool with that. I will be back for the Budget in December.”
She said she was inspired to take part following the death of her close friend and former Labour researcher Gordon Aikman in February. Mr Aikman campaigned about and suffered from motor neurone disease.
“He taught me so much about how important it is to live your life well and never let an opportunity go by. I am doing this with that ethos in mind.”
Ms Dugdale said the show seemed like an “amazing opportunity to talk to millions of people about the Labour Party, its values and how it is different”.
“I am not going to talk about politics all the time but it is who I am, what I do and I can’t help it.”
Also entering the jungle on Thursday is radio DJ Iain Lee, who said he may “stir things up”.
“I do like a good argument. If someone is being an idiot, I will tell them so. It’s all panto, that’s the thing. Some people don’t get that. They get too serious.”