Kezia Dugdale backs Owen Smith for Labour leader

Kezia Dugdale announces support for Owen Smith in leadership battle. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Kezia Dugdale announces support for Owen Smith in leadership battle. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Jeremy Corbyn will seek to convince Labour members he can win back support from SNP backers by attacking the Nationalists’ credentials as a progressive party during a visit to Scotland this week.

His trip comes after Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale announced she would not back her party’s national leader and would instead be voting for his rival Owen Smith.

Ms Dugdale said she believed Mr Smith was the right leader to reunite the party and win a general election.

Kicking off a series of campaign events in Scotland by ruling out an electoral pact with the SNP, the beleaguered Labour leader will criticise the Scottish Government’s stance on freezing income tax rates and cutting Air Passenger Duty.

Neil Findlay MSP, who is running Mr Corbyn’s campaign in Scotland, said the Labour leader would be “talking very positively” about a strategy to win back support from the SNP, and will tell supporters that under his leadership Labour is the only progressive option at the next general election.

But Ms Dugdale yesterday revealed she would be voting for his only rival in the leadership campaign, the result of which will be declared on 24 September.

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She said: “Everybody in the Labour Party wants to see an end to the Tory government, so we have to have a debate about what is the best means to get the Tories out of office.”

“I think it is Owen Smith’s vision of radical politics combined with a credible plan to deliver that in office.”

Ms Dugdale said she did not believe Mr Corbyn could unite the Labour Party, adding that she was “not proud of the way Labour has been fighting amongst itself”.

“I think it is a real turn-off to people to see a party ripping itself apart and it’s my job to do what I can to get the party back on the front foot, to get its act together,” she said.

The Scottish leader also warned: “We can’t pin our hopes on a leadership that speaks only to the converrather than speaking to the country as a whole,

Mr Smith said he was “incredibly proud” to have Ms Dugdale’s backing. The first postal ballot papers were sent out to the estimated 640,000 party members eligible to vote in the contest yesterday. Mr Corbyn has been nominated by 23 out of 59 constituency Labour parties in Scotland.

A spokesman for the Scottish Labour For Jeremy campaign said: “Kezia has one vote, just like every other member of the Scottish Labour Party, but all the indications, both from canvassing and CLP [Constituency Labour Party] nominations, are that a majority of Labour Party members in Scotland will be backing Jeremy Corbyn.”

Mr Findlay said Mr Corbyn would rule out any prospect of a “progressive alliance” ahead of the next general election.

The Labour leader will meet Mr Smith for a hustings debate in Glasgow on Thursday before travelling to Edinburgh, Dundee and Livingston to give speeches.

“There will be no progressive alliance with the SNP and I’m expecting Jeremy Corbyn to rule that out this week,” Mr Findlay said yesterday.

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“I don’t think the SNP will be able to take any comfort from a Jeremy Corbyn victory. There will be no progressive alliance with the SNP.

“The SNP does not act progressively in government, but seeks to talk progressively at Westminster where it has no power. Providing a credible and socialist radical alternative to Nationalism is what Jeremy is all about and we will be making an appeal to the people of Scotland on that basis.”

Mr Corbyn’s visit to Scotland follows comments made by shadow Scottish secretary and Blaydon MP Dave Anderson that Labour should consider a coalition with the SNP to prevent a Conservative victory at the next general election.

Another Corbyn ally, the shadow defence secretary Clive Lewis, also suggested the two parties could work together. A spokesman for Mr Smith said the Labour leader’s supporters were “all over the place” on a pact with the SNP.

“His shadow Scottish secretary and shadow defence secretary both back a deal with the SNP, and last year he said himself that he’d work with them,” the spokesman said. “Now that he’s realised that position isn’t acceptable to Scottish members he’s desperately scrambling to find a new one. No wonder Kezia Dugdale is saying he can’t provide the leadership the Labour Party needs.”

An SNP spokesperson last night said: “Labour appear to be convinced that if they keep on repeating the manifesto that saw them come third behind the Tories then eventually voters in Scotland will listen.

“Unfortunately for Jeremy Corbyn, he can’t even convince Scottish Labour to believe in him.

“People in Scotland recognise the SNP as a progressive party with a solid record of competence and delivery in government, which is precisely why we won an unprecedented third term in office.”

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