Fife councillor quits Labour over candidate ‘parachuted’ into key Kirkcaldy seat

A Fife councillor has quit the Labour Party after it “parachuted” a candidate in to fight the key Kirkcaldy seat at the General Election after its original candidate, Wilma Brown, was binned amid a backlash over liking “deeply offensive” special media posts.

Julie MacDougall said the decision to hand the ticket to Melanie Ward rather than a local candidate was “disrespectful and insulting” and also “non democratic.”

Ms Ward was chosen to fight the Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy constituency - a target seat for Labour - after the party suspended Mrs Brown. At the time, it was said there were seven candidates who were given a short time to prepare their pitches.

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But Ms MacDougall, whose late father John was a respected Fife MP and leader of Fife Couincil, said she was not one of them, and Labour’s decision not to go local sparked a damning criticism in a near five-minute video posted to the Facebook page she uses as a councillor.

Julie MacDougall quit Labour saying the selection process for a Kirkcaldy candidate was “disrespectful and insulting” (Pic: Fife Free Press)Julie MacDougall quit Labour saying the selection process for a Kirkcaldy candidate was “disrespectful and insulting” (Pic: Fife Free Press)
Julie MacDougall quit Labour saying the selection process for a Kirkcaldy candidate was “disrespectful and insulting” (Pic: Fife Free Press)

She said her decision to quit Labour was “not taken lightly” but she had “lost faith” in the party

“My hand has been forced,” she said. “I have tried my best and fought tirelessly for over a year behind the scenes for democracy and fairness but sadly have exhausted all avenues, and feel I must uphold the Nolan Principals of public life and leave the Labour Party.

“It is no secret that candidates are being imposed on members and constituents in a non-democratic, autocratic manner which I cannot support. Members who pay their subscriptions should have the right to choose - the local area has been denied the opportunity to have a local candidate. Are we saying there are no decent good candidates in Fife? I find this disrespectful and insulting.”Ms MacDougall, who had previously contested the Dunfermline seat in the Scottish elections, said she was not one of the Kirkcaldy candidates because she was still contesting the internal selection process dating from last year.

“As a potential candidate myself I was abruptly removed from the original Westminster process last April for contacting wider membership to advise there was a selection, with no right of appeal,” she said. “I am appalled at way I and local members have been treated.

“It is not morally right to continue represent Labour, and I cannot join the campaign in this General election due to this unresolved matter. My dad represented fairness and fought social injustice. He would have been thoroughly disappointed at what has been happening in Fife. I have lost faith in the Labour Party and do not believe it is practicing what it preaches.

“If I stayed silent I would not be truthful to myself, the membership and electorate. I understand this will have consequences, but not speaking up will have greater consequences.”

Ms MacDougall intends to continue as a councillor for the Burntisland, Kinghorn and West Kirkcaldy ward.

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In 2015 Ms Ward was drafted in to defend the Glenrothes seat held by Lindsay Roy, who was standing down, but lost out to Peter Grant as the SNP swept the boards across Scotland. Her local campaign is already underway with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar joining her in Burntisland at the weekend.

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