Kezia Dugdale has put Labour’s turf war behind her, saying she “never needed convincing” of Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal as he continues to close the gap on the Conservatives.
After twice backing his rivals in leadership elections Dugdale suggested Corbyn could stay on in the event of a narrow Labour defeat.
There are a huge number of SNP MPs who have failed to make any significant impact
Labour has narrowed the gap across the UK from as much as 24 points when a election was called by Prime Minister Theresa May, to as little as 3 points in the past few days, although pollsters warn that much of the surge is based on support from young people and others less likely to vote.
“I never needed any convincing that he was an authentic voice for anti-austerity politics, and he’s been every inch of that,” Dugdale said.
As the campaign enters its final week, she refused to be drawn on whether a defeat should trigger Corbyn’s resignation, saying: “I fully expect that he’ll carry on with that anti-austerity message the day after [the election] ... he’s there to do a job and that’s what he’s going to do.”
The Scottish Labour leader rejected suggestions that Corbyn could cut a deal with the SNP on a second referendum as a price for its support in the event of a hung parliament.
“He will present a Labour budget in that scenario, and it’s up to the SNP to decide whether or not they back that. It doesn’t mean he has to offer them anything or try and do anything to appeal to them,” Dugdale said.
“What they will get is a Labour prospectus for a budget. The SNP then have to decide which side they are going to fall down on. Are they going to have a Labour prime minister or a Tory prime minister?
“I think there’s a head and heart problem there for Nicola Sturgeon.”
She added: “If they don’t support it, what you’ll end up with is a Tory government, and Scotland will never forgive the SNP for that.”
Dugdale said she would stick to her promise to remain leader until the next Scottish election, regardless of the result on Thursday. And she highlighted her work to bring on a new generation of candidates at local and national level, saying many of them would build up strong votes in an attempt to overturn the SNP.
“I couldn’t, and I bet most people couldn’t, name the SNP MP for Kirkcaldy,” Dugdale said.
“I don’t think a lot of the SNP MPs have the name recognition, the profile or the brand that their Labour predecessors did.
“There are a huge number of SNP MPs who have failed to make any significant impact.”
Dugdale claimed Sturgeon has squandered her place as the “mother of the nation” by pushing for a second independence referendum and faces a reckoning over the state of Scottish public services.
Dugdale suggested that 8 June could mark a turning point for her party following nearly two decades of steady decline.