KEZIA Dugdale has won the support of more than half of Labour’s MSPs, underlining her status as the favourite in the race to succeed Jim Murphy as Scottish leader of the party.
Within 24 hours of confirming her intention to stand, Dugdale had been backed by 20 of Scottish Labour’s 38 members of the Scottish Parliament.
Amid more signs of Labour in-fighting and dwindling membership, Dugdale said that, if elected, she intended to remain leader for many years and could bring the party back together.
“I am proud to have already won the support of so many Labour colleagues in the Scottish Parliament,” said Dugdale, whose supporters include the past leader Iain Gray and previous leadership candidates Neil Findlay and Sarah Boyack.
“The geographical spread of support I have – with MSPs from north and south, east and west – as well as the backing of MSPs from different parts of our movement shows I can bring our party together. “Regaining the trust of the people of Scotland won’t happen overnight. There is no short-term fix to Labour’s long-term problems that have been years in the making. I have made it clear to colleagues that if elected leader I plan to do the job for many years to come. That so many have supported me shows a clear understanding of the challenge we face.”
Her remarks come amid concerns that her tenure could be a short one if, as expected, Labour suffers another humiliating defeat at the hands of the SNP in next year’s Scottish election.
She spoke as more evidence emerged of the scale of the challenge facing whoever takes over a Scottish Labour Party riven with in-fighting.
Yesterday Dugdale’s only rival for the leadership, Ken Macintosh, claimed that his supporters were being “bullied” and “intimidated” by the party machine. On BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland, he said: “I want to have a contest, but I have found the whole weight of the party machine – yet again – turning against me trying to close down the contest.”
He claimed his supporters were being put under “incredible pressure” to withdraw their support.
“They are being bullied and intimidated and pressurised into not supporting me so that we don’t have a contest,” Macintosh said.
Further evidence of the problems facing Labour were outlined in an article written by Ian Davidson, the former MP who lost his Glasgow South West seat to the SNP. Written for the Scottish Left Review and published in today’s Scotland on Sunday, Davidson’s article said Labour in Scotland has been “blighted by the four Cs: complacency, conservatism, cronyism and careerism”.
Davidson acknowledged that at the election Labour had been “outgunned” by the SNP because it was short of ideas. “We do not even have the numbers to mount substantial doorstep campaigns. No wonder party membership figures are a secret. So low as to be embarrassing,” Davidson wrote.
Last night Sandra White, SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, reacted to Macintosh’s comments saying: “The Labour Party bullying and intimidation that Ken Macintosh has uncovered has absolutely no place in Scottish politics.
“These revelations will further damage Labour, which is already in a terrible state. These serious allegations must be properly investigated, and not swept under the carpet by Kezia Dugdale, or whoever it is that is meant to be in charge of Labour in Scotland just now.”