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Kezia Dugdale: Labour squabbles letting David Cameron off the hook

Published 16/08/2015

New Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale says the party is changing (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)
New Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale says the party is changing (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

The long and increasingly petty campaign to replace Ed Miliband as UK Labour leader is letting David Cameron off the hook, according to new Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.

Ms Dugdale, who was elected with the overwhelming support of Scottish members on Saturday, said she is worried about the impact Labour's introspection will have on its ability to be an effective opposition over the summer.

And she again questioned Jeremy Corbyn's willingness to be prime minister, despite acknowledging that his popularity and "big ideas" are exciting the country.

Speaking on Bauer Radio's Scotland's Talk In, Ms Dugdale said: "Four months is a long time to pad out with policy announcements and talking about what happened in the general election, and I think it has created a space where a lot of animosity has come in.

"It's all become very personal in the last few weeks, which is not pleasant.

"The thing that bothers me about that is not so much the petty exchanges, but the fact that David Cameron is getting off the hook all through the summer.

"I think he's having three summer holidays, and he can do so in the blissful knowledge that the Labour Party will continue to talk about its own future rather than scrutinise his government's record and what they plan to do in the future. That's quite worrying."

Ms Dugdale denied accusations that she has backtracked on previous criticisms of Mr Corbyn, the left-wing veteran who is currently leading the race to be the next UK Labour leader.

In an interview with The Guardian earlier this month, Ms Dugdale questioned how "a guy that's broken the whip 500 times" can enforce party discipline, and said she has yet to be convinced he can be prime minister.

Clarifying her comments, she said: "I didn't say that I couldn't work with Corbyn.

"I did pose some questions about whether or not he wanted to be prime minister. I just posed some questions about what Labour needs to do to return to power.

"I went on the radio a couple of days later, ahead of actually going to see Jeremy to sit down with him and talk about his campaign and his plans, and in that interview I recognised that in many ways his campaign is exciting the country.

"He's clearly filling out community halls and he's talking about big ideas, and that was very much to be welcomed.

"So I could work with any of the four candidates. I've met them all and talked to them all privately about the future.

"At no point have I said that I couldn't work with any of the four candidates."

She added: "Ultimately, decisions about the Scottish Labour Party will be made by me here in Scotland with my colleagues, with party members and people that join our movement, and they will be made in the best interests of Scotland. I can promise you that."

Ms Dugdale campaigned in The Meadows at the heart of the Edinburgh Festival with shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray, who has backed Yvette Cooper to lead UK Labour.

She told the Press Association: "I'm not going to ask people for their vote straight away, I wouldn't be so presumptuous.

"I just ask for the opportunity to be heard, so we're out here listening to voters, listening to people to share their hopes and aspirations on the future and ask them to tell us what their priorities are and there was a clear voice that education in particular is a priority.

"I want to close the gap between the richest kids and the poorest kids in our schools."

Ms Dugdale was pressed repeatedly to reveal her response to Mr Corbyn's plan to scrap Trident, a policy which Scottish Labour says would affect 19,000 jobs in and around the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the Clyde.

She said: "I was at the Jeremy Corbyn event on Friday and I listened to what he had to say, and I'll vote just like every other party member across the country - privately.

"I will work with which ever candidate is successful on September 12, but decisions about what is in the best interests of Scotland will be made here in Scotland by me."

Pressed to reveal her stance on Trident, she said: "You can ask the question as many ways as you like, you will get the same answer. I'm going to work with which ever one of those candidates is successful."

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