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Labour refused Dugdale I’m A Celebrity permission, says new Scottish leader

Richard Leonard said his understanding was that Scottish Labour had not agreed after his predecessor sought permission to appear on the show.

Labour party bosses refused Kezia Dugdale permission to take part in the reality TV show I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!, the new Scottish Labour leader said.

Richard Leonard, who was elected to the top job on Saturday, said his predecessor had sought permission from Labour leaders before heading to the Australian jungle.

But he added his understanding was that the party had not agreed to it.

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Kezia Dugdale will be taking part in I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here (David Cheskin/PA)

Labour MSPs at Holyrood will now have to consider if the former leader, who dramatically quit the job in August, should be suspended or not.

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has already said that this would not be appropriate, arguing it was Ms Dugdale’s choice to take part in the TV programme, which also includes boxer Amir Khan, Boris Johnson’s father Stanley and The Saturdays’ singer Vanessa White.

But Mr Leonard made clear that the party in Scotland would consider imposing such a sanction.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I’ve said over the weekend that we need to consider it and I’ve also expressed my own personal disappointment that that was a decision she has chosen to make.

“There are issues, not just the fact that she is there and the kind of programme it is and people’s view of that, there is also a question about whether she got permission to do it.”

Pressed on whether Ms Dugdale had been given the party’s backing to take part in the show, he stated: “My understanding is she sought permission and wasn’t given permission.”

Mr Leonard added: “There is going to need to be a proper discussion about it, the circumstances around it and whether it is appropriate to take action or not.

“I am not persuaded the immediate step that the Labour Party needs to take is to suspend Kezia from membership of the Labour Party but I do think we need to have a discussion about it.”

Ms Dugdale remains an MSP for the Lothians region, and her decision to take part in the programme prompted an angry reaction from many within the party

Fellow Labour MSP Neil Findlay described the move as “utterly ludicrous”.

He said: “We have a situation where we’re in the run-up to the budget in Scotland, where local government is on its knees, where the NHS is showing pressures like never before, when people’s living standards are falling and they expect their MPs, MSPs, councillors, elected representatives, to be in fighting on their behalf and I don’t think people would expect them to jet off around the world and sit around the camp fire eating a kangaroo’s appendage.

“I think it demeans politics when people get involved in that.”

But Ms Dugdale’s partner, the SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth, claimed the former Labour leader was being bullied by some of those in the party.

Ms Gilruth said on Twitter: “I see @scottishlabour have developed their own unique take on the final day of #AntiBullyingWeek. Huge props, comrades! #TeamKez.”

Mr Leonard said: “There was certainly a strong reaction on social media when the news broke on Saturday morning and feelings are running high about it, there’s no question about it.”

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