Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Kezia Dugdale has quit and it is about time too

Kezia Dugdale has finally done the decent thing and resigned as leader of the Scottish Labour Party. 

In politics it's customary to say kind things about political rivals after their resignation, but the best anyone could seriously manage with Kez is that she wasn't quite as bad as her predecessor toxic Jim Murphy, she was apparently a likeable person according to people who met her, that she tried hard to overcome her obvious and extreme political limitations, and that she's right to realise that she's out of her depth and hand the leadership on to someone more capable.

Labour Party right-wingers will obviously try to gloss over Kezia's legacy of failure and foot-in-mouth moments by pointing out that she increased Labour's share of Westminster seats from one to seven, but this kind of blind hagiography is wrong for many reasons:

  • The reason Labour lost 40 of their 41 Westminster seats in the first place was the decision to appoint the Labour Party right-winger Jim Murphy as party leader, electing another neoliberalism-lite Labour right-winger as his successor was a spectacularly bad move.
  • Winning just seven Westminster seats is still the second worst performance by Scottish Labour since 1931, and by a very large distance. 
  • Under Kezia's watch the Tories increased their representation in Scotland to 13 MPs, their best performance since 1983, and the first time Tories have outnumbered Labour MPs since 1955.
  • Six of the twelve Tory gains in 2017 came in seats that were held by Labour until the wipe-out in 2015 (Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock, Dumfries & Galloway, East Renfrewshire, Aberdeen South, Ochil & South Perthshire, Stirling). The SNP were never going to be able to hold their high water mark of 56/59 seats, so it's massively disappointing from a Labour perspective that the Tories gained the same number of lost Labour seats as Labour did themselves.
  • Things fared even worse for Kezia in the Scottish parliament where Labour slumped into 3rd position behind the Tories, a very sad demise for the party that created the Scottish parliament and led the Scottish government for the first 8 years.

Another propaganda theme being pushed hard by the bitter Labour right-wingers is that Kezia has been purged by Corbynites. This is wrong because Kezia's surprise resignation has taken everyone by surprise, even her opponents to the left of the Scottish Labour Party. Nobody forced her to go, In fact she specifically stated in her resignation statement that nobody forced her out and that it was her own decision.

Kezia walked away of her own volition saying that the best thing for the interests of the Labour Party is for her to pass the baton of leadership on, which is something that pretty much everyone apart from the bitter Anyone But Corbyn mob should be able to agree on.

Perhaps Kezia realised that her tactic of publicly attacking Jeremy Corbyn and predicting doom if he became leader had rendered her position untenable after Corbyn secured the biggest increase in the Labour vote since 1945 to prevent the Tory-UKIP Trojan Horse ploy from landing the fanatically right-wing super-majority almost everyone was expecting?

Perhaps she realised that allowing the Tories to overtake Labour as Scotland's second party in the Scottish Parliament, and in Westminster amounted to an unacceptable failure to bounce back from the damage Jim Murphy and John McTernan inflicted in 2015?

Perhaps she realised that she's such a hopelessly limited politician that she even makes the grotesquely hypocritical Tory leader Ruth Davidson look competent in comparison?

The problem with Scottish Labour is that they have operated like a cabal that only ever listens to their own rhetoric inside the party bubble, and shows no inclination to actually offer things that the Scottish public are actually crying out for. 

How else is it possible to explain the election of Jim Murphy as their leader than as a great big "fuck you" to anyone who voted for independence (45% of the Scottish electorate)?

How else is it possible to explain the fact that Kezia was allowed to continue as leader until she decided to quit, even after leading Labour into 3rd place in the Scottish Parliament and Westminster, and even urging people to vote Tory because she's so caught up in the blinkered SNP-bad mindset?

Maybe Scottish Labour will finally see some sense and elect a leader who is willing to support Jeremy Corbyn rather than attacking him at every turn, and capable of offering a left-wing opposition to the SNP government, rather than a hopelessly out-of-touch shell of a political party that refuses to change direction and exists by complacently relying on a severely diminished legacy vote, and desperately riding on Jeremy Corbyn's coat tails whilst simultaneously slagging him off.

Kezia's resignation was unexpected, so it's going to be a while before the new candidates are known, but hopefully the leadership election will give Scottish Labour an opportunity to elect a new leader capable of leading them out of the political wilderness that Labour Party right-wingers like Jim Murphy, John McTernan and Kezia Dugdale led them into.

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