A guest post by Samuel Miller
This will be short.
You know, it would be easy and very tempting to list the record of exiting leader Kezia Dugdale’s gaffs and errors over the past near three years. Just as it’s tempting to give in to jibes and jokes at her departure. So I’m going to stun readers by NOT doing any of the above. Those gaffs have been more than well covered by public record as and when they occurred.
Plenty of scribes will be penning both damning and praising pieces across the meeja today (dependent on their political bias). They’ll do plenty of lists full of histories that some of us/most of us won’t recognise, but we’ll remember and that’s the main thing.
Ms Dugdale is apparently leaving her position because she’s had some reason to re-evaluate her life and what she wants from it. There was also mention of ‘passing the baton’ and the party needing “a new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate”. That’s the bottom line straight from Ms Dugdale herself. There have been rumours of a coup in the offing of course, but then there’s always one of those knocking about the place and there may even be some truth to it (shrugs).
Some folk would argue Ms Dugdale’s term in office has been untenable for some time. Taking over the responsibilities of branch leadership from Jim Murphy in the wake of the 2015 election result was a bad enough start, but to continue in leadership through Labour’s steady decline in the pecking order over the past two years must have been painful. Public perception of Labour’s tacit partnership with the Tories and backing the wrong horse in internal conflicts will have had their toll too I suspect. An unsuccessful Scottish elections, council elections and only a moderately improved position after the snap general election couldn’t have helped. A party that fell ignominiously to third place in Scottish politics and despite the best sustained efforts of the media over the period (and its decidedly anti Scottish government narrative), remains rooted to that third place.
Then came the last big idea of ‘federalism’ and Ms Dugdale’s push to square the devolution dodecahedron. A chance to test some of that Scottish Labour autonomy (which was so autonomous by this point, it could have formed its own independent state on the far side of the moon), win some votes back, and save the union. It was, in my opinion, never going to work and the tin lid was firmly placed on that pot by the sainted Jeremy himself only a few days ago. So much for Scottish Labour’s autonomy. So much for federalism and so much for home rule.
The proverbial final straw? Who knows? That’s for readers to draw their own conclusions. The exiting leader has made her own statements on reasons.
Ultimately Ms Dugdale became leader of a party of growing irrelevance in Scotland. A party that had lost its way and its reason for being a long time ago. A party mired in ‘politics as it is practised’, a pointless hatred of opposition and a neverending sense of self entitlement.
So far as anyone can tell, there has been no marked resurgence of Labour under Ms Dugdale’s leadership. No clear policies worth the name, (other than ‘no second referendum’), though a great deal of policy confusion (actually completely bewildering). No renewal of purpose (Opposition for opposition’s sake still takes precedence apparently). No change of character or intent. No attempt to reach out with any olive branch to Scotland’s electorate.
Perhaps a change of leader, for whatever reason, is long past due. Will it really be a change though?
I personally very much doubt it.