Labour may come to rue los­ing Dug­dale

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By CHRIS GREEN

Some­times, as the say­ing goes, you don’t know a good thing un­til it’s gone. Fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Kezia Dug­dale, Scot­tish Labour may be about to find this out the hard way.

She may have had her crit­ics, but it should not be for­got­ten that she took on the man­tle of the lead­er­ship at a time when the party in Scot­land was at ar­guably its low­est point.

Her pre­de­ces­sor Jim Mur­phy stood down af­ter a dis­as­trous 2015 gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign which saw the party lose ev­ery sin­gle Scot­tish MP bar one, as the SNP stormed to a his­toric vic­tory.

When I in­ter­viewed Ms Dug­dale shortly af­ter she be­came 0 Jim Mur­phy: ‘Dis­as­trous’ results led to his down­fall leader, I asked her how long she thought it would take to turn the party around, ex­pect­ing her to say some­thing rather bland. In­stead, she replied bluntly: “It’s def­i­nitely years.”

Where oth­ers would have bluffed and blus­tered, she told it like it was: a re­fresh­ing qual­ity in a politi­cian.

The Scot­tish Par­lia­ment elec­tions the fol­low­ing year proved her anal­y­sis right, with Labour slip­ping to a hu­mil­i­at­ing third place be­hind the Tories. But since then, things have started to im­prove.

At the gen­eral elec­tion ear­lier this year Labour were pre­dicted to do just as badly as they did in 2015, but in­stead the party gained six seats in Scot­land and in­creased its share of the vote.

Some­times her plain speak­ing got her into trou­ble, most no­tably in the run-up to last year’s Scot­tish Par­lia­ment elec­tion when she said it was “not in­con­ceiv­able” she would sup­port in­de­pen­dence if it meant Scot­land stay­ing in the EU. But since then Ms Dug­dale has hard­ened her line on in­de­pen­dence, a tac­tic that chimed with the public mood in Scot­land at the gen­eral elec­tion.

She has re­peat­edly taken the SNP to task for its per­for­mance on the NHS and schools – mes­sages which ap­pear to be fi­nally get­ting through to vot­ers.

Af­ter two years of hard and some­times pun­ish­ing graft, it is a bit­ter shame for Labour that Ms Dug­dale has de­cided to leave the main stage just when the party ap­pears to be get­ting back on its feet.

The wor­ry­ing ques­tion fac­ing the party now is: who can re­place her? Get the se­lec­tion wrong, and the party could soon be back on life sup­port.

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