Labour may come to rue losing Dugdale
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.