The Sunday Post (Dundee)

Dugdale risks setting Labour on path to war

Backing Smith at odds with much of party

- apicken@sundaypost.com By Andrew Picken

KEZIA DUGDALE will this week officially back Owen Smith to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

The Scottish Labour leader’s interventi­on is expected ahead of the pair travelling north of the Border for a series of rallies and hustings.

Dugdale’s support for the underdog Smith will put her on a collision course with huge swathes of her party, including her deputy Alex Rowley.

A total of 23 local Labour groups in Scotland have backed the re-election of Corbyn as leader, compared with 16 supporting the Welsh MP Smith.

However, the majority of MSPs and the party’s sole MP, Ian Murray, want Corbyn to go and Dugdale has said he is “not competent” to be Labour leader.

The divide means the strength of the interventi­on by Dugdale is critical to relations within Scottish Labour with ties between the leader and her deputy Rowley already strained.

A Labour source said: “Kez has already made it pretty clear she doesn’t think Jeremy Corbyn can carry on as leader when he lost the confidence of his MPs.

“She was elected leader with 72% of the vote but if she lost the confidence of her parliament­ary colleagues she couldn’t carry on in the job.”

Corbyn was elected by a huge majority of Labour members and affiliates last September but has been criticised for his performanc­e as leader.

More than three-quarters of his shadow cabinet quit last month and he had a motion of no confidence passed by the parliament­ary Labour Party, which sparked the leadership challenge.

However, the veteran left-winger maintains huge support from rank-andfile Labour members and is still expected to win the contest, which has five weeks to run.

Corbyn supporters in Scotland say support for the Islington MP is stronger than in last year’s campaign.

Rowley told The Sunday Post: “I’ve made no secret of the fact I will be voting for Jeremy.

“For me he represents a different kind of politics, one where you treat people with respect and dignity and we get away from the era of spin.

“He was elected on a democratic mandate nine months ago and I think we have to give him the chance to push on with his plan.

“Whoever is leader come the end of September, we all need to get behind them as the post-Brexit world we’re in is too important for internal fighting.

“I’ve been a member of Labour for more than 30 years and in that time I have not exactly been wild about every leader but I have backed them and it is important that we all do that.”

Before becoming Scottish Labour leader Dugdale criticised Corbyn, claiming her party would be “left carping on the sidelines” if he became leader.

When it looked likely Corbyn would win the 2015 contest, she changed tact, claiming she would be “delighted” to work with him.

However, last month she said: “With Jeremy as leader the chances of a UK Labour Government in the near future are slim at best and non-existent at worst.”

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