Labour Leadership: Kezia Dugdale rules herself out

Lothians MSP Kezia Dugdale at Scottish Labour's Glasgow office. Picture: PA
Lothians MSP Kezia Dugdale at Scottish Labour's Glasgow office. Picture: PA
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ONE of Labour’s rising stars has ruled herself out of running for the party leadership – and revealed she plans to quit politics within a decade.

Lothians list MSP Kezia Dugdale admitted she didn’t have the credentials to replace Johann Lamont, but said she would run for the position of deputy if it became available.

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Speaking exclusively to the Evening News, Ms Dugdale described herself as a “sidekick” when Scottish Labour needs a “superhero” in the wake of Ms Lamont’s shock resignation on Saturday. I don’t have what it takes, the ‘thing’ that Labour needs right now,” she said. “It is flattering that some people did consider me to be in the running, but I look at Johann Lamont and how much more experience she had than I do and if she couldn’t do it, why on earth would I think I could step up and do a better job?”

Ms Dugdale, who was voted in at the last Holyrood elections, has seen her profile soar through the recent referendum campaign, appearing on many televised debates.

She said: “I can go on Question Time and manage television appearances. I can work incredibly hard on my brief and for Labour, but I don’t have the steel, the sense of purpose that my party needs right now, and so I have ruled myself out. I didn’t even expect to get elected in 2011, so to think three years on I could lead the party . . . well, that’s rather arrogant. I know my strengths and my limits. I’m a sidekick, not the superhero.”

The 33-year-old said the party was in need of radical change ahead of the general election in May and the Scottish elections in 2016.

“It has been hard seeing that my career’s been on the rise while my party’s has fallen,” she said.

“I can’t take much joy from that. That’s why if there’s an opportunity to run for the deputy I would do that because I think one of my strengths is in campaigning and I believe we need to radically change how we do our business.

“I think I would have something to offer in that regard.”

She refused to say which of the two potential leadership candidates – MP Jim Murphy or Lothians MSP Neil Findlay – she would back, but said she could see no issue with having a Westminster-based leader if Mr Murphy were to win. She added: “There is a nervousness about having an MP as leader but it’s possible, just as it was when Alex Salmond led the SNP while in Westminster. It’s what you make of it.

“However, as Anas Sarwar has ruled himself out of running for the leadership I don’t think it would be wise – especially in the light of the referendum – for both the leader and the deputy to be MPs. Who would take First Minister’s Questions?

“While it’s not automatic, I do think if the leader is an MP, the deputy has to be an MSP.”

Asked whether she’d ever want to stand for the leader’s job, she said: “I don’t want to do this forever. This career has happened to me earlier than I expected it, it could end earlier than I expect it, but that’s OK, I’ll do something else.

“I want to write, to live abroad. There will come a time when I say ‘that’s it’. I won’t stand for more than three terms that’s for sure, that would take me to my early 40s, then it’ll be time for something else.”

Ten years on the political scene

KEZIA DUGDALE became an MSP for the Lothians at the last Scottish Parliament elections in 2011.

Her involvement with politics only began ten years ago when she joined the Labour Party while out of work after gaining a law degree from Aberdeen University.

She ran the election campaign for Norma Hart in the Murrayfield ward of the city council in which she came fifth. More successfully, she helped run the campaign for Ian Murray MP in Edinburgh South.

She was also running the election campaigns of Ewan Aitken and Paul Godzik in Edinburgh seats in 2011, but when they failed to get elected due to the SNP landslide she, as a Labour list candidate, became an MSP through the proportional representation system.

BROWN SAYS NO

Gordon Brown has ruled himself out of standing for the Scottish Labour leadership.

A source close to the former prime minister said he had made it clear for the past four years he was not returning to frontline politics, adding: “That position has not changed.”

Current deputy leader Anas Sarwar has also ruled himself out, meaning the contest to succeed Johann Lamont is now likely to be a two-horse race between former Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy and Lothian MSP Neil Findlay.