KEZIA Dugdale has written to Scottish Labour members saying they “must continue to fight for what we believe in” after she vowed to keep leading the party despite its “heartbreaking” result in the Holyrood election.
Labour finished third with 24 seats – down 13 from 2011 and its worst-ever result in the Scottish Parliament vote – meaning it was overtaken by the Scottish Conservatives, who become the main opposition with 31 MSPs.
In an e-mail to members, Lothian regional list MSP Ms Dugdale – who failed to win a constituency seat in Edinburgh Eastern – said the need for a party arguing for “using the power of government to invest in people” was more important than ever.
She wrote: “We could have fought an election that was about the arguments of two years ago but we chose to stand up for what we believe in.
“We will keep standing for our belief that we can choose to be better than this. Despite the disappointment of the final results, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens stood with us.
“I’ll keep fighting for our values.”
Labour suffered the loss of a dozen constituency seats and swings to the Conservatives as it saw support in its former heartlands all but evaporate.
Elsewhere, the party lost Eastwood to the Conservatives and it failed to win a single constituency seat in Glasgow – which was once a Labour stronghold.
Last May, the party lost all but one of its MPs in Scotland as the SNP swept the board in the general election. Speaking after watching Labour’s vote crumble across Scotland, Ms Dugdale said she was “heartbroken, without question” at finishing third behind the Tories but insisted she would remain as leader.
“We always knew last night’s election would be hard for us. But that doesn’t make it any easier this morning,” she wrote in her e-mail. “Especially when so many members and supporters gave so much time and effort. But our campaign continues.
“Listening to our opponents on TV last night it’s clear they want us to give up. We won’t. Why? Because we believe in something.
“We fought for what we believe in at this election – for using the power of government to invest in people.
“That is an idea that has been at the root of progress in this country for a century.
“After this result, and the election campaign of the last few weeks, it’s clearer than ever that if we don’t stand for this then no-one will.
“I hope this result will act as a rallying call for everyone who shares our values to join us.
“Let’s ask those people who we know share our principles to be part of our movement.”
Labour had some successes, including constituency holds for Iain Gray and Jackie Baillie, and a win for Daniel Johnson from the SNP in Edinburgh Southern.
The party also returned four MSPs on the Glasgow list, including former MP Anas Sarwar and former leader Johann Lamont.
Senior figures within Labour backed Ms Dugdale to stay on in her role, including Mr Gray, Mr Sarwar, Lothians list MSP Neil Findlay and Ian Murray, Labour’s only Scottish MP.
Meanwhile, voters do not see Labour under Jeremy Corbyn as a credible party of government, a member of the shadow cabinet has admitted after the party suffered a dismal night in the “super Thursday” elections.
The UK Labour leader brushed off suggestions his position was under threat despite seeing the party crash to third place in the Scottish Parliament behind the Conservatives, lose its overall majority in the Welsh Assembly and fail to make gains in England.
But while there appeared to be no mood among Labour MPs for an immediate move against him, shadow Scottish secretary and Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray said the leadership had to reflect on the results and the implications for its chances in the 2020 general election.
“I don’t think that the public see the UK Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn at the moment as being a credible party of future government in 2020,” Mr Murray told BBC Radio 4’s World At One.
“That’s something, after this week’s results, we should reflect on – the leadership of the party should reflect on –and find a way of finding a strategy and a narrative that changes the perception of the UK Labour Party across the United Kingdom so that we can go on and have a real shot at winning in 2020.”
His comments reflected deep unhappiness among MPs opposed to Mr Corbyn’s left-wing agenda, but his position was bolstered by Tom Watson, Labour’s influential deputy leader, who warned critics to show “patience”.
“I think even our opponents who are not members of the Labour Party would say that after eight months it would be very unfair and improper, actually, to hang this set of election results on Jeremy Corbyn’s peg alone,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.