Labour leader must be best bet to be PM, says Dugdale

Kezia Dugdale has backed Owen Smith for Labour leader. Picture; Jon Savage
Kezia Dugdale has backed Owen Smith for Labour leader. Picture; Jon Savage
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Scottish Labour chief Kezia Dugdale has said the party’s UK leadership contest should not just be about who has the greatest support of members, as she backed Owen Smith to replace Jeremy Corbyn.

The Lothian MSP said the contest should be decided on the basis of who is best placed to be prime minister.

Mr Smith said he was “incredibly proud” to gain Ms Dugdale’s vote, but Mr Corbyn’s campaign said she was likely to be outvoted by Labour members in Scotland and across the UK.

Both candidates are visiting Scotland this week but Ms Dugdale said she had no plans to meet either of them.

She said that she was “not proud of the way Labour has been fighting amongst itself”.

“This can’t just be about Labour Party members and who has the greatest support amongst the Labour Party membership,” she said.

“Of course it’s an internal contest, but the question on the ballot paper for me is: who is best placed to be the next Labour prime minister?

“Everybody in the Labour Party wants to see an end to the Tory government, so we have to have a debate about what is the best means to get the Tories out of office.

“I think it is Owen Smith’s vision of radical politics combined with a credible plan to deliver that in office.”

Ms Dugdale said the contest was “not about loyalty” and she “disagreed entirely” that her position would become untenable if Mr Corbyn won the leadership.

She added that she was “absolutely fine” with her deputy, Alex Rowley, despite his backing for Mr Corbyn and recent comments that he would not oppose a second referendum on Scottish independence.

She said: “Alex and I have different positions on the UK leadership contest just now. I think he was wrong to say what he said about the independence referendum.”

The first ballot papers were going out to the estimated 640,000 party members with a vote in the contest yesterday.

Mr Smith said: “Kezia and I want to see a strong Labour Party that can defeat the Tories in Westminster and take the fight to the SNP in Holyrood.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Labour For Jeremy campaign said: “Kezia has one vote, just like every other member of the Scottish Labour Party, but all the indications, both from canvassing and CLP (Constituency Labour Party) nominations, are that a majority of Labour Party members in Scotland will be backing Jeremy Corbyn.”
Ms Dugdale was the first Scottish Labour leader elected under the one-member-one-vote system with 72 per cent of the vote.

Her predecessor, Jim Murphy, was elected under the electoral college system with the support of parliamentarians and members, while the trade unions backed Neil Findlay, who now leads Mr Corbyn’s campaign in Scotland.