Kezia Dugdale defied the Labour whip to take part in I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! and could face disciplinary action from the party in the next few days.
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Newly installed Labour leader Richard Leonard said the Labour group would consider whether to suspend Dugdale following her unexpected decision to take part in the ITV programme.
The former Scottish Labour leader’s decision to take part in the reality show set in the Australian jungle and hosted by Ant and Dec was greeted with astonishment by Labour activists and politicians yesterday.
Their reaction to her trip to the jungle threatened to overshadow the gathering of Labour members in Glasgow’s Science Centre at the announcement of the result of the Scottish party leadership contest between Leonard and Anas Sarwar.
An attempt to thank her for work she did as Leonard’s predecessor was met with stony silence. Scotland on Sunday understands that Dugdale had approached Labour’s business manager and chief whip James Kelly MSP to seek permission to go on the show.
Kelly said he was unable to grant it, saying it would not be appropriate to do so given that there was about to be a change of leadership.
She then approached both leadership candidates. She told them she had an opportunity to go away for up to three weeks to do a project that involved raising money for charity.
They both said she could go. But it is understood that Dugdale did not specify that the project involved appearing on the TV programme, which specialises in humbling celebrities.
Dugdale will donate the portion of the salary she earns while she is away to charity. A source close to her said that a proportion of the fee she receives for the show will also go to a good cause. Celebrities can reportedly receive hundreds of thousands of pounds for appearing on the reality programme, but the amount Dugdale is set to earn is said to be at the “lower end” of the scale.
Leonard said that he was a “bit disappointed” by her decision and that Scottish Labour would consider if the former leader should be suspended as a result.
Speaking in Glasgow just after he was elected leader, Leonard said suspension was not his initial reaction, but he added: “I think it’s something the group will have to consider.”
He said: “I awoke as many other people did this morning to the news that Kezia is going into that programme, and I think that is something the group is going to have to consider.”
In 2012 the Conservative Party suspended MP Nadine Dorries for taking part in the same programme, although she was reinstated the following year.
Leonard said: “I don’t know the circumstances of Nadine Dorries and I don’t at this stage know all the circumstances of Kezia’s decision, so we will need to give that due consideration at the group over the next few days.”
But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested that Dugdale should not be suspended.
He said: “It’s her choice to go on I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! I don’t think it’s appropriate to suspend someone from the party for doing that, that’s her choice.”
Sarwar suggested that Dugdale should not go to Australia. He said: “She’s made the decision she had.
“I would prefer that she was in the parliament working for her constituents, working for the Labour Party.
“I want us focusing on education, the NHS, and employability rather than kangaroo testicles.”
He said he wanted Dugdale to stay in politics and the Labour Party after taking part in the show, although Sarwar admitted taking part in the programme was “not a decision I would have made”.
But he added: “Now she has made that decision I want us to have that phonebank running to make sure that she eats every bug possible, is in the pit with the rats as much as possible, so she fully enjoys that experience and is raring to go when she comes back.”
READ MORE: Kezia Dugdale to appear on ‘I’m a Celebrity’