Labour leader disappointed by Kezia Dugdale's '˜unauthorised absence'

Scottish Labour's new leader has said he does not think Kezia Dugdale's appearance on I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! is 'a good way of getting across the message of socialism on television'.

Friday, 24th November 2017, 10:11 am
Updated Friday, 24th November 2017, 10:15 am

Richard Leonard has previously expressed his disappointment at the former Scottish Labour leader’s decision to appear on the reality TV show.

The party has said she will not be suspended over her decision to take “an unauthorised leave of absence” to head to the Australian jungle, but will be interviewed by party chiefs once she has returned.

Ms Dugdale has said the ITV show seemed like an ‘’amazing opportunity to talk to millions of people about the Labour Party, its values and how it is different”.

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Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard

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However Mr Leonard told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I realise that it’s a very popular programme, which is seen by millions of people, I think it’s got the highest viewer ratings over the course of the last week, I’m not down playing the reach that the programme has, I’m not sure the circumstances in which it presents politicians is the one that certainly I would choose, and I’m not sure it’s a good way of getting across the message of socialism on television.”

Ms Dugdale made her debut on the show on Thursday alongside DJ Iain Lee, joining celebrities including comedian Shappi Khorsandi, boxer Amir Khan and Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson.

The politician became the leader of Scottish Labour after the party’s trouncing in the 2015 general election, in which it lost 40 of the 41 seats it had held north of the border to the SNP.

Kezia Dugdale on I'm A Celebrity...Get Me out Of Here! Photo by ITV/REX/Shutterstock

She stepped down suddenly in August, prompting the leadership contest, with both Mr Leonard and fellow MSP Anas Sarwar vying to succeed her.

Ms Dugdale said she had sought permission to go abroad for three weeks to work from Mr Leonard and Mr Sarwar, the two candidates bidding to succeed her.

Mr Leonard said on Monday that the Lothian MSP had asked party chiefs for permission to go, but was refused.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard

He told Good Morning Britain on Friday that he was not happy at her decision to participate in the show.

He said: “I was disappointed that she chose to do that.

“There are two things: one is we expect our MSP’s to be diligent in their parliamentary work.

“It’s a great privilege and honour to be elected by the people to be their representative in parliament.

Kezia Dugdale on I'm A Celebrity...Get Me out Of Here! Photo by ITV/REX/Shutterstock

“Second, there is an issue about the fact that she sought authorisation and didn’t get it.

“She’s there on unauthorised absence.

“So that’s a bit of an issue for us inside the Labour Party in Scotland.”

Asked if she will be fired, he said: “No, when she comes back in three weeks time from Australia the group manager will sit down and have a discussion with her and having heard her view, got her side of the story, will then take a decision based upon that.”

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had already said that Ms Dugdale, who quit as head of Scottish Labour in August, should not be suspended because of her decision to take part in the show.