Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Goodbye to Our Kez






















Kezia Dugdale was hounded out of office by Jeremy Corbyn supporters! Sorry about that. Yes, Our Kez's resignation had nothing to do with the reach of the blog and everything to do with the reasons she described, which boils down to a mixture of the political and the personal. Nevertheless, calling for her to step down on Sunday I hardly expected we'd be talking about her career in the past tense by Wednesday.

How will Our Kez's time as leader be remembered? I can imagine when this post does the rounds on Facebook later, 'good riddance' is going to get parked in the comments a few times. And that is a bit unfair, because she wasn't without her plus points. Her leadership started off with a positive by virtue of not being Jim Murphy. Yet there was more to her than that. Apart from a snipe at the left, Duncan Hothersall for Labour Hame gives Our Kez a good write up. It leaves out a lot, like the blunders, like the cretinous unionism, but he supplies a welcome corrective to those who see nothing good in her tenure.

That Our Kez was out of sorts with the Corbyn revolution is hardly surprising. She came out for Owen Smith during his ill-fated bid to lead the Labour Party, and publicly called on the Scottish party to vote for him. They did, but such is its awful state their backing wasn't the biggest shocker of that campaign nor did it make any difference. As for Kez herself, she was very much a woman of the Holyrood apparatus. Her career was made by knowing the right people and being employed by a succession of them, before snagging a list seat for herself at the 2011 elections and making her way from there. Curiously, it's a CV not a million miles away from Ruth Davidson who also rose without a trace, and was very similar in training and outlook to many members of the PLP who walked the same path to elected office.

In the grand scheme of things if we want to position her accurately she is more Ed Miliband than Tony Blair or Gordon Brown. Warm and approachable, but with a touch of Mili-esque cluelessness, as Duncan outlined in his appreciative piece hers wasn't a wasted leadership. She increased the democratic rights for party members and gave them a policy input much superior to the National Policy Forum affair the rest of Labour suffers. Our Kez did forcefully attack the SNP in Holyrood for their failure to use the tax powers it possesses - the Scottish government had to get help from the Tories to block Labour's amendment forcing the rich to pay more. And she did take Scottish Labour into the election with a more leftwing programme, even if it wasn't as front and centre as it could have been, while hiding tell of Jeremy Corbyn and plugging away at the fag end of unionism.

In stepping down now, Our Kez avoids the fight she and everyone knew was coming anyway. As the last hold out of the old guard, the general election demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that Scottish Labour must appeal to the constituency Corbynism in England and Wales has tapped into if the party is to regain a semblance of its former dominance. The struggle for repositioning and the establishment's attempt to squelch it could not be postponed indefinitely. By going now the apparatus might have the upper hand in getting their preferred successor - either Anas Sarwar or a "safe" pair of hands like Jenny Marra - into the hot seat, and by accident or design has rendered them a favour. What is most unlikely is an opening up of the leadership election to newcomers as per the 2015 contest, and therefore cutting itself from capturing back large chunks of the constituency the SNP currently sits on.

Our Kez has done the right thing by resigning, and who can blame her? What happens next is going to be a grueling affair because when Scottish Labour fights, it fights dirty. Nevertheless, the choice is a simple one for party members. Its between wresting the rising constituency of socialised, networked workers away from the dead end of Scottish nationalism, or forget about them and pursue the limited returns of the ageing, declining unionist constituencies. It's Corbynism vs a kind of 1997 Blairism with Scottish characteristics, minus the razzmatazz and any chance of succeeding.

11 comments:

Mark Livingston said...

Good riddance. Call me sad old-fashioned and ageing ex-Trot, but don't think encouraging voters to vote for the Tories counts as part of "a more left-wing programme" if you happen to be the leader of the (nominally) Scottish Labour party.

Dialectician1 said...

Just like 'Kes' in Ken Loach's film, she was cosseted and nurtured, sufficient to swoop for the scraps but was never ready for the big bad world.

Boffy said...

Perhaps Carwen Jones might now get the message too.

ColinB said...

Good blog points made. Personally I can't move beyond a negative view of KD. Her gutter-rhetoric approach to the SNP advantaged only RuthD, allowing the latter to scrape up the Scottish seats to keep TMay in power. At conference in Perth this dreadful rhetoric reached a new low. To my mind just another Jim Murphy. We need someone like Lesley Brennan as Party leader; she a rounded person, as well as a real socialist.

jim mclean said...

lack of knowledge of the state of the Scottish Labour party and the strength of the centre right. This will be a fight between Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard, with the odds being in Sarwar's favour. (Lesley Brennan cannot be a contender really) So soon Anas will be in the NEC

jim mclean said...

There does seem to be concern over the Branch Office image and the election may develop into one side seeking greater autonomy and the other seeking a more cohesive centralised approach. Sarwar has the geater public profile but has a bit of baggage, Leonard is unknown outside a Trade Union Movement in Scotland where over 75% of the workforce are non participants, lawyers and Citizens Advice are often the route in which people deal with employment issues these days.I will probably vote for Leonard though probably for the wrong reasons

ColinB said...

"... As our minds have allowed social media technologies to colonise and structure our perceptions ..."

Jim, I'm supportive of LB & JC and the like because they resist this colonising and structuring. Power in the SLP is wielded by others and they partaking of this colonising and structuring, but I do not travel with them.

ColinB said...

Jim. LB and Momentum-Dundee are close with the TUM in Scotland. I'd support energising unions (re-modelled for our times) as the vehicle for socialist politics in Scotland. Might then lean towards Leonard. An honest and intelligent leadership campaign then crucial.

jim mclean said...

Lesley Brennan would be OK if she were an MSP, but never made the list. My problem, everyone I knew in SLAB is dead or left the party.

jim mclean said...

So it is an English Public Schoolboy against a Pakistani Public Schoolboy. We are not going to have a great press coverage on this one, and lets face it, with the current racist tones of Scottish politics the Englishman will have a hard time of it.

angie hammons said...

I think a lot of people have overlooked the fact that both positions are inevitably up for re-election with the introduction of Scottish and Welsh Labour party leaders and deputy leadership. There's a presumption that this is the same as the leaders of the Labour groups in the sennedd and hollyrood with the addition of a deputy. It isn't.