Kezia Dugdale resigns as Scottish Labour leader

Kezia Dugdale made the surprise announcement that she is stepping down last night, after two years as Scottish Labour leader

KEZIA DUGDALE has resigned as leader of Scottish Labour effective immediately, days before the beginning of a new session of the Scottish Parliament, describing the decision as “best for me and best for Scottish Labour”.

Dugdale’s deputy, Alex Rowley, will serve as interim leader until a leadership election can be held.

In her resignation letter to Scottish Labour chairwoman Linda Stewart, Dugdale wrote of her reasons for stepping down, referring to the recent passing of Labour activist Gordon Aikman from Motor Neuron Disease: “Earlier this year I lost a dear friend who taught me a lot about how to live. His terminal illness forced him to identify what he really wanted from life, how to make the most of it and how to make a difference. He taught me how precious and short life was and never to waste a moment,” she said.

“With nearly four years now until the next Scottish Parliament elections, I am convinced that the party needs a new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate to take the party into that contest.” Kezia Dugdale

Dugdale went on to say that “With nearly four years now until the next Scottish Parliament elections, I am convinced that the party needs a new leader with fresh energy, drive and a new mandate to take the party into that contest.

“Too often our leaders leave in a crisis, with scores to settle. I love this party too much for that to be my way. There will be no press conference and no off the record briefing in my name. I choose to stand down because I believe it is best for me and best for Scottish Labour, at a time when we can be positive and optimistic about our future.”

Dugdale, a Lothians MSP first elected in 2011, succeeded former Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, to whom she served as deputy, following Labour’s disastrous Scottish performance in the 2015 General Election, in which Labour lost all but one of its Scottish seats.

Under Dugdale, Scottish Labour fell into third place behind the Scottish Conservatives in the 2016 Scottish parliamentary election, but gained six seats in this year’s General Election during the party’s unexpected surge under Jeremy Corbyn.

Dugdale was the fifth Scottish Labour leader since the party lost power at Holyrood to the SNP in 2007, not counting interim leaders.

Shortly after the announcement, Jamie Ross, Scotland reporter for Buzzfeed, said that a senior Scottish Labour source had told Buzzfeed Dugdale was “hounded out by JC’s mob”, referring to supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, with whom Dugdale had frequently been at odds.

“Kezia became Scottish leader at one of the most difficult times in the history of the Labour party, and the party’s revival is now fully under way, with six new MPs and many more to come.” Jeremy Corbyn

Dugdale, who voted for Yvette Cooper in the leadership election that saw Corbyn become Labour leader and supported Owen Smith in his unsuccessful leadership challenge against Corbyn, insisted in an interview with BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor that she was not stepping aside to make way for a left-wing successful more palatable to Corbyn’s supporters.

Reactions to Dugdale’s resignation came quickly following the announcement. In a public statement released on his Facebook page, Jeremy Corbyn said: “Kezia became Scottish leader at one of the most difficult times in the history of the Labour party, and the party’s revival is now fully under way, with six new MPs and many more to come.

“I want to thank Kez for her tireless service to our party and movement, and look forward to campaigning with her in future for a country that works for the many not the few.”

“We may be opponents, but @kezdugdale led her party with guts and determination and I admired her for that. I wish her well for the future.” Nicola Sturgeon

First minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Twitter: “We may be opponents, but @kezdugdale led her party with guts and determination and I admired her for that. I wish her well for the future.”

Dugdale’s fellow opposition party leaders also spoke out on Dugdale’s resignation. Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson wrote: “Leadership can be tough and @kezdugdale deserves the thanks of her party for putting in the hard yards. I wish her well.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said in a press statement: “"Kezia Dugdale has been a good thing for Labour. Her open, friendly, and upbeat style was appealing. I enjoyed working with her on common causes and hope that will continue. I wish her well for the future."

“PS @kezdugdale are you now free to wash the dishes?” SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth

Patrick Harvey also tweeted that Dugdale “had served her party with dedication; her decision to stand down can’t have been easy. I’d like to wish her well for the future.”

Former UK Labour leader Ed Miliband tweeted to Dugdale that “you gave your heart and soul to leading Scottish Labour. Thank You. You deserve to get your life back. Enjoy.”

Jenny Gilruth, the SNP MSP and Dugdale’s partner, also spoke out on Twitter: “PS @kezdugdale are you now free to wash the dishes?”

Picture courtesy of Scottish Labour

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