It’s been an interesting start for the new leader of the Labour party in Scotland. Fresh from winning the leadership contest primarily through the trade union vote, Leonard appeared to show that there will be little difference in his leadership approach with a snippy tweet about the BiFab jobs being saved. Making no mention of the Scottish Government’s intervention on this issue, Leonard claimed the credit for the ‘Labour movement’ highlighting that the business as usual approach of SNP bad is likely to continue under his leadership.
His first press conference as leader of the Scottish branch was also a gaffe prone exercise which seemed to repeat major SNP policies and a claim to bring Scottish Water back into public ownership – of course, anyone who is paying attention will realise that Scottish Water is already in public ownership. It seems bizarre that Leonard was so badly briefed and came out with such nonsense. Although he has only been a regional MSP for a couple of years, he was the political officer of GMB in Scotland for years and should have been aware of issues such as Scottish Water. Then again, there could be questions over his role in the GMB when they were badly advising female members in Glasgow City Council (and other councils) when it came to stalling on equal pay deals.
Maybe it’s the almost total lack of scrutiny of from the mainstream media in Scotland that makes Labour politicians so comfortable about talking complete bollocks and getting away with it?
Then there was the Dugdale issue to deal with. Former leader Kezia Dugdale has swarmed off for up to three weeks to take part in ‘I’m a Celebrity get me out of here’. Although she is a list MSP, she still has a responsibility to represent voters in her area and will no doubt still have casework and various other responsibilities which will be ignored over this period. It also appears that Ms Dugdale will give her parliamentary salary for this period to charity, although no one is sure what she will be doing with the money she is paid from appearing on the TV show. It has also been claimed that she asked for permission from the party’s business manager but this was denied. The Labour group have decided initially that there will be no action against her and that they will review the situation when she returns from the TV show. It does beg the question as to why anyone would vote for a politician who feels a money making appearance on a tawdry TV show is more important than representing their constituents. Will anyone be able to take Dugdale seriously in the future and, by refusing to act on this, will the Labour party suffer similar contempt? After all how many of Dugdale’s constituents have been sanctioned for missing their sign on dates, yet an MSP can abandon her constituents for 3 weeks with no reprimand?
The strongest criticism of Dugdale has come from her (former?) colleagues and I would be surprised if she was not eventually suspended. Whatever the outcome it will not help heal the splits in Labour that started to widen during the leadership contest. Creating a united Labour party will also be harder if the currently suspended deputy leader – Alex Rowley – does not return untarnished from the claims made by his former partner. Mr Rowley (aka the Phantom Knicker Knocker frae Fife? – http://thenational.scot/news/15661842.Labour_suspend_Alex_Rowley_over_claims_ex_girlfriend_s_harassment_claims/ ) seems to have kept the complaints from his party so it will be interesting to see how this develops.
If there is to be a deputy leadership election then the splits that surfaced through the election of Leonard will not be given time to heal. With continued infighting in Labour then it really is time to make the case for independence now.