Some say the new leader of Scottish Labour has an impossible job, but she's determined to prove them wrongby Serena Kutchinsky / August 27, 2015 / Leave a comment
No matter how hard she tries, she has an impossible job. That’s the accepted wisdom about the new Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, 33, who has enjoyed a rather meteoric rise. Her party’s sixth leader in eight years, Dugdale is tasked with the unenviable job of finding a solution to Labour’s electoral woes in Scotland. Once the dominant political force north of the border, the party’s strongholds were swept away by the SNP tsunami on 7th May. Now, the polls suggest that a similar fate lies in store at next year’s Scottish parliament elections. There are even rumours the much-reviled Tories might fare better. Is this talented but inexperienced politician, who is not scared to express her admiration for the Blair era, the saviour that Scottish Labour needs?
As I’m on my way to meet Dugdale, or Kez as friends and colleagues call her, in a fashionable Edinburgh cafe, my mother calls to inform me that she was at school in Aberdeenshire with Kezia’s mother, who she remembers as a “bit of a sophisticate”. There was an incident involving a Waldorf Salad. I share the story with Dugdale who laughs heartily, and I feel myself instantly warm to her. She’s approachable—although there are flashes of the steely determination that has propelled her from a mere MSP to party leader in just over four years. Dugdale, who only became Jim Murphy’s deputy last December, admits that at times she feels as if her political career is on “fast forward”.
The ease of her victory in this summer’s Scottish Labour leadership election against Holyrood veteran Ken Mackintosh, surprised even her. She took 72 per cent of the vote and with it a mandate to shake new life into her party. Earlier this month, she told The Guardian that if Jeremy Corbyn won the party’s UK leadership election it would be left “carping from the sidelines”, but since being elected has mellowed her position.
There is the suggestion that a Corbyn victory could help the party in its fight back against the Scottish National Party, regaining the support of those who possibly voted No…