Dugdale Backs Smith For Labour Leader

22 August 2016, 10:46

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has given her support to Owen Smith in the party leadership contest.

Ms Dugdale accused Jeremy Corbyn of speaking "only to the converted'' and said Mr Smith can unite the party and win the next General Election.

The Scottish Labour leader campaigned with Mr Corbyn in the build up to the EU referendum but does not believe he could win an election.

Writing in her Daily Record column, Ms Dugdale said: "As Labour Party members, we may not like how we reached this position but we have a decision to make.

"Owen Smith gets my vote. I believe he can unite our party and move us on from the divisions that exist under the current leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

"Owen understands that to have a chance of implementing Labour values, we need to win over some of those who didn't vote for us at the last election.

"We can't pin our hopes on a leadership who speak only to the converted, rather than speaking to the country as a whole.''

As the first ballot papers go out to the estimated 640,000 party members with a vote in the contest, Mr Corbyn and Mr Smith are due in Scotland later this week for a hustings debate.

Ms Dugdale said she had a "responsibility'' to speak out as the most senior female elected leader in the party across the UK.

She added: "My only public comment on Jeremy's leadership before this contest was to say he had lost the confidence of his parliamentary colleagues. That's a fact.

"More than 80% of Labour MPs expressed a lack of confidence in Jeremy's leadership.

"If 80% of my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament didn't support me, I wouldn't be able to do the job - even though I received 72% of the votes when party members and trade unionists in Scotland elected me to be their leader.

"I don't think Jeremy can unite our party and lead us into government. He cannot appeal to a broad enough section of voters to win an election.

"I believe Owen can.''

Mr Smith said he was "incredibly proud'' to have the support of Ms Dugdale for his leadership bid.

"Kezia and I want to see a strong Labour Party that can defeat the Tories in Westminster and take the fight to the SNP in Holyrood,'' he said.

"But that will only be achieved if we can unite our party and demonstrate we have a radical, credible plan to rebuild communities right across the United Kingdom.

"I'm pleased therefore that Kezia has backed my vision for a #200 billion British new deal, the strengthening of workers' rights and a Labour Party that puts tackling inequality at the heart of everything it does.''

A spokesman for the Scottish Labour For Jeremy Campaign said: "Kezia has one vote, just like every other member of the Scottish Labour Party, but all the indications, both from canvassing and CLP (Constituency Labour Party) nominations, are that a majority of Labour Party members in Scotland will be backing Jeremy Corbyn.''

The spokesman said Mr Corbyn had won the backing of 24 Scottish Labour Party CLPs compared with 15 for Mr Smith.