Kezia Dugdale: Unlikely Corbyn could win election

14 August 2019, 20:07

Kezia Dugdale

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has said she believe it is unlikely Jeremy Corbyn could win a General Election to become Prime Minister.

Ms Dugdale, who quit the party in July to take up a new role at the John Smith Centre at Glasgow University, said it would be "very difficult" for Labour to make significant gains in Scotland and across marginal seats in England.

Speaking during an Edinburgh Festival Fringe event with comedian Matt Forde on Wednesday, the former Lothian region MSP said an election dominated by Brexit could also prove problematic for the party.

Asked whether she thinks Jeremy Corbyn will become Prime Minister, Ms Dugdale said: "I think that people who are in the business of winning elections think more than normal people do about electoral maths and the actual practicalities of how you win.

"So on the basis of the electoral map, rather than any perceived political view I might have - because I'm in a non-partisan role now and I have to be very careful about how I talk about these issues - I think it looks very unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn could win a General Election.

"My reason for that is that he either has to do tremendously well in Scotland or he needs to do tremendously well in Labour-Tory marginals in middle England and there's nothing I see from the policy platform at the minute which is designed to capture those particular voters."

She added: "So as much as I would love for that to happen, I want to see a Labour Government, I don't think I can hide that given what I've done in my life, but I think it's very difficult.

"And that's before you factor in what would happen in a General Election dominated by the question of Brexit because, whether we like or not, it will be dominated by that one question and you'll see a consolidation of people around both the Leave and Remain camps and they'll vote for whatever candidate is the strongest Leaver or Remainer in their constituency, wherever that might be in the United Kingdom."

Ms Dugdale was also asked about comments made by shadow chancellor John McDonnell during the Fringe last week that Labour would not seek to block a second independence referendum.

It has been suggested the party could grant a Section 30 order allowing another vote to be held as part of an agreement with the SNP to support a minority Labour Government.

Asked whether she could see the Labour Party agreeing to a pact involving the SNP to form a minority administration at Westminster in exchange for another referendum, Ms Dugdale said: "One hundred per cent, I predicted this, I said it in my final interview as leader.

"If you are looking at the electoral map, because you have to, and you're John McDonnell, who's a very smart and astute man, you have to work out what your path to power is.

"If you are John McDonnell and Nicola Sturgeon comes to your door, for example, and says 'John, I will vote for every one of your Budgets for the lifetime of a Parliament and give you the stability that a Labour Government would need in a minority situation and all I want in return is for you to grant a Section 30 order so that we can have a second independence referendum', and you represent a London seat and you haven't experienced what many of us experienced in 2014, then you'd think 'that sounds like a belter of an offer does it not'."

Ms Dugdale added she would not be in favour of such a deal being struck with the SNP and said in the event of another referendum, Labour would need to be strong in its support for the union.

"The Labour Party's not a nationalist party and in fact it's increasingly unionist because if you were an independence-supporting Labour voter, you don't vote Labour anymore," she said.

"So it's become more consolidated around the unionist position because many Labour voters were so upset by that referendum they left and they vote for other parties.

"If there was to be another independence referendum, I kind of think people who care deeply about maintaining the United Kingdom as it currently is need the Labour Party to be strong because if it's a referendum conducted just between the SNP and the Tories, then I suspect you might get a different result."