Kezia Dugdale quits: Corbyn supporters begin plotting Scotland control | Politics | News

Kezia DugdaleGETTY

Jeremy Corbyn supporters today began plotting to seize control of Scottish Labour

Ms Dugdale rocked Scottish politics late on Tuesday night with her announcement she was stepping down after just over two years in the top job.

The 36-year-old denied being ousted by pro-Corbyn factions as she cited personal reasons for the move which also caught some senior party officials by surprise.

Two leading Left-wing MSPs – Alex Rowley and Neil Findlay – ruled themselves out of the race to become the party’s fifth leader in just six years.

But to pave the way for a candidate more supportive of hard-Left UK leader Mr Corbyn.

Today it was thought the most likely contest would see ex-GMB trade union organiser Richard Leonard face the more centrist Holyrood health spokesman Anas Sarwar.

Ms Dugdale had uneasy relationship with Mr Corbyn after backing his leadership rival Owen Smith and last year winning a power struggle over appointments to Labour ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).

Party sources voiced fears with Ms Dugdale out of the way supporters could now gain unfettered control and begin deselecting moderate MPs.

Kezia DugdaleGETTY

The power struggle cmes in the wake of Kezia Dugdale’s shock resignation

It came as the Campaign for Socialism (CfS), the Scottish sister organisation of hard-Left group Momentum, called for the party north of the Border to embrace Mr Corbyn’s “exciting and engaging politics”.

We never called for Kezia Dugdale to go or for a leadership contest

Martyn Cook,

Martyn Cook, CfS chairman, said: “We never called for Kezia Dugdale to go or for a leadership contest.

“Our view was the general election campaign should have focussed less on the constitution and the attacks on Nicola Sturgeon.”

On a future leader he added: “We want to see someone who buys into Corbyn’s manifesto and policy programme.”

Ms Dugdale’s announcement came after Labour increased its number of Scottish seats in June’s general election from just one to seven and it emerged she was dating SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth.

But Left-wingers claimed Scottish Labour’s performance was down to a last-minute surge in Mr Corbyn’s popularity and Ms Dugdale should have done more to promote his socialist agenda.

Announcing her resignation with immediate effect she insisted she was leaving Scottish Labour “in better shape than I found it”.

She also said the move followed the death of close friend Gordon Aikman, a Labour activist and motor neurone disease campaigner, earlier this year.

Ms Dugdale will continue as a Labour MSP for the Lothians, with deputy leader Mr Rowley taking charge until a successor is found.

Scottish Labour’s executive committee will meet on Saturday September 9 to consider the timetable and process for selecting their next leader.

Alex RowleyGETTY

Alex Rowley has ruled himself out of the race

In 2015 the party north of the Border adopted a “one person one vote” system similar to the shake-up which helped Mr Corbyn take the helm and survive attempts to oust him.

Sources suggested it unlikely there would be any return to an electoral college and removing the voting rights of registered “supporters”, which could favour a hard-Left candidate.

Some allies were also said to have been left angered at not being given advanced notice of Ms Dugdale’s announcement just day’s before Holyrood returns from its summer recess.

Meanwhile the field narrowed as both Mr Rowley and Mr Findlay, seen as Mr Corbyn’s closest ally in Scotland, said they will not stand. MSP Monica Lennon also ruled herself out.

Mr Rowley, a former fixer for Gordon Brown, said he has “no ambition” to become First Minister and was more content to help build the “Labour movement from the grassroots up.”

The ex-Fife Council leader said: “I’m much more comfortable doing that than I would be trying to be the First Minister – but I think you’ve got to be clear do you want to be the next First Minister

“I don’t and it would be wrong therefore for me to run as the leader of the Labour party in Scotland, as the next leader of the labour party in my view should be able to become the next First Minister of Scotland.”

He also rejected suggestions of Corbynistas tightening their grip saying: “It’s not something I recognise. We’re stronger than we’ve been in a long time.”

In a statement Mr Findlay, who ran against Jim Murphy in 2014, confirmed that he would not be putting his name forward.

He wished Ms Dugdale and whoever succeeds her “the very best for the future” and insisted he was looking forward to Holyrood returning recess so he could focus on holding the SNP and the Conservatives to account.

Neil FindlayGETTY

Mr Corbyn’s close ally, Mr Findlay, has also ruled himself out

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also wished Ms Dugdale well, saying she had “led her party with guts and determination and I admired her for that.”

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said: Kezia deserves the thanks of her party for the tireless work she put in as leader of Scottish Labour.

“She was a tough and principled political opponent and, in challenging circumstances for her party, she showed huge determination…

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