I have to say I am disappointed that Kezia Dugdale is standing down as Scottish Labour Leader. Of the 2 UK leaders and 3 Scottish Leaders we’ve had in the party since I joined in 2014, she’s had the best mix of leadership, personal ambition, political nous and ability to connect with people.
I first encountered her early in the independence campaign when I was in the audience of a BBC education debate. During the course of that show she convinced me the attainment gap was the biggest problem facing Scotland and that the solution wasn’t breaking up the UK.
Indeed, her relentless championing of the attainment gap crisis is a big part of why it’s at the top of the political agenda in Scotland. We have much to be grateful for.
The same happened with “looked after children”. Kezia raised the support this group gets from the Scottish Government, and was delighted when the SNP quickly “stole” her policy on supporting them through higher education.
Kezia Dugdale’s impact went far beyond influencing the Scottish Government. She took Labour from virtual annihilation in 2015, to modest success in both the 2017 Council Elections and General Election. Let’s be clear, she took the UK Labour “hold” General Election strategy and made the biggest proportionate gains in any part of the UK for the party. Keep in mind that in Scotland we were not just fighting a muddled Tory Party, but highly effective nationalist campaigns run by Ruth Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon.
Yes, there are critical voices in the party regarding the election result. Such is the warmth of support for Kezia within the movement, however, the trouble makers largely restricted themselves to implicit criticism on social media. Their argument was so weak they did not dare present it to the Scottish Executive Committee, instead their views were fed to the enemies of the party for use against us.
Despite these recalcitrants, Kezia leaves Labour in Scotland stronger, prouder and more respected than when she took up office. At 36, she still has huge potential to campaign for the kind of Scotland we all want. I just hope she continues to do that from within the party.