5 December 2015

Kezia Dugdale: no time for a novice?

The admirable John Harris has a piece on Labour in Scotland in the Guardian this morning: "'There's a lot I'm still learning': can Kezia Dugdale resurrect Scottish Labour?" The new Scottish Labour leader has been posted missing since Jeremy Corbyn took over last September, and internecine conflicts on more or less everything broke out in the parliamentary party. The chain reaction of Maoist stunts, bad appointments and feeble speeches has left Kezia gasping for political air, with only five months to go until the next Holyrood election. 

29% of the Scottish public still can't place her. With the head office in turmoil, and the board at war, nobody gives a damn about a branch office pootering on under the leadership of a pleasant but ineffective regional manager. Oldham may have been stoutly defended, but Corbyn's unfocused leadership is doing precisely nothing for his comrades further north. John Harris met Dugdale after First Minister's question time in Holyrood, securing his headline quote from the mildest of mild enquiries about her encounters with Nicola Sturgeon. 

I ask how it went, and she pulls a half-grimace. “It kind of puts to bed any suggestion that how we do politics in the Scottish parliament is vastly different from Westminster,” she says. “It’s still very combative – quite fiery exchanges.” 
Is that to say that when things are like they were today, Dugdale doesn’t like it? 
“Erm… I don’t enjoy it. I endure it. I recognise it’s part of my job, but that’s 10 minutes of my week.” 
Does she think Sturgeon enjoys it? 
“Erm… yeah, I think she probably does. She’s 16 years a politician. It’s taken her a long time to build up the skills and the credibility, and polish the talents that she clearly has. She’s at the top of her game, and this is a chance to show those skills off.” 
And how long does Dugdale give herself before she gets to that point? 
“Look, I’m acutely aware that I’ve just been an MSP for four and a bit years,” she says. “You know? I’m 34 years old. There’s a lot about life, a lot about politics, that I’m still learning. A lot of the things I’m doing as leader, I’m doing for the first time. But there are things I do know a lot about, and there are lots of things I’m incredibly passionate about: education, tackling poverty, female inequality. And on that stuff I’m 100% on my game. But I think it probably does take a wee bit of a while. She’s had 12 years more than I have.”

My first reaction? What a nice, unguarded way Kezia has about her, generous about her opponents with no attempt to gloss or conceal her inexperience or the challenges of her new role. From the outside peering in, it has looked like a steep learning curve. And here we have it confirmed, in Kezia's own words. There's no swagger here, no assertive declarations of unshakeable confidence. No Apprentice style windbaggery. No "I will be First Minister." No "I'm ready, John. I'm ready to lead." 

Compare and contrast with Dugdale's immediate predecessor. "Fighting" Jim Murphy proclaimed from the get-go that he was “applying for the job of First Minister.” He strained every sinew to give the impression of being a scrappy and aggressive alpha. It is a good and sweet thing to wear elderly soccer shorts for your country. By his perished elastic shall ye know him, the chosen one. He fears not the Nats nor the dark of the night. Our knight and deliverer. A runner. A striker. Amen.

Dugdale is - thankfully - above ludicrous escapades of this kind. She is self-aware. She doesn't bullshit. She doesn't radiate that toxic sense of complacency and entitlement which for so long characterised Labour politics in this country. Dugdale's unstudied candour may make you think better of her. But with just months to go until the Holyrood election, with just months left to persuade the Scottish people that Sturgeon should be evicted from Bute House -- isn't this just a little naive? The public are a capricious lot. Honesty, yes. A virtue. A bit of humility too goes far. And self-doubt, in healthy quantities, is essential. But you also need true grit. Steadfastness. Guts. Naïfs and novices need not apply. 


  1. Scottish 2021 elections,Syria war will be the elephant in the room

  2. That last sentence certainly blocks Ruthie & Yoor Wullie ;-)

  3. A bit of a crush Andy?

    You youngsters and your hormones.

  4. Maybe I'm being a wee bit cynical, but surely the intended message is: "It's unfair to boot me out after the Holyrood elections. I'm still warming up." These people are infinitely calculating - they wouldn't generate an impression of humility unless there was a reason for it.

    LPW has fallen for those bunny eyes.

  5. Got to agree with Tychy here, KD gives JH doe-eyes and a half smile, whilst telling him how young but how sincere she is. I'd credit her more and value her 'honesty' if she was not such a liberal liar. 50% of kids struggle to or cannot read, remember that wee doozie and the classic, 'the Edinburgh Agreement precludes any advance negotiation, Google it, it's in there.' Nicola is sitting right there and she still persists with it. Don't get me wrong, I ain't putting NS up for Sainthood but there's spin and there's p*sh and KD talks a lot of p*sh at times. And if FMQs is no different to PMQs it's because she keeps poking the bear. The olive branch was extended early doors by NS and spurned by KD. But one can look at her mentors, Foulkes and Murphy to see that the apple has not fallen far from the tree. She is shallow and opportunistic, there's no gravitas of intellect and no political sophistication, just a punchy sense of entitlement and heavy deployment of 'look there's a squirrel' diversion tactics. If ever a coherent, well thought through policy of any significance emerges from her lips then I'll do an Ashdown and eat a chocolate hat. She'll be gone by 2020, probably of her own volition for a consultancy job.

  6. Harris' article is well worth a read. Very well researched. It's interesting reading about what Scottish Labour thinks its mistakes were.

  7. I figure, if I combine trying to care about Kezia Dugdale with my next bowel movement I can get extra value out of the straining.

  8. Hilarious that she's complaining about the combative nature of FMQs when she's the cause of it.

    34 is full adulthood Ms Dugdale. Time to grow up!

  9. And is she really trying to suggest that Holyrood is more combative that Westminster?
    Absolute ballocks! She's trying to imply that 'experienced' Nicola is nasty SNP. Same old BS

  10. Andrew: '29% of the Scottish public still can't place her.'

    I;m not sure if there is a later poll but the TNS poll of 12 November


    showed 46% with not a scooby who she is -

    'Dugdale was liked by only 7%, with 23% disliking her, while nearly half of the respondents (46%) said they did not know who she was, including 39% of those intending to vote for her party. Half (52%) of undecided voters did not know who she was.'

    As TNS said -

    “Perhaps more surprising than Dugdale’s low recognition is that 30% of respondents said they have not heard of Ruth Davidson, despite her achieving some prominence in the media, especially during last year’s referendum campaign and over her recent disagreement with the UK Conservative leadership on tax credits.”

    And this polling was I think after Ruth’s appearance on HIGNFY?

    Political allegiances apart (I shall be voting for Johann) all this can only be worrying. Nicola Sturgeon - ‘Nicola' as she is now universally known, with ’The Blessed’ silent - seems to be regarded by otherwise rational beings as a benevolent Tinker Bell sprinkling pixie dust on us all below.

    None of this - the lack of recognition of the opposition, the worship of the Goddess - indicates a healthy polity. Even Sturgeon’s Xmas card, redolent of ancient symbolism, doesn’t show her fair countenance, just her limbs akimbo, welcoming the Hurt of the World. The image doubtless moves many Scots, but reminded me of the Daniel O’Donnell based character in Father Ted picking up a wounded puppy to nurse back to health. I mean, come on.

    Or maybe we are in the 'Jonathan Superstar' Buffy episode, in the grip of a rough magic. Who knows, maybe tomorrow Kezia will be revealed as a young Betty Boothroyd, while the giant lizard hiding inside 'The Blessed Nicola’ breaks out, eatng everyone in sight.

    Admittedly this sounds a tad improbable. But then we inhabit a world in which socialists retweet antisemitic messages from David Icke, and an SNP MSP retweets a antisemetic cartoon of the sort favoured by Icke and his followers. No matter what horrors we invent, the reality can be worse.

    1. You show your prejudice when you get to the last paragraph. Usual bullshit about the acceptability of establishment being correct and the Scots being duped.In fact you more like Icke i.e. Sturgeon probably a lizard? And Israel is of course above reproach along with warfunder Rothschild?
      BTW as a member of the Nicola cult I rather like the lady you are planning to vote for

    2. Jeez. Well, Mr Mighty Anonymous Keyboard Warrior of the Internet, I am tempted to say repeat that in English and I’l answer you, but i won't abuse the hospitality of our host by indulging in a barney. I will say that your reference to ‘warfunder Rothschild’ is beneath contempt and you shoud delete it. Ms Sturgeon would certainly want you to.

  11. Oh yes! Jim Murphy's bid to become First Minister! How's that working out for him?

  12. Even Labour supporters prefer Nicola Sturgeon to Kezia Dugdale:

    "TNS also asked how much voters liked or disliked each of the party leaders on a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 was ‘like a lot’ and 1 was ‘do not like at all’.

    Leading the pack was SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon, with 44 per cent saying that they liked her (scoring between 7 and 10) compared to the 25 per cent who disliked her (scoring between 1 and 4). She was also liked by more Labour supporters (32 per cent) than Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale was (25 per cent.)

    Just 7 per cent of respondents said that they liked Dugdale, with 46 per cent saying that they did not know who she was."