Scotland politics

Kezia Dugdale backs Owen Smith as Labour Party leader

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Media captionMs Dugdale does not believe Mr Corbyn can appeal to enough voters to win the next general election

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is backing Owen Smith in the Labour Party leadership contest.

She said Mr Smith could reunite the party and win a general election.

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

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said a majority of Scottish Labour members would be backing him in the ballot.

Mr Corbyn also won the backing of most of the local branches in Scotland which backed a candidate.

A hustings debate between the two leadership candidates will be held at the SECC in Glasgow on Thursday evening, with the winner of the contest due to be announced on 24 September.

Writing in the Daily Record, Ms Dugdale claimed Mr Corbyn was unable to appeal to enough voters to beat the Conservative Party.

"We can't pin our hopes on a leadership that speaks only to the converted rather than speaking to the country as a whole," she wrote.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Corbyn and Mr Smith are to meet in a hustings debate in Glasgow on Thursday evening

"My only public comment on Jeremy Corbyn's leadership before this contest was to say that he had lost the confidence of his parliamentary colleagues in Westminster.

"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 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.

"That remains my position today. I don't think Jeremy can unite our party and lead us into government.

'Credible plan'

Ms Dugdale later admitted to BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that thought the Labour Party was in a "very, very difficult place" and had been "ripping itself apart".

But the MSP insisted Mr Smith represented the "best mix of radical Labour politics with a credible plan to get back into government".

"It's not about throwing bricks at Jeremy Corbyn saying he's wrong person for the job," she added.

Ms Dugdale said: "I know that it will annoy and frustrate some people that I've spoken out but I'm doing what I think is right. I'm standing by my principles and I'm speaking up and I think it's important that I do."

She has also said she does not think there is any chance of Scottish Labour splitting, regardless of the outcome of the leadership contest.

Mr Smith said he was "incredibly proud" to have been endorsed by Ms Dugdale.

He added: "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.

"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."

Union support

But a spokesman for Mr Corbyn's 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 nominations, are that a majority of Labour party members in Scotland will be backing Jeremy Corbyn."

Scotland's biggest trade union, Unite, has also re-affirmed its endorsement of Mr Corbyn, who it said had been given an "overwhelming mandate" by Labour members less than a year ago.

The union's Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty, said: "Jeremy Corbyn became leader thanks to a movement of tens of thousands of ordinary people who want fairness, democracy and equality at the heart of our politics, and who have made the Labour Party the largest political party in western Europe."

Labour leadership election timetable

19-20 July: The number of MP nominations for each candidate was published

20 July: Deadline for people to sign up as a registered supporter closed

22 August: Ballot papers start to be sent out in the post (Labour Party members only) and by email

21 September: Deadline for ballot papers to be returned is midday

24 September: The result will be announced at a special conference in Liverpool

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