Scotland politics

Kezia Dugdale says Jeremy Corbyn 'can win UK election'

Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn saw off challenger Owen Smith with 61.8% of more than half a million votes

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has told the BBC she believes a UK party led by Jeremy Corbyn can win a general election.

Ms Dugdale, who backed Owen Smith for the leadership, said last month she did not think Mr Corbyn could "unite our party" or "lead us into government".

However, she said his re-election should be a "new beginning".

Mr Corbyn saw off challenger Owen Smith with 61.8% of more than half a million votes, to be re-elected Labour leader.

Ms Dugdale called on the party to "harness the energy and enthusiasm of its movement" and turn it into real change for people.

'Effective opposition'

The Scottish Labour leader, who has recently secured more autonomy for the party north of the border, added: "Jeremy can unite the Labour Party, but he needs to want to unite it.

"That means he needs to work with both the party across the country and MPs to provide an effective opposition to the Tories in Westminster.

"It will be a difficult task for Jeremy, but not an impossible one. Likewise, the Parliamentary Labour Party must recognise that a divided Labour Party serves no-one.

"We can't fight the Tories when we are fighting each other."

Despite his majority, a YouGov poll that questioned 1,019 Scottish Labour Party members eligible to vote in the leadership election between 21 and 23 September found Mr Corbyn only had the support of 40% of members compared with 58% for Mr Smith.

Chairperson of Scottish Labour for Jeremy, Neil Findlay, described Mr Corbyn's re-election as "fantastic".

He said activists in Scotland had played a role in securing support for the re-elected Mr Corbyn.

He said: "They've put a huge effort in to turn the support that we knew was there for Jeremy into votes and I'd like to thank every single one of them."

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Media captionKezia Dugdale says Jeremy Corbyn "needs to want" to unite the Labour party

The Scottish secretary of the Unite union Pat Rafferty said it was time for Labour supporters to unite behind Mr Corbyn.

He said: "Unite members decided to back Jeremy's campaign because they know that we need a different kind of politics and a different kind of economy, in Scotland and right across the UK.

"For too many people in Scotland, finding a job is an uphill task, made harder by unjust sanctions that can leave them destitute and reliant on foodbanks."

'Hopelessly divided'

He added: "Now that the contest is over, we look forward to people uniting behind Jeremy and opposing the austerity cuts that have been made in Westminster and handed on by Holyrood."

In Glasgow, about 20 supporters of Jeremy Corbyn gathered at a pub to celebrate his re-election.

Image caption Supporters of re-elected Jeremy Corbyn gathered at The Dram pub in Glasgow for the election result

They applauded in The Dram as the result was declared from a special conference in Liverpool.

One of the organisers of Mr Corbyn's campaign in Scotland, Stephen Low, who was at the Glasgow event, called on Ms Dugdale to throw her support behind the re-elected leader.

He said: "I think what's important about Kezia is not what she said. It would have been better if she'd stepped aside from this contest. But what matters is what she does now.

"She needs to accept this result. And she needs to show and acknowledge that she accepts the will of the party members and gets behind Jeremy Corbyn and the agenda that is clearly the settled will of the Labour party."

But rival parties claimed Labour would still be bitterly divided, despite the ballot result.

'Progressive forces'

SNP Business Convener Derek Mackay also congratulated Mr Corbyn on his victory, but accused the party of "overlooking" its duties as the official opposition.

He said: "Jeremy Corbyn should be congratulated for his victory, but it is unforgivable that Labour have overlooked their duties as official opposition at such a critical time to spend the summer tearing themselves apart."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson also offered Mr Corbyn her congratulations but said she thought the result would be greeted with "utter dismay by thousands of moderate voters across Scotland and the rest of the UK."

She added: "This result now leaves Scottish Labour hopelessly divided."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said his party could offer an alternative to voters who had "no confidence in Mr Corbyn's left-wing lurch."

Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens' co-convener, said: "The re-election of Jeremy Corbyn must be taken as the moment for Labour to unite not only among themselves, but with other progressive forces in the fight against the Tories' austerity economics."

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