The deputy leader of the Scottish Labour party, Kezia Dugdale, has announced her intention to stand as leader as part of a “new generation with vision”, making her the clear favourite to succeed Jim Murphy.
Dugdale, who will formally launch her leadership campaign next month once the rules and timetable for the contest have been agreed, said: “This is a moment when Scottish Labour must and will change. It’s time for a new generation with a vision for the future of Scotland.”
Acknowledging the scale of Labour’s defeat in the election, she added: “Nothing we can say or do will disguise that fact. The job of our next leader isn’t to explain away that loss or find excuses – it’s to understand why people were so reluctant to vote for us and find a way of regaining the trust of the people of Scotland.”
“I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge Scottish Labour faces. But we’ve been the insurgent force before, pushing back against the political establishment and winning great victories and profound social change. We will be that force again. Our values are what we will carry forward with us – all the rest is baggage.”
Dugdale insisted she would make education a priority, an increasingly weak flank for the SNP after a recent survey found a drop in standards in reading and writing. Earlier this week the Scottish government’s education secretary, Angela Constance, admitted that the attainment gap between children from wealthy and poor backgrounds was not being reduced.
Dugdale said: “We have a mountain to climb, but I believe I offer a fresh start for Scottish Labour. The great social change we fight for is not a partisan cause. I can be a unifying figure across our party and our country.”
This reference to unity tallies with endorsements she has already received across the party. She already has the support of Ian Murray, Labour’s sole remaining MP in Scotland, as well as former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray and Alex Rowley, a former general secretary of the party who resigned from Murphy’s shadow cabinet soon after the election in protest against his refusal to stand down.
Signalling the extent of her appeal as a unity candidate, the MSP who opposed Murphy’s leadership and is a leading figure on the party’s left, also suggested to the Guardian last weekend she could end up standing unopposed.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the MSP said: “My personal position is I would like to see Kez step up and I would like her to do that as quickly as possible – and there might not even be a contest.”
Murphy will formally resign at a Scottish Labour executive meeting next month, where his final act will be to present a new strategy paper urging the party to introduce one-member-one-vote (Omov) for leadership elections, the system used in UK Labour party elections.
On Tuesday, Ken Macintosh, who came second in the 2011 Scottish leadership contest which was won by Johann Lamont, announced his intention to stand again. Macintosh won a large majority of Labour members’ votes in 2011 while Lamont won the parliamentary and trade union votes under Scottish Labour’s electoral college system, supports the move to Omov.
This article was written by Libby Brooks Scotland reporter, for theguardian.com on Friday 22nd May 2015 12.39 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010