Come on Kezia: put your own house in order first

Kezia dugdale cropped

Graham Martin on Kezia Dugdale challenging civil society to speak out more on poverty

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21st August 2015 by Graham Martin 3 Comments

Way to go Kezia – how to win friends and influence people.

When you have just hung your jacket on the shoogliest peg in Scottish politics, you’d think you’d go out of your way to win allies.

But not the bold Kezia Dugdale, who this week delivered what appeared to be a dressing down to Scotland’s charities and wider civil society for not doing enough to challenge poverty.

In case you missed it, Kezia has just been made leader of the Labour Party in Scotland.

That’s right – the Labour Party, which recently went all out in its defence of the vulnerable by collectively hiding in the bogs as the Tories pushed through vicious welfare changes.

It’s the voice of charities speaking out against the misery of austerity that the government wants to silence with legislation

She made her comments in an odd speech at Edinburgh College on Wednesday. It was one that was meant to spell out her vision of Labour as a meaningful opposition.

Fine. It just wasn’t clear what it is in opposition to. If it’s the SNP, say that. If it’s independence, say that – but instead Kezia lurched into tin-foil hat territory when she said we are being ruled by a “new establishment”, but never quite got down to telling us who that was.

Her problem, as ever with Labour centrists, is the Janus-faced attempt to be all things to all people. Spurred by the Corbyn insurrection which threatens to breathe life into her party south of the border, Kezia attempted to play the class card but couldn’t quite go all the way with it.

Not surprising – when you’ve spent your career running away from the battle, the slogans of class war are only ever going to die on your lips. Witness Kezia’s old boss and co-thinker Jim Murphy’s widely derided transition from Blairite spiv to warmed-over Bevanite earlier this year.

With her attacks on the “new establishment” and leftish trimmings, Kezia seems to be trying to pry class consciousness away from concepts of national identity.

Again, fine. It’s perfectly acceptable to say that workers and bosses have completely different interests (that IS the class struggle, afterall). It’s also fine to play the class v nation card. But it’s only fine to do so if you mean it and you’re clear about meaning it, not if you couch it in nudges, winks and the language of conspiracy.

This is the difference between the chord struck by Corbyn and the heads scratched by Kezia.

Into this mix, she threw a bizarre sort-of attack on civil society and charities for not “finding their voice” on poverty and somehow being too close to this “new establishment”. Like the churches haven’t found their voice when they speak out against migrant-hounding in Calais, like the trade unions don’t provide a voice to workers every day.

It’s the voice of charities speaking out against the misery of austerity that the government wants to silence with legislation.

The new Scottish Labour leader seems caught in the bind of trying to find political space which pleases everyone in her party in a landscape which morphs daily.

Not an easy or enviable task – but now might prove to be a time for making friends and building alliances with those you might share some affinity with.

And most of all, it’s surely a time for getting your own house in order first before you criticise or demand more of others.

21st August 2015 by Hetty Wilson

Well said. The thing is also, there is no such thing as the 'Scottish Labour Party'. I know here we read, Scottish Labour and the Labour party in Scotland. But many many people do think that teh SLP is an actual official political party. They are not, the Labour party in Scotland is correct, and they take their orders from westminster, the UK Labour party.It's a disgrace that this woman is critising charities for not helping the poor, when her party voted FOR the bedroom tax, for cuts to so called welfare and they have abstained on votes in westminster which have been voted through to the absolute detriment of our, poor, sick and vulnerable. Who does K Dugdale think she is I wonder. Her party, UK labour party, voted for austerity, Ed Balls said he would have changed nothing in Osbournes recent budget. A bugdet which takes from the poor even more than they already were doing. It is nothing short of immoral and UK Labour, with their branch office in Scotland following their masters, are all part and parcel when it comes to making sure the poor, sick, disabled and vulnerable are made to suffer at the hands of the rich who are making decisions about peoples lives, and livelihoods. Add to that the lies made in the 'VOW' about more powers for Scotland and the myths abound that the Scottish government can actually alleviate and cushion the blows from Labour and Torys in Westminster, who would love nothing better than to lay the blame on the SNP when it is their own (labour and Torys) destructive, life destroying and victorian policies which are causing such poverty, and utterly disgraceful levels of inequality. No Thanks!

21st August 2015 by Hetty

I meant that say that to call them the Labour party in Scotland, is correct, in case of misinterpretation.

24th August 2015 by Manager

This is a disgraceful article. Once again scvo your role is not to offer bias critique, BUT to represent the third sector. All this is, is an absolute attack on the opposition to the current gvt. Shame on you and your pro SNP staff. I ask the same question I always ask which is who out of your paying members did you discuss this with....I will take a guess....none.