The Scottish Labour party was clear in its decision that Kezia Dugdale is exactly who we need as our new deputy leader. Today we saw why.
In her first outing against Nicola Sturgeon at first minister’s questions, Kezia chose to lead on the highly topical issue of falling oil prices and the serious threat this poses to Scottish businesses and the workers they employ.
Kezia knows this issue is one of both economic and political significance. Thousands of jobs and a large chunk of the Scottish economy rely on this strategic industry, but the Scottish National party chose to base its independence campaign and its economic credibility on oil prices being almost double what they are now.
In striking the perfect balance between standing up for jobs and exposing the SNP’s failure, Kezia appeared relaxed and comfortable with her brief, which contrasted with the first minister turning to her deputy for answers.
On an issue of such importance and on Kezia’s first outing, Sturgeon knew she could not immediately resort to attacking Kezia, so instead the she fell into the usual nationalist trap: blame it on Westminster. Kezia’s response was stateswoman-like, rightly suggesting that at some point the Scottish government would have to take responsibility for its actions.
When Kezia called for an inquiry into how the SNP could have got their predictions on oil so wrong, Sturgeon was clearly agitated. The first minister’s tone changed as she could feel the issue slipping away. Her inability to give a firm commitment to defend Scottish jobs was clearly as frustrating for her as it will be disappointing for the workers affected and those in other industries strategically important to Scotland. In a rambling response, Sturgeon took the bizarre approach to personally attack Kezia’s ‘parliamentary tone’ – a jibe that even the SNP must have recognised was somewhat hypocritical.
Kezia’s performance today will have pleased trade unions, businesses and economists – no easy task. No one can doubt the scale of the challenge facing Scottish Labour and, despite her poor performance today, Sturgeon should not be underestimated. There is an enormous amount of work to do and very little time to do it. However, this afternoon the Scottish Labour party can be permitted a moment of satisfaction as we had a first glimpse of the energy Kezia will bring to her role – we clearly made the right choice in the leadership election and should feel a new sense of confidence. Kezia will do a fantastic job of holding the first minister to account and under the leadership of her and Jim Murphy we have indeed begun the difficult task of turning our party around and regaining the trust of the Scottish people.
Callum Munro is communications and policy officer at Community the union. He tweets @Callum_Munro
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.