When will we learn to stop making political predictions? No, Neil Findlay will not be challenging for the Scottish Labour leadership, although the fact that his website went offline with the promise of a “message coming soon” shortly after the announcement of Dugdale’s resignation, only to reappear after he had ruled himself out, was indeed curious.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. There will be considerable concern in large parts of the Labour membership if Kezia Dugdale is replaced by a man. This would mean every senior leadership position in the party was taken by a man, while the Tories are currently on their second woman prime minister. Bread and roses, it a’int.
So, who are the female favourites to replace Ms. Dugdale?
Monica Lennon (NOW RULED OUT)
Hailing from the Labour left, Monica Lennon MSP describes herself as “a Period Poverty Campaigner.” A proud supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and vision, Ms. Lennon was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2016 and has since campaigned vociferously for the introduction of free sanitary products throughout Scotland. Ms. Lennon can expect considerable online support from the left-wing Twitterati should she choose to mount a leadership challenge. She is a charismatic television performer and would likely give Ruth Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon a run for their money in the debating stakes.
A more established, moderate figure than Ms. Lennon, Ms. McNeill was first elected as an MSP in 1999, when the Scottish Parliament was created. She would probably not command the same level of online backing as Ms. Lennon should she choose to stand, but she may find a reservoir of support among older Scottish Labour members who were around before Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Whether this would be enough to compensate for Ms. Lennon’s appeal to the younger generations of Labour activists remains to be seen.
Jack Baillie (NOW RULED OUT)
One of Scottish Labour’s longest-serving MSPs (elected in 1999), Ms. Baillie is an immensely experienced and capable politician. She has been a tireless homelessness campaigner and has successfully campaigned for greater rights for disabled people. She stood in for former Scottish Labour Leader, Johann Lamont, at First Minister’s Questions when the latter was attending the funeral of Tony Benn, and again following Ms. Lamont’s resignation later that year.
Those au fait with Scottish politics tell me that the left-wing Richard Leonard MSP should be regarded as one of – if not the – front-runners. The Sun Newspaper, in typically nuanced fashion, has called Mr. Leonard “the most left-wing” candidate in the race. Expect to see Mr. Leonard win the support of multiple trade unions and widespread support among the ‘Corbynistas’ particularly.
The knives are already out for Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, seen by some as the “establishment” candidate. The millionaire MSP is, according to The Sunday Herald, ” already facing a backlash over his wealth, children’s schooling and an ‘unforgiven’ call for Jeremy Corbyn to stand down.” Nevertheless, Mr. Sarwar is many bookmakers’ favourite and will almost certainly be in the running. He would be Scottish Labour’s first BAME leader.
Alex Rowley (NOW RULED OUT)
Like Ms. Lennon, Mr. Rowley comes from the Labour left. He is the acting Leader of Scottish Labour (having been Kezia Dugdale’s deputy). Mr. Rowley will need to use his time as interim leader to make a splash, however, as he does not currently have a large profile among the Scottish Labour membership. Should he choose to stand, he is unlikely to gain much traction.
But of course…
Whoever succeeds Ms. Dugdale will inherit the ongoing and sizeable task of restoring Labour’s standing in Scotland. Scottish Labour’s number of MPs increased by a factor of seven during Ms. Dugdale’s leadership. Whether such progress is sustainable is an open question, and may not be answered for several years.