Kezia Dugdale’s resignation as leader of Scottish Labour Leader highlights a stark and worrying problem that still haunts the Labour Party: a problem with women in positions of power.
The Conservatives are quick to highlight that they have had two female leaders–and rightly so. And whilst a female leader hardly means equality within a political party, women in positions of power are automatically given a larger platform to speak out against their inequality.
Dugdale’s resignation establishes a male ascendancy over the Labour party that is embarrassingly obvious. Furthermore, the likely candidates to replace Dugdale are deputy leader Alex Rowley, Richard Leonard and Anas Sarwar, who are all men. For a party who dared to challenge the inequality of Parliament with all-women short lists, and declares to fight against discrimination, the disparity at the upper echelons of the Labour party is worrying.
When we look to challenge the problems of inequality in the United Kingdom, but find only dissimilarity with the patrons of the cause, the fight becomes intolerably more difficult. Issues of representation extend beyond gender–and it remains equally as worrying that of the Leaders of the Labour Party, Sadiq Kahn remains the only BAME leader. Labour represents one of the biggest and most varied cross sections of society who have found a home in their political cause. It is time their cause represented them.
“Whilst Labour remains the party to fight for equality, for many it becomes automatically diminished by the lack of diversity it offers.”
It becomes harder to support a party that offers no easily attainable prospects for women. And whilst Labour remains traditionally the party to fight for equality, for many it becomes automatically diminished by the lack of diversity it offers. The party should offer a real solution to this issue, not just disillusionment.
The Dugdale-led Scottish Labour Party was awarded the first third-placed finish since 1918, yet history will look favourably on the leader who led the party through uncertainty. She took the challenge of leader at an unfavourable time in Labour party history; when Labour lost 40 out of its 41 Scottish seats in 2015; when even leader Jim Murphy could not win his seat. Her work helped bring Labour back to a more, albeit limited, electable position in Scotland, and did so under the criticism of her colleagues such as Neil Findlay.
At the time of her resignation, the position for Labour Leader in Scotland is hardly the unsavoury position it was in 2015. It is unfortunate another woman will likely not be leading the Scottish branch of the party, a position expected to be filled by a Corbyn supporter, which at times Dugdale was not. This is nearly inevitable after Corbyn’s strengthened support in the latest general elections, and this may be what is needed to make Labour more electable in Scotland.