Why I wish Kez Dugdale well for her jungle stint

Kezia Dugdale was the best leader the Scottish Labour Party has had since Donald Dewar. She has warmth, humour, the ability to engage and is a really good ambassador for Labour values. It was her destiny to lead Scottish Labour through a Holyrood then a Westminster general election in the space of a year. She had to do it while being constantly undermined by various factions in the party.

She has had criticisms piled on her like buckets of maggots or spiders for heading off to Australia for three weeks to appear on the primetime ITV show I’m a celebrity, get me out of here. Her own party talked of suspending her but then realised it couldn’t when they discovered she had asked for permission after all. Commentators screamed outrage about her abandoning her constituents. It’s not like the good people of Lothians are missing out on representation. Kezia’s constituents have six other MSPs, one of them even another Labour one (albeit not one of Kezia’s biggest fans) that they can go and see. There are no massive earth shattering votes in Holyrood scheduled over the next few weeks.

It’s not as if she’s an MP at the moment at a time when the Commons is making knife edge decisions about many issues at the moment. Tory MP Douglas Ross was rightly criticised when he went off to referee a football match rather than protect his constituents against the awful Universal Credit. However, he was never going to vote on the right side of that argument even if he had been there.

I actually don’t have any objections to politicians taking the odd break and going and doing something different. They might learn something about themselves that makes them more effective in their jobs. I remember how Paddy Ashdown, back in the day, spent as little time at Westminster as possible and travelled around the country. He even wrote a book, Beyond Westminster, about his travels. I doubt Kez will find that sort of enrichment in the immediate environment of the jungle, but her appearance could be good for her and for us.

Our world is full of illiberal, unpleasant, divisive values which seem to be more malevolent than at any time in my life. They are particularly prevalent in the mainstream media. So, having a feminist socialist with an irrepressible sense of humour on primetime tv every night for at least a week and a bit will be an interesting change of perspective to say the least. If you want to get your values across to people you have to go to where they are and, unfortunately, that sometimes means scrabbling around in vats of fish guts.

I haven’t watched I’m a Celeb in years, but I remember more than a whiff of everyday sexism about it with lots of comments on the female contestants which wouldn’t have been out of place on the Benny Hill Show. One of the best things that Kezia could do is to question some of those ideas about what constitutes beauty and what sort of behaviour is acceptable.

Scottish Labour activist Duncan Hothersall, a friend of Kezia’s, described his own mixed feelings about her venture but concluded:

To all of them I would say: this is the same brave, clever and inspiring woman who gave us back hope in our party when it was all but gone after the 2015 election. Let’s give her this chance.

 I’m on #TeamKez.

It may be that Kez is able to do her bit to change the world, a chat at a time, watched by millions of people. If she can turn people to a more progressive way of thinking, or make them see that there is something they can do to get out of the mess we as a country are in, that’s all to the good.  I say progressive way of thinking of course, not Labour. They have shown this week that they are far from progressive as they trooped behind the government to bring us a step closer to the hardest and most uncomfortable of Brexits.

But back to Kez. She has a very infectious sense of fun. Remember that time she dared Willie Rennie to ask Prince Charles what he’d got “yer maw” for her 90th birthday? And he did it? If she can bring that infectious spirit to the jungle, people will love her. Good luck to her.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Laurence Cox 24th Nov '17 - 11:31am

    Well said, Caron. It is important that politicians have what Denis Healey called “a hinterland”. We should not forget that Denis Howell, who became famous briefly as Minister for Drought in 1976 was also a qualified football referee, so I would not criticise Douglas Ross for choosing to officiate in a football match (whatever happened to pairing, by the way?) over voting in the Commons on an issue where his presence or absence would not make a difference to the final result.

  • why then did she complain about the same thing to Nadine Dorries?

  • Why are the Lib Dems defending Labour hypocricy?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Nov '17 - 1:31pm

    I dislike the notion the politician in his or own profession or business is barred from outside work.

    I dislike these sorts of programmes but less so on the commercial channels as unlike the wretched tv licence that funds much nonsense too, I am not forced to pay for this tripe.

    I like Kezia Dugdale. What she does in her ow time is hers to enjoy and others too if they find it thus.

    I do not think you can even mention it in the same category with our exleader and his terrific work in that era .

  • Sean Hyland 24th Nov '17 - 2:29pm

    Seems a little two faced to condemn another politician for participating and then doing the exact same thing yourself.

  • Hmmmmm. I’m not so sure. This article certainly reflects the tone of most of the media comment in Scotland, and I hate to seem po-faced in comparison. But I can’t help thinking there’s a bit of ‘we all really like Kez, so it’s fine’ going on. I also, FWIW, really like Kez, but that’s not the point. Most of us (Kez included) have criticised other politicians when they have done reality shows in the past, so we should be consistent and not apply different rules to the ones we like.
    ‘No big important votes coming up, so it’s fine.’ Really? Is that how it works? Who decides what’s an ‘important’ issue?
    ‘She asked permission, so it’s fine’ doesn’t really work either: yes she asked permission but she was specifically told no – and then went anyway! That really is discourteous to her colleagues and I think Labour would have been perfectly entitled to suspend her, but that’s a matter for them.
    As I say, I like Kez. But the bottom line is that she has responsibilities to her colleagues, to parliament, and to her constituents. I’m all for politicians having a hinterland, but not one that takes them away from their job for three weeks. It also seems that her initial pledge not to make a profit is a bit more complicated than it seemed.
    I remember one of our former MPs being almost in tears because he was having to miss an important family event. It would have meant him flying overseas for a few days. I told him he could probably just go, but he shook his head. “No. I’m an MP. That’s a privilege.”

  • Agree with Caron and I like too.

    Also like her decision to give part of her fee to the Rock Trust, a charity helping homeless young people between 16 and 25 many of whom are suffering as a consequence of Universal Credit voted for by such as the insufferable ms Dorries.

  • I’m a celebrity seems to have gone for a political angle this year with Stanley Johnson (who has said he wants to talk breakfast not brexit), made in Chelsea’s toff (who spoke about her Tory views on celebrity dating agency so will do so here) and now kez.

  • OnceALibDem 24th Nov '17 - 7:25pm

    “I remember how Paddy Ashdown, back in the day, spent as little time at Westminster as possible and travelled around the country.”

    I knew Paddy Ashdown, I worked with Paddy Ashdown, Kezia Dugdale. You’re no Paddy Ashdown. Paddy was doing that to improve himself as a politician and leader.

    Didn’t George Galloway go on a celebrity reality show to create some political debate. How did that work out.

  • Elected members aren’t there just for the “massive earth shattering votes”, but for all the business they’ve been elected (and paid) to consider …

  • Martin Walker 29th Nov '17 - 8:37am

    I disagree. I don’t think the issue is which point of the political spectrum Kezia Dugdale is on – I think the issue (other than hypocrisy) is one of putting an attempt at Z-list celebrity status ahead of the electorate, at a time they are paying her wages (regardless of what she is doing with them).

    There are all sorts of ways she could have developed a hinterland which would have been a bit more effective and meaningful and wouldn’t involve eating whatever they eat, and having fights in a simulated jungle scenario with soap actors, WAGs, and DJs.

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