Following in the footsteps of Lembit Öpik…Dugdale goes down under

George Galloway, Lembit Öpik, Nadine Dorries and now…Kezia Dugdale?

The former Scottish Labour leader is about to enter this pantheon of politicians turned reality stars.

Just days after taking up office as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Richard Leonard faced his first test in the form of Dugdale’s surprise entry to this year’s I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Although it was decided in a meeting of the Scottish Labour Party on Tuesday that Kezia Dugdale would not be suspended, the former leader has faced stinging criticism from her colleagues. Neil Findlay, MSP for Lothian said: “It’s utterly ludicrous, a ludicrous position. It demeans politics when people get involved in that.”

It is telling that members of the opposition parties at Holyrood have rushed to the defence of Kezia Dugdale. Sporting the hashtag #teamkez, SNP politicians including First Minister Sturgeon, have been encouraging Dugdale to carry on and win for Scotland. However, one suspects there may well be an element of mischief-making at play here.

Whilst appearing on reality TV may turn a politician into a household name is should be noted that the electorate can be unforgiving of fawning celebrity MPs. Just ask former Lib Dem MP Lembit Öpik who is often remembered for his romance with Gabriela Irimia (of ‘Cheeky Girls’ fame) and also appeared on I’m a Celebrity. He was ousted from his Montgomeryshire constituency at the 2010 General Election when the Liberal Democrats were riding high in the polls.

The public at large may well be amused by the antics of MPs on reality TV, such as George Galloway pretending to be a cat on Big Brother. However, voters sometimes fail to see the funny side. People elect their representatives to do a serious job and rely on them to be a voice for their communities. The question is, by jetting off to Australia for two weeks, has Kezia Dugdale shown a certain disregard for her constituents? In almost any other occupation, going on holiday without the explicit consent of your boss would be grounds for dismissal. So why do they shrug when politicians moonlight in this way?

Everyone deserves a break. Not least Kezia Dugdale who has endured a gruelling two years in the top job in Scottish Labour and has put her party back on the path to power. But perhaps it would have been better to get some winter sun elsewhere.

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Andrew Tromans 1 Article
Writer, aspiring social and political researcher.

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