Tom Gordon

Scottish Political

KEZIA Dugdale will today dump the blame for Scottish Labour’s troubles squarely on her predecessors, accusing them of failing to react to voter discontent with the party.

In a blunt speech to the UK Labour conference in Brighton, Dugdale will say successive Scottish Labour leaders “got the balance wrong” after the SNP was elected to office in 2007.

“The days of listening and not acting are over,” she will tell delegates.

Scottish Labour has had four failed leaders in the past eight years - Wendy Alexander, Iain Gray, Johann Lamont and Jim Murphy - before electing Dugdale in August.

Dugdale will try to end the debilitating churn by insisting the party is different, and is now responding to what the public wants, instead of merely listening and nodding along.

However her six-month spell as Murphy’s deputy, which included Scottish Labour’s general election plunge from 41 seats to one, could make it hard to sound like the voice of change.

SNP sources said the remarks showed Labour’s infighting habit was as bad ever.

However Labour insiders said it was natural for any new leader to signal a break with the past.

Dugdale will also claim Labour are “making progress” north of the border, with almost 30,000 members, registered supporters and affiliates ready to campaign for the party in 2016.

She will say: “I’ve watched many speeches from former Scottish leaders at this conference. And since 2007, they’ve followed a pattern. They’ve spoken passionately and forcefully about the problems Scotland faces. They’ve told people what our values are and what they mean for today. And they’ve pledged to listen to the Scottish people.

“I’m not here to make another pledge to listen to people. I’m here to say: we get the message and we’re going to do something about it. In the past we needed to listen, but we also needed to act. And we got that balance wrong.

“We heard the message the Scottish people were giving us - and in the past few years we heard it repeatedly. But we didn’t do enough to change it.

“So, conference, this year you’re not going to hear a pledge from me to listen more closely. You’re going to hear a pledge to act.”

However as evidence of change, the 34-year-old Lothians list MSP will point to changes in internal party mechanics of little interest to most voters, rather than policy shifts.

These include new conference arrangements giving more say to members, reopening regional candidate selections to bring in fresh talent, and reformed portfolios for her front bench team.

She will say: “Too many people have told me they don’t know what we stand for. We stand for a Scotland where every young person can get on in life, no matter how much money their parents have. I will change my party so that once again, together, we can change our country.”

In another sign of internal friction yesterday, former deputy leader Harriet Harman attacked the male-dominated line up at the top of UK Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

Addressing the Labour Women’s Conference in Brighton, she said: “We have a male leader, male deputy leader, male London mayoral candidate and male general secretary.

“These were all separate elections so it’s not any of their fault - but we can’t have a clean sweep of men. we’ve got to sort it out so that we have women’s leadership at the top.”

Also speaking at conference today, shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray will admit the party is suffering from “despondency” and “anger” in the wake of the Tories winning a Westminster majority in May.

He will say: “Let us say: David Cameron, the Labour movement will not lie down. We will not give up. We will not crumble in the face of this assault [on public services].”

SNP MSP Sandra White said: “Kezia Dugdale’s attempts to blame her predecessors for Labour’s woes might have a bit more credibility if she hadn’t been part of the inner-circle for the last four years – and Jim Murphy’s loyal deputy during his shambolic leadership.”

A Scottish Lib Dem spokesperson added: “Kez Dugdale is right to act rather just listen but her first act is to take Labour on a journey to the fringe on the left. They are vacating a huge space in politics that the Liberal Democrats will fill.”

Holyrood veteran Hugh Henry yesterday announced he would be standing down next May, creating a vacancy for the Labour candidacy in Renfrewshire South.

In a dig at party careerists, the 63-year-old said: “We need to reassert Labour as a party which wants to win seats, not for the sake of it or for someone's career, but because working people need a party that will fight for a country based on fairness, justice, opportunity and solidarity.”