Labour defends decision to end Dugdale legal support
The Labour Party has defended their decision to stop paying former Leader Kezia Dugdale's legal fees, in her dispute with Wings Over Scotland founder and owner, Stuart Campbell.
The case stems from an article for the Daily Record, in which Dugdale labeled Mr. Campbell's tweets directed at David Mundell's father, as 'homophobic'.
The tweet said: “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner.”
After the publication of the article, Campbell crowdfunded over £153,000 in order to bring the former Labour leader to court for defamation.
After taking the decision to discontinue legal support, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “Kezia Dugdale has received significant support from the Labour Party. The Party has a responsibility to all our members and that must mean spending our members’ fees responsibly and appropriately.
“We have to present and campaign around our message of hope and the need to Rebuild Britain and that is where we believe our members wish to see their fees spent."
A senior Labour source told the Red Robin that they understands, "that at no time has Kezia Dugdale contacted Jennie Formby to discuss this case".
The Red Robin understands that the Labour Party met costs up to the initial stage of over £94,000, but there does not appear to be any evidence of a commitment to funding this case in an open ended way. Labour sources have pointed out to The Red Robin that there doesn't appear to be any record of the agreement between Kezia Dugdale and Iain McNicol, the former Labour Party General Secretary. We understand another senior official was involved in the agreement. We have approached Iain McNicol for comment and at the time of publication have not received a comment.
Sources have told the Red Robin that Kezia's Daily Record column was always a private arrangement between Kezia and the Daily Record, it did not involve the Labour Party, was not attached to her position as Scottish Leader, and the Party did not have oversight or sign off on her columns.
They also pointed out that Dugdale used her column to promote Owen Smith and that whilst she was on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (unauthorised by Labour), allowed an SNP MSP to write her column for her.
The Red Robin has approached the Record asking if the column was legally checked and why the Record isn't supporting Kezia's legal fees. We have not received a response but David Clegg, the Political Editor has posted a series of tweets.
I have been asked a few times on here about the Daily Record’s involvement with the Kezia Dugdale legal action. Here’s the situation: (1/6)— David Clegg (@davieclegg) September 28, 2018
When the legal action was launched last year the Daily Record, as per normal practice, wanted to provide legal support to our columnist. (2/6)— David Clegg (@davieclegg) September 28, 2018
However, in a meeting between our lawyers and Labour Party officials it was made clear they wanted to deal with it themselves and did not want our help. (3/6)— David Clegg (@davieclegg) September 28, 2018
Labour took on agency for the case and assembled their own lawyers to discharge the case. The Record was told to step aside. (4/6)— David Clegg (@davieclegg) September 28, 2018
Kezia informed us that this situation had changed two weeks ago. Why the Labour Party have treated a former leader in this way is a matter for their own conscience. (5/6)— David Clegg (@davieclegg) September 28, 2018
Once informed of Labour’s decision we immediately began discussions about what we could do to help Kezia. I can confirm we have now reinstated legal support. (6/6)— David Clegg (@davieclegg) September 28, 2018
A senior Labour Source told the Red Robin, "if it's true that Labour officials turned down legal support from the Daily Record and instead chose to spend members money on the legal case, then it is an absolute disgrace".
Another source added, "Wings is a nasty blog and hopefully Kezia Dugdale wins her case, but she should not be expecting the Party to underwrite her case which could see the party foot a bill up to half a million pounds, when all along she should have been supported by the newspaper where she published it".
The Campaign for Socialism last night issued a statement defending the decision.
Our statement on Labour Party funding for Kezia Dugdale’s legal costs: pic.twitter.com/XreWgh6y21— Labour CfS (@LabourCfS) September 27, 2018
The Red Robin approached Kezia Dugdale for a comment but she had not replied at the time of publication. She told the Daily Record, "There was no question mark over it, they were going to support this case.
“Fast forward 18 months - and it’s pretty shocking it’s taken that long to get to the preliminary hearing, we’re not even at the full proof yet - and I had to find out by email from my solicitor that the Labour party weren’t prepared to pay any more legal bills.
“Safe to say the one factor that’s changed in that time is the general secretary, it’s a woman called Jennie Formby.
“When I found that out by email, I was pretty crushed to be honest".