Kezia Dugdale has recently stepped down as leader of the Scottish Labour party, and straight into the Australian Jungle to take part in the popular ITV show ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here’. Although Kezia may no longer be the leader of the party, she is still a serving MSP and so her appearance on the 3 week long show understandably raises some questions about her commitment to her constituents, particularly as the Scottish Parliament is still in session.
However, recently there seems to have been a trend of politicians appearing on entertainment television, and surprisingly these appearances have not all been quite so ill-advised. From Jeremey Corbyn on Gogglebox; to Ruth Davidson on the Great British Bake Off, it seems politicians from all sides are determined to step into showbiz. Given that both Corbyn and Davidson’s appearances were to raise money for charity, it is difficult to criticise their attempts. Both also came across relatively well: down to earth, humorous and in ways which likely endeared them to their target voters. Plus, there’s really only so many faux-pas that can be made in an hour long, pre-recorded show.
Slightly riskier territory comes in the form of the Ballroom. Numerous political figures have now taken part in Strictly Come Dancing, including Lib Dem Vince Cable; Conservative Anne Widdecombe; and Labour’s Ed Balls. Both Anne Widdecombe and Ed Balls had some very memorable, albeit extremely embarrassing, moments on the show but as they had hung up their political hats by that time in a way they cannot be judged by how they choose to fill their time after their political careers had ended. Vince Cable, a well-known lover of ballroom dancing, was obviously delighted to appear on Strictly’s 2010 Christmas special. Although he was still serving as an MP at that time, it can be seen from the register of members’ interests that he donated his £10,000 fee to charity and as he appeared in one episode only he elegantly side stepped any calls for him to focus on his day job.
So, back to Kezia. Has she donated her self-confessed “in no way small” fee to charity? Well, not quite. She is reported to be giving the £2,500 salary she would have earned during her 3 weeks as an MP to a homeless charity, together with a ‘portion’ of the undisclosed sum she is being paid for her appearance. Still it seems almost certain the amount she will pocket for herself will exceed her usual earnings.
Nevertheless, the Labour party have chosen not to suspend the MSP who has said she will not miss out any important votes while she is away. Dugdale also stated her motivation to take part in the show was that it was “an amazing opportunity to talk to young people”. We can only hope the young people in her Lothian constituency don’t have any pressing issues they want to talk to her about within the next few weeks.
Blog by Claire Campbell, Solicitor