Guardian News and Media London
Kezia Dugdale, the former Scottish Labour leader, has insisted she did the right thing appearing on I’m a Celebrity after becoming the second contestant to be evicted from the programme.
Speaking from Australia after being voted out by viewers, Dugdale acknowledged that her appearance on the TV reality show was a “big gamble” and she would face heavy criticism when she returned to Scotland
“I know I’m going back to a good deal of criticism and I will take that face on. I’ve got to have a lot of conversations with people but I’m going back with my head held high,” she told the ITV morning show Lorraine.
“I came out here to do what I wanted to do, I believe I’ve succeeded in that and I love my job. It’s a great privilege to be a Labour politician and I fully intend on continuing to do it for a very long time.”
Dugdale faces an internal inquiry from Scottish Labour when she returns home to Edinburgh because she agreed to take part in the show without formal approval from party officials to be absent from the Scottish parliament.
To her horror, news she was to be a contestant leaked out the night before the party unveiled her successor as Scottish leader, Richard Leonard, on November 18 after a tense and ill-tempered campaign sparked by Dugdale’s unexpected resignation in August.
She had delayed her arrival in Australia to avoid it clashing with the leadership contest, and promised to donate her MSP’s salary for the duration of her absence and part of her winnings, said to be a high five-figure sum, to charity.
Leonard and other colleagues have been highly critical of her decision but she told the show’s hosts, Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, immediately after her eviction on Sunday night UK time that she wanted to show viewers that not all politicians were “old, white, male, pale and stale”.
She told ITV yesterday morning: “The way I look at it is this is the most-watched family TV programme in the history of TV, so to speak, and it’s watched largely by young people aged 18 to 24.
“That is the very group of people who are least engaged with politics so a big part of why I wanted to do this was to go out there and show people that politics matters, that there is a big difference between the two major parties, that your vote does count, to encourage young people to vote, because it’s only if young people vote that they will get the type of change that they want to see in their country.”
Dugdale did not prosper on the show. Its producers were reportedly underwhelmed by her performance, and said she had failed to bond with her co-stars, including Stanley Johnson, father of the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson.
Dugdale often failed to win enough stars towards meals and treats in her tasks. Some predicted she would be the first to be evicted on Friday, but that accolade went to comedian Shappi Khorsandi.
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