August 16, 2015 / 9:35 AM / 2 years ago

Scotland's Labour elects new leader after crushing defeat

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown delivers his speech on powers for the Scottish Parliament, watched by Scottish Labour Party leader Jim Murphy (L) and member Kezia Dugdale, in Edinburgh, Scotland February 2, 2015. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

LONDON (Reuters) - The Scottish arm of the opposition Labour Party announced on Saturday that members had elected Kezia Dugdale as their new leader to replace Jim Murphy, who resigned following the party’s catastrophic defeat in a general election in May.

Dugdale, 33, has been a member of the devolved Scottish parliament representing the Lothian region since 2011 and was previously deputy leader of Scottish Labour. Her easy victory over a single rival, Ken Macintosh, had been widely expected.

Dugdale will face the daunting task of rebuilding support for Labour in Scotland, where the party lost all but one of its 41 seats in the London-based parliament of the United Kingdom in the May 7 election.

Scotland had previously been a stronghold for Labour, but the party was unable to stop a dramatic surge in support for the Scottish National Party, which won 56 out of Scotland’s 59 seats. The next general election is due to be held in May 2020.

“I am not so presumptuous to ask instantly for your vote,” Dugdale told voters in a victory speech, broadcast by the BBC. “All I ask is that you take a fresh look at the Scottish Labour party under my leadership.”

Scottish Labour’s leadership race has been eclipsed elsewhere in Britain by the contest to replace defeated prime ministerial candidate Ed Miliband as the national party leader.

Against all expectations, veteran member of parliament Jeremy Corbyn, a left-winger who wants to take the party back to its socialist roots, is far ahead of the three other candidates in opinion polls.

Asked by the BBC shortly after her victory was announced what she made of the rise of Corbyn, Dugdale was guarded, saying only that she had met him as well as the three other candidates and would be delighted to work with any of them.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Digby Lidstone

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