Kezia Dugdale backtracks on pledge to donate 'all outside interests' to charity ahead of 'I'm a Celebrity' appearance

Former Scottish Labour leader will donate 'a portion' of the hefty fee she is likely to pocket along with her salary for the fortnight she is expected to be away from her constituency

Rachel Roberts
Sunday 19 November 2017 21:53
I'm A Celebrity 2017 line-up confirmed

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who has sparked controversy by appearing in I’m a Celebrity Get Me out of Here, has deleted a pledge from the registry of members’ interests to donate “any and all” money earned from outside interests to charity – meaning she will keep part of the hefty fee she is expected to earn.

Ms Dugdale, who remains a Member of the Scottish Parliament for Lothian, has said she will donate “a portion” of her appearance fee from the smash-hit ITV show to charity, but has declined to say what the fee will be or what percentage she will give away.

Prior to June, Ms Dugdale’s entry in the registry of members’ interests stated she was giving the entire fee she receives for a newspaper column to a Scottish charity for Motor Neurone Disease – alongside any other earnings outside of her work in the Scottish Parliament.

“I write a weekly column for the Daily Record newspaper, for which I receive £7,500 to 8,000 per annum. I spend two hours per week undertaking this role. I have asked that the fee is paid not to me but to MND Scotland (a charity supporting people affected by motor neurone disease) in its entirety. I receive no financial benefit from undertaking this work. Any and all external earnings will be likewise donated directly to MND Scotland as a matter of principle.”

In June, the pledge to donate “any and all” outside earnings to charity was removed from the registry.

A source close to Ms Dugdale told The Independent this amendment was nothing to do with her much talked-about appearance in the jungle but was because she was previously being taxed on the charitable donation.

Her earnings from the column are still fully donated to the charity, and Ms Dugdale has also pledged to donate her MSP’s salary for the two weeks she is likely to be in the Australian outback to charity.

On an annual salary of just over £60,000, this means Ms Dugdale will give around £2,500 after tax to charity if she is away for two weeks.

Appearance fees for I’m a Celebrity... are thought to range from around £70,000 for lesser-known figures through to £200,000 for bigger names.

There have been calls for Ms Dugdale to have the Labour whip withdrawn as she will miss two weeks of Holyrood business while she takes part in the lucrative gameshow, which regularly pulls in an audience in excess of 10 million viewers.

Ms Dugdale, 36, quit as leader of the Scottish Labour Party in August after just two years in the job saying it was “time to pass the baton on” and citing the pressures of leadership and wanting to enjoy life outside of politics.

She took over leadership of the party north of the border from Jim Murphy in August 2015 after the party lost all but one of its Westminster seats to the SNP.

In 2016, Ms Dugdale called for a ban on second jobs for MPS, pledging “a new kind of politics” in a Holyrood speech.

The man who succeeded her as leader, Richard Leonard, has said the Scottish Labour group will consider whether to suspend Ms Dugdale from the party following the unexpected announcement of her appearance in the gameshow.

Ms Dugdale will be expected to take part in “bush tucker trials”, which traditionally include eating things such as kangaroo testicles and enduring physical challenges involving heights or being buried covered in rats and cockroaches.

One of her colleagues, Labour MSP Neil Findlay, condemned Ms Dugdale’s decision to appear on the programme as “utterly ludicrous”.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics after new leader Mr Leonard turned down an invitation to appear, Mr Findlay said: “I think it’s utterly ludicrous, a ludicrous position. We have a situation where we’re in the run up to the Budget in Scotland, where local government is on its knees, where the NHS is showing pressures like never before, when people’s living standards are falling – and they expect their MPs, MSPs, councillors, elected representatives to be fighting on their behalf, and I don’t think people would expect them to jet off around the world and sit around the camp fire eating a kangaroo’s appendage.”

“I think it demeans politics when people get involved in that. We’ve got a pretty serious job to do, people out there are struggling and there’s huge pressures on public services and that’s the job we should be doing.

“I take my job very seriously and so do my colleagues and I think they would expect better.”

As Scottish MSPs criticised their former leader, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was more restrained, saying it was Ms Dugdale’s decision.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to suspend someone from the party for doing that, that’s her choice.”

Ms Dugdale will appear alongside other personalities including footballer Dennis Wise, boxer Amir Khan, actors Jamie Lomas and Jennie McAlpine, pop star Vanessa White and comedian Shappi Khorsandi.

She could find a political sparring partner in the shape of Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley, who is also signed up to the show, presented by Declan Donnelly and Ant McPartlin.

Ms Dugdale is said to have hosted “back-to-back surgeries” for her constituents prior to flying out to Australia, where contestants stay at the luxurious Versace hotel on the Gold Coast before being transported to the jungle.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries temporarily lost the party whip when she appeared on the show five years ago.

When news broke of Ms Dorries’s appearance in 2012, Ms Dugdale tweeted: “David Cameron has been desperate to ditch Nadine Dorries since her election – how daft of her to serve him up a reason on a plate.”

Ms Dorries took to Twitter yesterday to offer her support for “smart lady” Ms Dugdale.

Anas Sarwar, who was defeated in the contest to succeed Ms Dugdale as Labour leader, said: “Now she has made that decision I want us to have that phone bank running to make sure that she eats every bug possible, is in the pit with the rats as much as possible, so she fully enjoys the experience and is raring to go when she comes back.”

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