NEWLY-ELECTED Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard is under pressure to suspend his predecessor Kezia Dugdale from the party, but Jeremy Corbyn has come out in her defence.

The row began after it emerged Dugdale was flying out to Australia to appear on the television show I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

Central Scotland MSP Leonard, who beat rival Anas Sarwar to take the top job, faced a barrage of questions from journalists this morning about what his response would be to Dugdale's decision to appear on the show, filmed on the other side of the world.

Labour figures are furious at the move which could mean she is away from Holyrood for up to three weeks and not be available to meet constituents or carry out her duties as an elected member.

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However, Corbyn, Labour's leader, has now said Dugdale should not be suspended from the party for appearing on the reality show.

He said: "It's her choice to go on I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!, I don't think it's appropriate to suspend someone from the party for doing that, that's her choice."

Leonard had said he was "a bit disappointed" with Dugdale's announcement, and that the Labour group at Holyrood would decide whether she should be suspended from the party.

"I awoke, as many other people did this morning, to the news this morning that Kezia was going on this programme and I think it is going to be something that the group will have to consider over the next few days, and I think we will consider it," he said.

"I was a bit disappointed. I think it's a decision for the group to make."

Pressed if the Lothians MSP should be suspended from the party, he replied: "That's not my initial reaction, no. But I think it is something we should look at."

He added: "I don't know the circumstances of Kezia's decision so I think I will leave it. I will give it due consideration in the group over the next few days."

Former Labour first minister Henry McLeish called on Dugdale to rethink her decision to go out to the jungle.

He said: "Clearly she resigned for a number of reasons, but this is not the way to go forward, and I would ask her to rethink and drop the idea of going to Australia."

He praised Dugdale for her work as Labour leader, saying she had been "building a case for federalism" and had also won Scottish Labour a place on the party's National Executive Committee.

"It's vital we don't lose talent like that," McLeish said. "I'm asking her to reconsider before she flies off tomorrow."

Prominent Labour figures took to social media to vent their anger about Dugdale's decision to go on the show — which has overshadowed this morning's announcement about a new leader.

Former Better Together boss Blair McDougall tweeted: "There are many ways to contribute to the struggle for democratic socialism. Flying ten thousand miles to eat kangaroo cocks with next year's panto headliners isn't one of them."

Labour MSP Jenny Marra, a close ally of Dugdale, tweeted: "Election to parliament is a privilege to serve and represent people. It's not a shortcut to celebrity."

SNP MSP James Dornan added: "We all accept the new @scottishlabour leader is going to be a disaster but surely this is still a bit extreme Kezia."

One of the few people to post a sympathetic tweet was Kathleen Caskie, of Women for Independence, who said she found Dugdale's ability to surprise "endearing".

Dugdale, who resigned in August, will join the likes of boxer Amir Khan, Boris Johnson's dad Stanley and Saturdays singer Vanessa White in the jungle for the ITV show which begins tomorrow.

She took on the role in the wake of the 2015 General Election in which Labour lost 40 of its 41 MPs. The party now has seven MPs.

When she resigned Dugdale said she left the party "in better shape than I found it" and that the party needed a new leader with "fresh energy, drive and a new mandate" to take the party into the next Holyrood elections in four years' time.