Below is the text of the article (I didn’t pick the title). I wrote it in response to yet another negative press article about our poll rating in Scotland.
Without a doubt these are tough times for Labour in the UK in general and in Scotland specifically. Nonetheless, I’m standing as a Labour candidate in May as ordinary Scots need Labour now more than ever.
Since I joined Labour in October 2014 it has faced unprecedented electoral “challenges”. We’ve gained thousands of new members, but lost elections on an epic scale. The reasons for this are legion, but they can be traced back to long before the independence referendum. My own view is that the rot started when Tony Blair took us to war in Iraq – that is where we lost the trust of many voters.
That does not mean the Blair/Brown governments did not do great things. Doubling NHS spending and lifting 2 million people out of poverty are non-trivial achievements.
At the same time Scottish Labour reformed the NHS, rebuilt schools on an industrial scale and banned smoking in public places. What have the SNP and Tories done since then to match our transformative zeal? Divided Scotland and the UK respectively.
In 2016 the electorate listened to Labour’s message – Kezia Dugdale set the agenda with a cohesive narrative built around Labour values. The problem was it was overshadowed in the closing weeks of the campaign by the threat of a second independence referendum. The rest is history, a horrible history.
Seven months after our defeat, the support we lost to the nationalists is beginning to wake up to the SNP’s indifference to social justice, but the constitutional arguments and a lack of trust in Labour remain barriers to them supporting us. There is no sign of the tide of popular support returning as quickly as it left us.
Nonetheless, we can’t afford to weaken further if everyone in Scotland is to have the chance to reach their full potential. We can’t let the challenges we face wear us down. We can’t abandon the people the Labour party was established to protect who are trapped right now between two forms of ugly nationalism.
Although their politics are dissimilar, both the Tory Brexiteers and the SNP are using turbo-charged nationalist rhetoric to fight for different forms of independence. Like Trump, both are intent on blaming others for the problems we face. Both assume the moral high ground. Both will destroy public services and hold back a generation to reach their hollow ideological goal.
Although the need for a Labour Government has never been greater, we can’t pretend we will be back in power in Scotland soon. There is no magic answer or silver bullet. Indeed, we need to stop thinking a change of leader is the answer – we’ve tried that too many times. It’s also clear to me that Labour’s recovery shouldn’t be about right versus left, or rich versus poor. It must be about convincing everyone that social justice is in their interest.
We also have to move beyond constitutional arguments by setting out our own position clearly. As a party, we can’t back independence due to the damage it would do to public services. It’s our job to set out the case for a form of devolution (including empowering councils) that works for Scotland. For me, the starting point for that debate is Kezia Dugdales’s speech on the need for a “New Act of Union” – a move towards federalism.
As a party we need to step back and think about how voters view us. We must be clear about what we stand for. At every labour meeting I have attended our common cause has been clear, however, too often we struggle to communicate this in a way that resonates. The 2016 manifesto was a huge step in the right direction which I hope we will build on.
Above all, however, we need to be bold and positive in everything we do. We must be proud about what we stand for as those values were forged in Scotland: by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few.