Labour Hame’s editor Duncan Hothersall says Scottish Labour can lift its head and kick off the election campaign with optimism and pride.
At the stroke of midnight this morning the 55th Parliament of the United Kingdom was dissolved under the terms of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011. There are no longer any MPs, only candidates for election. The “short campaign” has begun.
It’s no secret that Scottish Labour finds itself in the toughest UK election fight it has known for many decades. The polls are unyielding, the pressure is relentless. There is a serious risk that, despite the vast majority of Scots being united in their desire to kick the Tories out, we may just end up letting them back in.
So let me this morning offer an optimistic note to spur us on. Here are ten reasons why we should redouble our efforts to bring home a brilliant Scottish Labour result in May:
- Labour has the right policies.
We have a great set of truly redistributive and reforming policies. From the Mansion Tax, which demonstrates the benefit of pooling and sharing resources across the UK and will help give the NHS the funds it desperately needs, to the minimum wage increase, to the crackdown on tax dodging and the outlawing of exploitative zero-hour contracts. Our policies have been developed collaboratively over several years, and we have a strong, principled and persuasive set of arguments to take to the doorsteps.
- Ed will make a great PM.
In Ed Miliband we have a Prime Minister in waiting who has faced relentless attacks from political opponents and the right-wing press and has responded with grace, humour and steely determination. We saw his mettle just last week. After Cameron ran scared from a head-to-head debate, Ed showed him up even in his preferred format.
- The SNP are not invincible.
The SNP have made a series of mis-steps recently, which show them up as not quite the unstoppable force they like to paint themselves to be. They look arrogant on the NHS when they deny responsibility for failings that stem from their own funding decisions. Their flip-flopping on tax policy and their mixed messages over a Labour government demonstrate a disingenuous nature. And many of their candidates seem to be more keen to re-fight the referendum than to represent their constituencies in Parliament. That too is an opportunity for a Labour Party rightly focused on policy for the many not division for the few.
- We are great campaigners.
We have a fantastic campaign ethos and great team spirit. Party support staff do a great job but it is the volunteers who door-knock, leaflet, staff stalls, raise money and make calls who will win seats for Labour. We are damn good at this – we proved it again during the referendum – and with recent increases in membership and volunteers we can do even better.
- Labour’s record is something to be proud of.
Despite the constant press distortions, we have a fantastic record in government. The Minimum Wage, the New Deal, Working Tax Credits, Winter Fuel Payments and more, all combined to lift millions out of poverty across the UK during the last Labour government. We delivered devolution. We delivered on LGBT equality and created the Human Rights Act. And we doubled investment in the NHS in real terms. We have a lot to be proud of.
- We have top quality candidates.
We have a terrific calibre of candidates across the country. In my own patch, Ian Murray has an extraordinary record of helping local people with their problems, combined with an impressive tenure as a shadow business minister driving forward policies such as the ending of exploitative zero-hour contracts, and the extending of the Living Wage. Next door, Sheila Gilmore has been an outstanding campaigner on housing issues, and has an enviable reputation for successful local campaigns. These stories are repeated across Scotland and the rest of the UK – a really strong, committed set of Labour candidates ready to be MPs in May.
- Press attacks are losing potency.
People are genuinely seeing through the anti-Labour attacks in the Tory press. It is reaching the point that they are starting to work in our favour. The Sun in particular has become quite brazen in its divergent editorial views north and south of the border – loudly backing the Tories (and condemning the SNP) in England and Wales, while loudly backing the SNP in Scotland. The common denominator? Stopping Labour getting enough seats, so that Cameron gets back in. But in this age of a media-savvy electorate, such double-dealing is potentially more likely to rebound than to succeed.
- We know our own folk.
We have deep local knowledge of the constituencies across the country that we have represented and fought for for so long. That can give us a distinct advantage in the campaign on the ground. Our local understanding also allows us to interpret national polling more intelligently, and campaign more efficiently. But most of all it means we know what folk are looking for from Labour, and we can deliver it.
- Lots of Don’t Knows still to be convinced.
There are plenty of voters yet to be convinced either way. The “Don’t Knows” are going to be as crucial in this election as they were in the referendum. And the fact is, this is a UK election and it is deciding a UK government. It is Labour, not the SNP, which is standing across the UK and can therefore form a new UK government. To get the Tories out, we need a Labour government. To get a Labour government, we need to vote Labour.
- The people need us.
The biggest motivating factor of all is simply this: people need us. Cameron and Osborne have wreaked havoc across the country for the last five years, with a relentless focus on an ideology of small government, promoting austerity not to cut the deficit or pay down the debt but to enforce their ideological goals on the whole country. And if the Tories’s single goal is a small state, the SNP’s single goal is division of the UK, and they will prioritise that above anything else. People are crying out for a government that will focus on fair pay, fair work and fair taxation, not try to impose an ideology of either separation or small government. Labour is the best answer to that cry. We need to get out and win a Labour government for them.
So, there are 38 days to go. Let’s not spend a single one of them worrying about opinion polls, post-election deals or waffle about merchandise. Let’s dig deep, lift our heads, and get out there to fight for the Labour government that Scotland, and the the whole of the UK, desperately needs.
The prize is social justice for those most in need. There is no better cause to fight for.