A bruising night but there were glimpses of a better future
Jamie Kinlochan says we will rebuild and we will restore our party in the pursuit of equality.
So, that was that. Election night has been and gone, and many hard-working Labour MSPs and staff members with it. Even with a “prepare for the worst, expect it to be a wee bit worse than that” approach, I still woke up on Friday morning feeling sore.
The Tories are to be the main opposition in Scotland. First Minister’s Questions is set to become “Did Your Masters In London Tell You To Ask That, Aye?” Vol 2.
Was it that people just were not ready to hear what we had to say? Was it that despite the rhetoric, people in Scotland aren’t so egalitarian after all and don’t want to pay more tax? Was it a sign that Scottish Labour must move away from the left and towards the centre? Or, given what the pundits have said about Scotland still being all about the constitution, is the red rose in the wrong garden altogether?
People much more insightful and objective than me will offer up the answers to those questions. Others will ignore them and be destined to make the same mistakes again.
When it is dark, we look for the light. And there was some light. Up and down Scotland, members got out on the doors, picked up the phone, used social media and fought for our candidates.
Daniel Johnson won in Edinburgh Southern with a positive street campaign that was all about engaging with and listening to voters. He found time to be supportive of new talent and never shied away from talking about the positive force the Labour Party can be.
Jackie Baillie held Dumbarton, after again showing people that she was the best person to stand up for the people in my home town. It is clear that whether people voted yes or no in the referendum, they recognised Jackie’s hard work and fierce support of social justice.
Monica Lennon, a councillor and strong campaigner, was elected a MSP for Central Scotland. Monica has led local campaigns that brought young people together to save their university campus. Uniting local politicians of all colours, Monica also fought back when the Scottish Government overturned a planning decision and left locals facing an incinerator being built where they lived.
Three strong campaigners who recognise that people in our communities need someone to stand up for them and with them.
We need them, and Labour MSPs like them, in Holyrood because without additional funding, public services will be further stretched by the government. Colleges that give so many people a first, second and third chance will continue to be the poor relative of our education system. Local authorities will continue to run close to the wire with jobs threatened year after year. Austerity in Westminster and a determination not to raise tax in Holyrood means the most vulnerable in our society are about to be squeezed more than they have been.
Meanwhile, the main opposition in Scotland will be seeking concessions on behalf of the well off.
I don’t believe that constitutional politics gets many Labour members out of bed in the morning. It is clear now, however, that we can’t just lie in because we don’t want to have the conversation. So we might need to set our alarms half an hour earlier. As long as independence is the single issue that dominates Scottish politics, social justice will not be.
Kez’s plan to challenge that and continue to fight for those who are being ignored is the right one. We will rebuild and we will restore our party in the pursuit of equality.
That’s the Labour way. Always has been, always will be.