Rebuilding our Movement: Reconnecting with Scotland
I started my campaign to become the Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party in Lossiemouth in the North East of Scotland.
I did this for two reasons: I wanted to start my campaign where my family started their lives in Scotland and I wanted to show there should be no ‘no-go’ areas for Labour in Scotland.
I have enjoyed speaking to hundreds of Party members about what we got wrong in May but more importantly about how we rebuild our Party.
We have to acknowledge that the manner of our defeat in May let down, not just our party, but our country.
Scotland deserves a better, stronger and more confident Labour Party. We must define what our Party’s values and principles mean in 21st century Scotland. If we are to take on the SNP and hope to govern, then we must fundamentally change the way we engage with the public.
My campaign is focussed around four key areas.
Firstly, we must unify as a Party. Team Labour must be more than just a slogan but the way that we operate as a Party on a daily basis.
We must treat all elected members, regardless of the chamber in which they sit, as equals. This must be the new Leadership team’s priority as the next big electoral test will be the local Government elections in May.
The fact that Labour MPs and MSPs have only met twice in the last seven years emphasises everything that is wrong with the current Scottish Labour Party. As someone who is a friend of the Scottish Parliament and passionately believes in Devolution, I am convinced that I am the candidate best placed to do this.
I am honoured to have the support of over two-thirds of my Parliamentary colleagues including a majority of MSPs, as well as 110 supporting nominations from Councillors.
But while it is important we rebuild our relationships internally we must also reconnect with Scotland and speak to wider public concerns.
We must also acknowledge that we have neglected our relationships with our Trade Unions and affiliates, the third sector, faith groups, the business community as well as the electorate.
I have the energy and enthusiasm to get around the country and build the foundations for whoever our new leader is. To give them the best chance possible to become the next First Minister of Scotland.
We need to fundamentally change the way we develop policy. I served on the 2007 policy forum prior to the Scottish Parliament elections, spending two years producing a series of policy documents which were not adequately reflected in the eventual manifesto.
If elected as Deputy I will lead the way in ensuring that elected members pay more than just lip service to the role of Party members in our policy processes and ensure that every member feels a stake in the future political direction of our Party.
We have a fantastic array of talent and experience in our movement and we are missing an opportunity if we marginalise them in our policy processes.
I recently chaired a policy commission for the Young Fabians entitled Building Stronger Communities. We held sessions in London, Manchester and Glasgow taking contributions from a mainly youthful audience who were asked to pitch potential policies for a fictional manifesto. What struck me about the commission was how enthusiastic and engaging our members were in the policy process and how many good ideas we heard.
If elected as Deputy Leader I will encourage events such as the Building Stronger Communities Commission to enrich our policy process, connect our policy makers to the ideas of members and affiliates and give them a personal stake in our Party manifestos.
We must use the collective talent of our movement in conjunction with civic Scotland to ensure that our policy is thorough and practical, staying true to our values but also offering the Scottish people a positive vision of Scotland.
Given the donations the SNP have been given recently we may not be able to match them on cash resource but we can beat them on energy, ideas and enthusiasm. To do this we need to tap into the collective talent of the wider Labour movement.
But while the focus has been on our structures and organisation there is no denying it was a political defeat in May.
We must take the SNP on in the argument and win but since our defeat in May we have allowed the SNP and the media to describe our Party as bust, devoid of ideas and talent.
I believe Scottish Labour has a bright future. We have immense talent in our party and our wider movement but we need do more to promote that talent.
We must do more to give people the confidence, the training and the backing to contribute to our Party.
As Deputy I will use my position to encourage and promote the talent we have in our movement, young and old, to build the strongest team possible to promote the Labour values that we all share.
These will be my key priorities as Labour’s Deputy Leader.
I care deeply about the future of our Party and I have the energy and the motivation to bring our movement together.
To contact me or to get involved in my campaign please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to working with you to rebuild our movement and help deliver a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.
Anas Sarwar is the MP for Glasgow Central and a candidate for the Deputy Leadership of the Scottish Labour Party. More information can be found at www.anassarwar.org