We, the people
The Right Hon Lord Foulkes of Cumnock reminds us who we are, and tells us to get our fingers out – because we can win again as we have won before.
Scottish politics is at a crossroads. Which way we go does not depend on chance or the stars, but on the decisions that we make.
On September the 18th more than 2 million Scots voted to remain part of the United Kingdom but the way forward is now more difficult to forecast than if it had been a yes vote.
The fanatics in the independence movement, with “Anyone but Labour” as their motto, have one clear intention: to “destroy” Scottish Labour.
This is unsurprising, given that such nationalists movements, motivated by one clear goal and a simplistic them and us ideology, invariably seek to destroy those who have the temerity to question the correctness of their cause.
How we respond to the threat is a test of our courage, and the strength of our belief.
Under a plain headstone in Cumnock cemetery lies the body of our party’s founder, James Keir Hardie.
Hardie, a Lanarkshire miner who moved to Ayrshire, then to Wales, and London to get a seat in Parliament, encountered many setbacks in his fight to represent the interests of working people. His courage and beliefs, however, let him triumph over adversity and establish the party we are all proud to be members of today.
In 1976, Jim Sillars left the Labour Party and lead the so called Scottish Labour Party, attracting to his cause many disaffected Labour supporters frustrated by a lack of progress on devolution.
Many of the SLP’s members were on the far left, and when they took control at the Party’s conference in Stirling, Sillars unceremoniously walked out of his own conference. History may have an uncanny way of repeating itself.
More recently in the early 80s, Labour was infiltrated by Trotskyites, Marxists and fellow travellers, and the right split away to form the SDP.
I recall the Jeremiahs in our party, when the SDP were polling over 50%, forcing Labour into third behind Thatcher’s Tories, predicting that our party was finished.
But again men and women with courage and belief fought back, and within two decades we had won three successive election victories, a historic feat the party had never before even come close to achieving.
That is what we need to do again. We have the best Scottish Labour MPs at Westminster in living memory and our team Holyrood is exceptionally talented.
But they need to now to gird their loins, get out into every street, club, factory, shop and town centre, tell people of our record, beliefs, and convictions, and convince them that supporting Labour is the only way they can ensure a better future for the people of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
After all, it was Labour that created the welfare state and the NHS. It was Labour that protected workers from exploitation and ensured they were paid the minimum wage.
After thirteen years in office, it was Labour that left Britain’s public services, our schools, our hospitals, and our police stations, in the strongest position they’ve ever been. Crime fell, schools improved, hospitals had more doctors and nurses than ever before. This is not conjecture, this is fact.
This is even before we mention the Scottish Parliament, which Labour created, despite opposition from both the SNP and the Tories.
And it is Labour who should advance the plans, at both UK and Scottish level, which will again inspire support and change Britain’s constitutional arrangements for the better.
Ed Miliband is the only party leader willing to stand up to vested interests. He’s proved his mettle, taking on the Murdochs, the bankers, and the energy companies.
In Scotland, we have plans to keep the railways in Scottish public or mutual ownership, to decentralise within Scotland and to reform council tax so the rich pay more.
What is needed now is for everyone in the Party to look ahead instead of over our shoulders.
The pessimists must be cast aside, the scribblers in the media ignored and our principles and record utilised to show what we’ve already done for Britain, and more importantly how we will ensure that it will succeed and prosper in the future.
The SNP and the Tories are once again in unholy alliance. They need each other to succeed in order to defeat Labour. We, the people, must not let them.