What is to be done?
Jim O’Neill says Labour must not repeat the mistakes of the post-Foot years and that Scottish Labour must now have a single-minded focus on the 2021 Scottish election and our offer to the people.
I make no apologies for using the title of Lenin’s 1902 pamphlet as the title for this piece. The difference is, where Lenin’s pamphlet was full of certainty, I am asking a question.
I am asking this question on the basis of my 40 years in the Labour Party. This is not our lowest ebb in that time. The numbers we put up during the time of the Social Democrats beat this, and many perceived that to be the end of the Labour Party. But we came back and served our country through thirteen years of Labour government.
But there are parallels to earlier times. After the “longest suicide note in history” according to Denis Healey, Michael Foot resigned and we navel gazed over the next several years. We must this time avoid the blood letting that kept us out of government for another fourteen years.
We do need a new leader; not one who spends all their time in the minutiae of policy, but one who can inspire us with a vision of a socialist government for the many, not the few. But that person must not only inspire our party. They must inspire the many who did not accept our offer in 2019 but chose to support a demagogue with a history of lying to the people, and did all he could to avoid public scrutiny during the campaign.
And we must also, here in Scotland, ask why so many Scots continue to support a party which in government, by all opinion polling, are failing to look after the key parts of our public sector, especially health and education. That is why it is right that the Scottish Executive Committee has adopted a listening mode to try to analyse this conundrum.
It is also right that, for the next two years, we in Scotland must focus on Scottish matters. In two years we have the Holyrood election and we must hone our policy offering to ensure that it speaks to the real needs and desires of the Scottish people.
That is not to say that we should slavishly follow the various and varying cries of the opinion polls over the next two years. We have a specific take on the delivery of governance, otherwise we would not be members of the Labour Party. It is our role, and particularly our leader’s role, to get that message over to the people of Scotland and to turn them away from a slavish nationalism towards the management of the Scottish economy, laws and public services which are the remit of our government.
And we must seek to minimise the effects of the easy SNP answers to all difficulties – that is is all the fault of Westminster austerity. After all, the current SNP government has cut funding to local authorities by far more than the Tory government has cut the block grant.
The first step towards this within the party is a substantial engagement with the second stage policy consultation leading towards the 2021 manifesto. As a member of the Scottish Policy Forum I will be consulting my two CLPs in the early part of 2020, having had the consultation delayed by the election. And we must be honest in our response to these proposals. The only way that the SPF will be able to create a body of policy that best reflects the views of the Party is if you give us your feedback, both positive and negative. And don’t let us be hung up on tags. The CfS, the Fabians and all party groups in between have a role in this. But you must take part.
There it is. Under a year to set out our stall for the 2021 elections. Let this be the low time for the party in Scotland and focus all our efforts in selling our Scottish policies to the Scottish electorate and returning a much larger group in the Scottish Parliament, one that can hold the government to account and implement our policies at Holyrood.