Eunis Jassemi says, despite everything, the 2015 general election campaign was a positive experience, and we should look forward to 2016.
As the year comes to a close I wanted to review the year in politics, and speculate as to what may be in store for us in the coming months.
As is common for this time of year, I’ve often been asked “What was your highlight of 2015?” to which I could only respond with “the General Election.” Of course, this was met with confused stares and questionable attempts at sympathetic sounds, and I’m sure many of you reading this are also questioning my odd choice and I’m more than happy to explain it to you all.
Yes, we lost the election, and we lost our seats in Scotland, but these bad memories in some odd way formed into one of my highlights because throughout my time working on the campaign I had the chance to see the passion and fire that runs through our wonderful party first hand. And through our defeat, I saw how much those I worked with cared about what we could achieve.
In January I was thrilled when I got the job from the Scottish HQ as the General Election Campaign Assistant for Glasgow Central. I was given a grand opportunity to work with a great candidate and a strong campaign staff but I was not naïve. I knew the challenges we would face:
- A large Yes backlash, in which our Labour Yes supporters abandoned us for the SNP or didn’t bother to vote.
- The idea voters had of Scottish Labour – that it was simply a branch office.
- Trying to motivate the broad membership in the constituency – I didn’t want to have a small core team doing all the work.
- Winning over young Labour sympathizers and undecided voters. Many would see Labour as a traditional party compared to a more youthful SNP.
All tough, yes, but I wasn’t going to let this get to me. I promised myself I’d never slow down, always keep a strong energetic vibe and find new ways to improve our campaign.
During the course of the election I met some wonderful people. From Glasgow to Aberdeen I’ve made some incredible friends. From councillors to youth members and other organisers, I felt as though I had built a strong friendship with them all. I saw in them what I kept telling myself to do. All were energetic, all wanted to fight to provide the UK with a strong Labour government, and to have a fair, just society. They weren’t doing it because it was their job; they wanted to use all their talents and energy in the best possible way.
We had the right policies that everyone could agree on. For example, on education:
• Investing £125 million more in education over the course of the next Parliament to close the attainment gap.
• Invest £36 million to improve the reading and writing ability of Scotland’s children.
• Employ 200 literacy teachers.
Sadly these and other great policies simply didn’t do enough to win over the average guy on the street. With the aftermath of the referendum, the SNP saying ‘Vote SNP to get a Labour government’, and the Tory scare tactics saying if you vote Labour you’ll get an SNP government, it was simply everyone against Labour. But despite this I saw teams across the country still motived for a fight and brushing off all the negativity.
I found new members – and some old members – not buying this rubbish anymore; they were so eager to help out with the campaign! I remember one member who wasn’t active telling me ‘I can’t just sit around anymore; I’m worried what’s going to happen after the election. Point me where to go or what to do and I’ll do it!’ There are stories like this across our party from Aberdeen to Dumfries. Over time members were energized to take up the fight for a Labour government.
Looking over voter data just 2 days before the election I convinced myself Glasgow Central would be a very close Labour hold or only just a SNP win. During the weeks of campaigning I truly felt the seat was 50/50 and that our message was slowly getting through to the voters. But alas, come election night it just wasn’t to be. Just a few sampling of some wards showed we lost.
The mood turned grim. I knew we lost. I sat in a chair, wanting to burst in tears.
And just before the Central results was going to be announced, again I near burst out crying – I was remembering all the hard work the team put in, all the supporters that came out to help the campaign, all the work the campaign staff had done for the GE, and I felt devastated for all the other seats. I was, however, comforted by my family – the fabulous election team. I held it in and watched the results in the Glasgow Velodrome.
I felt down a few days later, but after a while I got that energy back. I wasn’t going to let this bring me down.
During the summer I launched my campaign against college cuts with a petition to the Scottish Government, and I was pleased to get national coverage through the Daily Record and some coverage in local papers. With nearly 2000 people signing the petition so far, I have a feeling 2016 will see a big boost as we draw closer to the election.
The election has given me that necessary energy boost and I’ll harness it for next year. 2016 will be a tough year for Scottish Labour. We had great policies for 2015, and I know we’ll have a fresh radical vision for the country compared to the other parties. We need to have a strong business and enterprise vision to provide opportunities for all, and I’m glad Kezia has said the manifesto will be the ‘the most pro- enterprise’ ever.
I also believe an industry policy is needed. We need to attract more of the high-tech manufacturing world to Scotland. We are a motivated country, but a country that needs new skills to keep up with the 21st century economy.
I know we can turn out all those members who were involved in 2015. Both new and old were eager to help out and in 2016, I don’t doubt we will once again have their support.
The question for Scotland is this – should we stick with the same old same old routine, where we promise the world but provide no action? Or do we go for something new, something radical and has the will to make that change? I know Scottish Labour is the only movement for real social change, a change Scotland desperately needs.
So, despite the miserable election result, the general election will remain one of my highlights of 2015. I met some incredible folk, made new friends, and saw the passion and energy everyone put in despite all the negativity thrown at us, a radical manifesto for Scotland and more.
Some say the SNP will have an easy win in 2016, but I intend to make sure they don’t and I, along with all the might of our old and new members of Scottish Labour, will fight hard to deliver the real change Scotland truly deserves. To deliver a strong Labour government which will stand up for social justice and be willing to take the tough decisions to get there.
Happy new year everyone, hope you have a great 2016!