Jeremy Corbyn is MP for Islington North, and is standing to be Leader of the Labour Party. Writing for Labour Hame today he says we have a mountain to climb to regain trust, and members need a stronger say in shaping policy.
On Thursday I boarded the 06:30 train to Edinburgh to visit Holyrood, our elected representatives, party members and our Scottish campaign team. It was a pleasure to be in Scotland again – even though I didn’t get home til midnight. Labour has a mountain to climb to win in 2020 – and, as is true for UK geography, the biggest mountain is to be found in Scotland.
Our Party has lost its way throughout the UK. We have too often ignored our supporters or been cowed by powerful commercial interests and the press. I want to change that.
In Scotland though this UK-wide trend was intensified by the mistaken decision to share platforms with the Tories, which Scottish colleagues had warned me would be disastrous. Sadly, they were proved right.
While the SNP harnessed the insurgent momentum of the ‘yes’ campaign, to some we looked like part of the establishment defending the status quo. One-third of our supporters voted yes in the referendum – and it seems most of them stuck with the SNP at the general election. We need to win back those supporters. To do that we need to be seen as the party of social justice again – campaigning as a social movement for that cause, rebuilding trust and giving people hope.
I believe I can win back lost supporters, and this week two trade unions that are no longer affiliated to our party – the FBU and the RMT – voted to back my campaign, following the support of affiliated unions BFAWU and ASLEF.
It must be up to members in Scotland how the party is organised in Scotland. But we need to ensure that we have the policies that pool our shared resources, redistributing wealth and power across the UK. When I was chair of the London Group of Labour MPs in 1993 I met with our then leader John Smith to discuss restoring devolved government to London. He supported that, but naturally argued that devolved government in Scotland was more urgent.
John Smith was a decent man. I didn’t always agree with him, nor him with me, but he was always prepared to listen to different arguments and accept difference within the party. If elected leader, I would aspire to continue John’s tradition to genuinely listen to everyone’s views within the party. That would start with establishing a constitutional convention to resolve those key questions of where power should lie and of lowering the voting age as Scotland did in the referendum.
Our remaining Scottish MP has taken a clear stance against Trident renewal. I joined CND aged 15 and have since spoken at several Scottish CND rallies. I know many Labour members and trade unionists share that view that huge investment in money, jobs and skills could be put to more socially useful purposes. I propose we establish a Defence Diversification Agency to ensure those workers’ skills are not lost.
Like a clear majority of the public, I believe our railways should be operated as a public service, rather than for private profit. The re-privatisation of the ScotRail franchise and proposed privatisation of CalMac ferry services shows that the SNP government is not so far from the Westminster consensus.
At First Minister’s questions last week, Neil Findlay MSP asked an excellent question about the 50,000 jobs lost in Scottish local government. These jobs have meant the closure of libraries and swingeing cuts to adult social care. Nicola Sturgeon’s answer was a disappointing party political swipe that didn’t even acknowledge that austerity policies are harming people’s life chances and taking away opportunities.
We must reject the notion that the journey to prosperity tramples over people – and become an anti-austerity movement. A movement which rebuilds communities in all parts of the country recognising that well paid jobs, high quality public services and investment are the core of a civilised society. We can regenerate communities in all parts of the UK if we are willing to be radical enough.
Polling shows that Scottish people would be more likely to vote Labour if we advocated these sorts of policies: scrapping Trident, abolishing university fees, bring rail back into public ownership, and setting the minimum wage at the level of the living wage.
We have a mountain to climb to regain trust. We now need to ensure that members have a stronger say in the running of the party and shaping of policy, so that we offer the social and economic policies to build a movement to give people hope – the hope of a better world.
We can build that movement. Please get involved in my leadership campaign (www.jeremyforlabour.com) and together we can deliver that change.