Jim O’Neill says we have to move on from the navel gazing of the leadership challenge and focus on the vital elections in seven months, with a positive Labour alternative to the SNP’s diminution of essential public services.
Right. We have focused ourselves inwards for four months and largely lost the plot of opposition. The result is in. Jeremy Corbyn remains Leader of the Party. He has my full support, as I have given to every leader in nearly 40 years of membership of our party, no matter how they have been elected. However, I think the current system of election is the right one. One member one vote is a true democracy and I see myself as much a member of the party as any MP or peer.
But now we have to move on. We must stop contemplating our navels and turn our fire on our real opponents, the Tories and the SNP. Both are promoting policies and governing in a way that I feel is fundamentally wrong. In Scotland, we have begun the fightback. Three recent council by-elections have resulted in wins for Labour – the Labour that many in the press have said is unelectable – and defeat for the SNP, including Nicola Sturgeon’s father. However, just to expect that the gloss will wear off the SNP government and we will inherit again is not enough. We have to show the people of Scotland that we have the policies and the personnel to lead the government of Scotland.
The Tories have a new government with a back bench full of those sacked by May. It seems to be a government totally devoid of policy, since we will not know the thrust of their economic policy until the Autumn Statement and we do not know their policy on Brexit because Mrs May refuses to divulge her plans for the negotiations, slapping down her three Brexit ministers at every turn. We have no news on their policy on welfare, and the Foreign Secretary, the ludicrous Boris, has said, both as London Mayor and since, that he is at ease with immigration, although the thousands of unaccompanied minors in the Calais “jungle”, who they promised to allow into the UK, are still there.
In Scotland, the Party has been given more autonomy and the Scottish Parliament has much greater powers. So, similarly, we must all get behind Kez and her team as they continue to highlight the failings of the SNP government, in health, in education, in investment, and in taking on board the new social support powers. We have a great message here but we have to get the facts past the SNP supporting media, and we must expose the Tories as the same as their Westminster colleagues.
Finally, we have a major election to fight in seven months. The future of local services is under threat and we must expose the loss of many services and jobs caused by the SNP version of austerity and their disastrous council tax freeze. But we also must put forward a positive alternative, showing that local services are safer in Labour’s hands. In this we must involve the members and trust them to understand the needs of their own areas. Many of these will be similar, so a cohesive local government offering can be put together at our conference next year. However, this has to be two-way, and our representatives on the Scottish Executive Committee have to report back to their constituencies, as several of the NEC members do to let us know the thinking at that level.
I do not believe this community of interests will be difficult to pull together, especially in Scottish CLPs. I know that my own, Cunninghame South, has members with the full range of views but dealt with the debates within the Party in a comradely fashion, and they all came together to help Louise McPhater defeat Robin Sturgeon in the recent by-election. They will come together again, along with our comrades in Cunninghame North to seek to maintain our reconquest of North Ayrshire Council in May next year.
The old practice sentence for typists is more true than ever before. Now is the time for all good [members] to come to the aid of the Party. For after all, as Jeremy said, we have much more in common than that which divides us.