DH cropDuncan Hothersall, editor of Labour Hame, welcomes the first week of Kezia Dugdale’s leadership and says a long-term approach to rebuilding is beginning to take shape.


A lot of signals have been sent in the first week of Kezia Dugdale’s leadership of Scottish Labour.

Some of them have naturally had to be about process, as there are internal party matters to be dealt with. We won’t be hearing any more about the self-defeating idea of splitting Scottish Labour from the UK party. We will be seeing a new broom sweep through the regional lists and there’s an indication that constituency selections might be reviewed as well.

And with regard to the front bench, we won’t be letting ourselves be defined by the SNP, but rather setting out our own priorities and pursuing our own path, with a clear intent to use the talents of the whole of the party.

This is all to the good, but the danger is that process issues crowd out the real task which faces us, which is of asserting and articulating our values through policy and rhetoric. Because the challenge we face is not a quick fix to win government next year; it is a slow process to persuade people to listen to us again, and to trust us again, so that we can put Labour values into action in the future. And that means rebuilding the Labour family, in order to rebuild the Labour Party.

That’s why I was delighted at Kezia’s speech on Thursday, in which she began to set out her approach to that challenge. And she did so in uncompromising language. On the one hand, in her passage on environmental justice, she said:

“The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat are shared by all of us. They require collective action to protect both people and the environment. Both are at risk from unregulated capitalism which wastes both human and natural resource.”

Meanwhile she championed entrepreneurship:

“I know that nothing can be achieved without the dynamic growing economy, jobs and opportunities created by entrepreneurs. That the compassionate force of community and government must accommodate with the creativity and genius the market is responsible for.”

The fundamental theme was laid out in her challenge to those who want to continue to argue over where powers sit, rather than what we do with them:

“There is a powerful new establishment in Scotland. It dominates government, public life, both parliaments. Its premise is that shared identity means shared interest.

But the interests of the rich and the poor, those sat in the boardroom and those stood on shop floor, are not always aligned. I would keep universal services and the gains of devolution. But let’s be clear we cannot have a more equal society without redistribution.

We cannot fund public services unless the wealthy, as well as the rest of us, pay a fair share. Public services that work well for the advantaged aren’t necessarily right for the disadvantaged.

These are arguments that have long been central to political debate in Westminster. Our new tax and welfare powers mean that debate, those political choices, are coming north.”

As significant fiscal powers come to the Scottish Parliament, the old politics of blaming Westminster should shift. Part of Labour’s challenge is to be effective enough as an opposition to force the Scottish Government to acknowledge and address that shift. Because without effective opposition, the Westminster blame game can continue even as it becomes less and less rooted in reality.

But in order to become an effective opposition, Labour must find its voice and its place, and find the self-belief to not only offer rightful criticism of government failures – across policing, educational attainment, access to healthcare and more – but also give hope that a better approach is possible, and Labour can be the champion of a better Scotland.

It is, as every commentator and pundit agrees, a massive challenge. But I see in Kezia’s words a sign that she both recognises its scale and has the nous and energy to meet it. One week in and we can see this is no strategy of shock and awe; no urgent electoral calculation; no triangulation of message.

This is a young leader bringing her lived experience to bear as she rebuilds our Labour family. Let’s all join in that effort.

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21 thoughts on “Dugdale off to a good start

  1. Duncan, I admire your enthusiasm for the new leader, but I think you are getting a bit too carried away its far to early to predict any progress good or bad at this stage, the mood music being set by the leader is shall we say like a chef the basic ingredients are on the table then mixed together and put in the oven cooked and then we take out the dish and the proof of the pudding is in the eating so we shall have to wait and see.

    I will be interested to see if Jeremy Corbyn is elected and works with the SNP in Westminster against the Tories and whether the same will happen in the Scottish Parliament with Scottish Labour, somehow I doubt it as Scottish Labour have a negative psychological mindset and a loathing hatred towards the SNP, the only way they may work with the SNP is if Jeremy Corbyn sends a directive to the Brach Office and orders Scottish Labour to work with the SNP against the Tories. I think its best that differences should be put to one side and do we do not forget that the real enemy is the Tories so I think it is in everybodys best interest that Scottish Labour works with and not against the SNP.

    1. The SNP is in government, and has a record of failure in policing, in teacher numbers, in class sizes, in college places, in health provision and in literacy and numeracy, to name but a few issues.

      What Scottish Labour needs to be is a decent opposition to this failing government, not a prop for it.

      1. Only the opposition are saying the SNP has a Government record of failure Duncan. The electorate believes they are doing a better job than anybody else could and with good reason. Their record is better than anybody elses especially Labours.

        1. No it isn’t. The SNP slashed college places – Labour increased them. The SNP slashed teacher numbers – Labour increased them. The SNP slashed nurse numbers – Labour increased them. And the SNP has presided over a catastrophic loss of morale in the police by forcing through a Strathclydeisation; Labour has a far better record on policing.

          Unfortunately your approach to politics is just to make stuff up and hope people believe you.

          1. Yes so the opposition keep telling us.
            Yet there isn’t a college in Scotland that doesn’t have empty places available on several courses nor is there a subject not covered by college level education in Scotland.
            There are 3x times the available courses places on any subject than there are potential students in Scotland to fill them even if you include foreign student places.

            Local authorities recruit and retire teachers Duncan not central Government Ive had to point this out to you before.

            The SNP have not slashed nurse numbers Duncan that is a blatant deliberate bare faced lie. But even if nurse numbers were to decrease at any given time you choose to make the comparison then again its down to local authorities not central Government who do the actual recruiting and retiring.

            If there is a problem with Police morale then the problem is internal and the man in charge was appointed originally as the Chief Constable of Strathclyde by a Labour council. He is a man who’s career was made by Labour.

            Everytime you try to spin and waffle this level of bullshit Duncan you only affect yourself and your own reputation which frankly at this present time is worthless. Sorry if that’s personal but it is the truth.

            Your approach to politics is to troll. That’s it just troll.

            Nice site by the way. Simple effective no frills no complications. Wish more were like it.

          2. Mike,
            Local Authorities dont recruit nurses. Partly because they dont employ them.

        2. “Only the opposition are saying the SNP has a Government record of failure Duncan. The electorate believes they are doing a better job than anybody else could and with good reason.”

          Worth having a read of this – http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13585130.Poll__landslide_Holyrood_victory_for_SNP_predicted_as_support_for_party_increases_to_62_/

          Yes, the SNP are way ahead in voting intention polls – but you shouldn’t necessarily treat this as evidence that people believe the Scot Gov is doing a good job.

          It’s certainly a poor reflection on Labour and the rest of the opposition’s performance in Scotland of late that even given the lukewarm verdict on the SNP’s record in office they are way ahead – but it is clear that it is not “only the opposition” that thinks their record ain’t great.

          1. So can I extrapolate from that piece of freudian slip that the referendum vote was not an actual reflection of what people believe but you think they actually think we would be better of Independent?

          2. I’m not exactly sure how you’ve extrapolated that Mike.

            The referendum had a single question – it’s difficult to know exactly what was in people’s minds when they cast their vote.

            But in this instance we have a single poll showing a) very high support for the SNP and b) pretty low approval rates for their performance in govt.

            So my point was that, even in a selection of people who largely support the SNP, there is recognition that there record in office is not as good as it could/should be.

            Hence my disagreement with your suggestion that “only the opposition” is saying the SNP has a record of failure.

      2. Aye it’s funny that the SNP’s so called record of failure has resulted in a membership greater than all the unionist parties put together in Scotland and a voting intention of over 60% by the citizens of Scotland.

        Yet labour’s fantastic record of achievement appears to have resulted in a almost total wipeout of labour MP’s in Scotland with the same most likely going to happen in next years elections with their MSP’s.

        I think someone is telling fib’s, yet again.

        Also you appear to have forgotten we have all seen Kezia in action over the past six months, on FM’s question time, what’s going to be new ???

  2. Good for kezia. She is attempting to rebuild the Labour family, and to rebuild the UK Labour Party in Scotland. Good luck to her. She is , however , not rebuilding the Scottish Labour Party.

    There is no Scottish Labour Party (yet) , no matter how spurious your logic to the contrary.

    1. One more time for the slow learners: Scottish Labour is part of UK Labour just like Scotland is part of the UK. That you can’t accept this says much, much more about you than it does about us.

  3. SO
    You’re tellimg me that there is no Ayrshire Labour Party because it’s part of the Scottish Labour Party, which is part of the British (but not Northern Irish) Labour Party.
    What about the Èast Ayrshire Labour Party?
    The Cumnock Labour Party?
    My God! The Cumnock Mainstreet Labour Party must be in meltdown!
    Don’t mention it at Number Eleven – I suspect that they might be Green.

  4. Duncan, regarding any failures of the SNP (which is questionable) there is nothing that Scottish Labour in oppostion can do that will have any affect the normal rules of politics have be suspended, the SNP can do no wrong newspapers, polls, media can criticise and highlight whatever the SNP are doing good or bad it does not matter because the people are supporting something bigger than politics and any political party which is a cause, and that cause is the inevitable Scottish Independence, and supporting the SNP is their best ways and means to getting Scottish Independence. The only time that the SNP may be beaten by any other parties will be in a post Independent Scotland

    1. There is plenty that can be done in opposition. Private member’s bills, FMQs, alternative budget-plenty of opportunity for a savvy opposition there once tax setting responsibilities set in. The criticism of labour (not in government in Scotland since 2007, or in UK since 2010) from yes/snp centres on its perceived shortcomings in opposition. You can’t have it both ways.

    2. I take your point about SNP omnipotence in the short term, but I do think that they will eventually have to do more than exploit events, hate the Labour Party and agitate for constitutional change. Particularly once the reality of the breadth of opportunity presented by the Scotland Bill permeates the public consciousness the routine will wear a bit thin. This is why they are slating the bbc- they know it is a trusted (loved?) and fearless institution which will call them out on their vacuity, actually forcing them onto their least comfortable terrain-public policy. Labour has to have a solid record, likely in opposition 2016-2021, to point to when the opportunity arises.

  5. Good article Duncan and your point on forcing the Scottish Government to take responsibility, particularly when the new Scotland Act powers vest, is a good one. As you say it will be a long process.
    You shouldn’t rise to Will etc. Just leave their posts hanging.

  6. John

    Central Government doesn’t recruit nurses or retire them. Why did you leave out the reply button to your post? Were you expecting the obvious reply?

  7. John

    Actually local authorities do employ nurses. Local health authorities who work closely with Local Government not with central Government.

  8. Simon

    Again no reply button.

    The approval ratings for the SNP in Government are either good or satisfactory. Less than 25% are unsatisfied. Which matches the overall pro union party vote in Scotland.

    So all you’ve shown is the fact that your conclusion doesn’t tie in with the data you used as your analysis. You obviously prejudged your own analysis. You told us what you wanted the data to show not what it actually showed.

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