Jamie original picJamie Glackin, Chair of the Scottish Labour Party, sets out the hard road ahead for Scottish Labour, but reminds us that our roots are strong and our values just.


Readers of LabourHame will be no doubt relieved that I have chosen to remain relatively silent following our general election drubbing. There were a few reasons for this. Like all activists, I was shattered. Beyond tired in fact. And I know I was not alone.

In the immediate aftermath of the General Election I pleaded with colleagues on the SEC to allow the party the coming days to grieve, to rest and then to allow us to return ready for the serious analysis that had to take place. It may be Jesuitical in origin but the principle that serious decisions are best not taken in times of desolation, is, I believe, a profound one.

But a week is a long time in politics and nobody was allowed that space.

I had serious reservations about asking Jim to step down. I thought it was important that the party didn’t immediately lurch straight into a leadership contest that would allow the party to look inward again, perhaps making the party feel better about itself but not addressing the existential questions that we now face.

But we are where we are and, in the end, Jim took the decision to announce his departure at the next SEC. I think for him, personally, that he’s come to the right decision. And as politicians go, may I say that Jim Murphy brought an energy to the Scottish Labour machine that I haven’t seen before. Politics can indeed be brutal. Jim is a tough guy though. He’ll be alright.

As every pollster will tell you, success in elections rely primarily on two things – the economy and trust. I happen to agree with those in the wider UK party who say that we didn’t really have any offer at all for people who have mortgages, or even those attempting to get on the housing ladder. We had little to say to folk whose pensions and savings had taken a hit due to years of low interest rates. We had plenty to say about those whose lives are difficult on zero hours contracts and were right to do so. But if we have no offer for the vast majority of tax-payers, including public sector workers, then we will always have a rough ride at the polls. I feel that Labour nationally would have fared better if we had offered a credible plan to insulate the country against any future crash – preventing government from being dragged into a cycle of austerity, not out of choice but of necessity.

Trust is absolutely critical, and is the principal problem that we face in Scottish Labour. People say that they want a Scottish Labour Party firmly on the left. But when we offered it, they voted for another party who said much the same as we did. Why? Because they trusted the SNP more than Scottish Labour.

And though it pains me to say this, Nicola Sturgeon and many in her party, including some of the new intake of MPs, strike me as being authentic people. Whilst achieving independence may be their core driver, I think it is foolish to suggest that social justice is not a very close second. And despite her government’s very shaky record, the fact remains that the sky hasn’t fallen in. The SNP have successfully met the electorate where they are (which is left of centre for those still in doubt) and capitalised hugely on the post-referendum coalescence that formed around them.

And this clearly presents Scottish Labour with a number of problems. First, the issue of the status of the party within the wider UK context is a trap into which many are waiting for us to fall. Remember that word authentic? Well if we believe genuinely in solidarity and the pooling and sharing of resources this means that Scottish Labour cannot be a separate entity from the wider UK party.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t operate under a more federated structure which I happen to believe would be fairer to other parts of the UK as well. But if we suddenly became a nationalist party then it would rightly be seen as populism of the very worst kind. And totally inauthentic.

So where do we go in the future? Well in the next few months I believe its important that Scottish Labour builds the groundwork for us to meet the challenges that have actually been staring us in the face for a long time. Fundamental reform has to come from the grassroots of the party itself – from the activists, trade unionists and supporters. It should not be left to the party leadership to carry the full responsibility and drive the changes that are required. And people who stand for election have to be, first and foremost, Labour activists with a passion for Labour values.

Scottish Labour was born in our industrial communities. Most of that industry has now gone. But new technologies and sectors are alive and well in Scotland. And at the heart of these new economies and communities are people.

When Scottish Labour are back in those workplaces and communities, listening more than talking, then others may see us as the authentic route to social justice, to equality and to that fairer society that everyone wants. But get ready for the long haul.

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11 thoughts on “Earning back trust

  1. For the party to move forward I believe we need to install a Tarantino rule.
    Anyone who is a fan of Tarantino knows that he only casts actors based on nationalities.
    E.g a German character would only be played by a German Actor. An American character by an American actor.
    Applying the Tarantino rule would help bridge the gap between political double speak and practical policies.
    A former teacher would be Education Secretary.
    A former police officer/lawyer would be Justice Secretary.
    This is off Scottish Labour but the prime example of someone out their depth is Tristram Hunt.
    I’ve no doubt Tristram is a hard-working individual but he has little to no credability in reforming or improving education.
    Would you call a painter and decorator to fix your boiler?

  2. I’m a new member of the Labour party (Dec 2014) although have always been a Supporter.

    I have never felt so detached from the Labour Party as I did during the Referendum and could have been an easy decision to join SNP. I know you’ll be thinking why would it be easy given their record of ‘siding with the Tories’ and not-so-progressive policies ? I voted from home rule – Yes in the referendum, maybe we are better together but wasn’t convinced.

    SNP have a helluva lot of new members that were Labour Supporters and I had common ground with them here. The Yes campaign was positive with slogans and rallies such as ‘Hope over Fear’ – someone not overly political can identify and be attracted to this particularly as it was friends, neighbours and local people involved. Yeah, SNP/Yes were weak on the economy and keeping the £ and BoE is not independence from the UK (but another argument for another day).

    Labour had common ground with the Tory party in the referendum and the ins/outs of if they ran separate campaigns etc are neither here nor there to many. Are Labour Red Tories – quite ridiculous to suggest it never mind have it taken seriously yet people do ?

    Why did I not just join SNP, common sense and I can see their record in Holyrood. I might share one objective with them but that’s about it. If it had been a Yes, I always made it clear SNP would not be my choice of Government. Their rivals are Labour, always have been (as history has repeatedly shown) and a concern for me.

    How can Labour earn back trust when they are not in power in Holyrood or Westminster, easily (optimistic maybe)

    Over 9 million UK residents voted for Labour, they have 232 seats compared to SNP’s 56, representing 30.4% UK residents compared to SNPs 4.7%. An SNP MP made a poor attempt to belittle Labour yesterday and thought a game of musical chairs was the way forward – did he think he was in Holyrood, it was a UK election let not forget.

    Labour are the main opposition in Westminster and why anyone in Scotland is being railroaded into believing otherwise is quite astonishing and insulting.

    Scotland had their referendum only 8 months ago and the result showed we will remain as part of the UK. Over 2 million people in Scotland now don’t feel represented or are relying on a party who’s only goal is breaking up the UK at any cost and have completely disregarded their wishes. Labour need to represent these Scottish voters somehow in Westminster. Labour voters across the UK have shared issues particularly with Welfare and taxation – make sure a robust opposition is provided here for us all. Hopefully SNP will represent their constituents as they promised they would.

    Labour’s manifesto was picked to pieces yet SNP adopted much the same and got away with it – weird.

    Labour have been blamed for all manner of recent injustices yet have not been in power, Holyrood for 8yrs and Westminster for 5 yrs – weird.

    SNP were questioned on evident falling literacy levels and Education last week in Holyrood yet offered no defence or solution and all but laughed, nobody batted an eyelid – weird.

    Somehow Labour’s campaign in Scotland during the referendum has being their undoing yet they have never pretended to be anything other than a Unionist Party.

    Maybe strong leaders are what we need but strong opposition on issues that really matter across the UK is where the trust will be won.

    1. True about numbers of MP’s and vote share but one key point missed.
      If Labour are to stand any chance of succesfully opposing the tories at Westminster, they will be needing help…….

    1. Yes, at least he has had another job – but surely the point is what has he contributed to education discussions or indeed anything else within Labour? He has made a couple of rather eccentric comments on Academies. He also believes it is OK (in certain circumstances) for an education secretary to send their children for private education – presumably when they as ministers do not achieve a good enough state system for their own children. As far as I can see he has largely been carried by his own forceful marginal opinions than offering anything to Labour.

      I must admit he does write good history though, I would recommend he sticks to what he is good at. Thank goodness it looks as though the Parliamentary Labour Party have recognised the same.

  3. Duncan, I can see the problem you have here.
    Jamie Glackin’s title might be Chair of Scottish Labour but his actual job is Director of Corporate Affairs for the Scottish branch and that is a powerful position.
    However the very existence of Labour in Scotland depends on an honest, open debate. Time is not on your side.
    My point is that Mr. Glackin uses this article to clearly state that an Independent Scottish Labour Party will not happen. That British Labour has decided.
    This has to be a decision made in Scotland by Labour’s Scottish members.
    It is your duty to publish all sides of this existential debate.

    1. I am publishing all sides of this debate, but you are still wrong in fact. Nothing here is diktat, everything is personal opinion. You are allowed your own opinions, but you are not allowed your own facts.

  4. I recognise Labour Hame is open to proper debate and congratulate you for that. And I’m happy if you correct any mistakes I might make.
    So help me here, Jamie Glackin is Chair of Scottish Labour. Scottish Labour is in crisis. There are many members of the Labour Party in Scotland that believe that control from London is the problem and that an independent Scottish Labour Party has to established before Labour is wiped out next year. That Jamie Glackin articulates in this essay that this would be a ‘trap’ and defends the present arrangements with the British LP. I hope that you recognise these as facts.
    And therefore please tell me what right Jamie Glackin as Chair of Scottish Labour has to take sides in this debate? Is it not his responsibility at this time to ensure an open debate is held before a decision is made?

    1. Jamie has as much right as any member to take sides on any issue. He has no duty of impartiality.

      Oh, and most people I’ve heard saying Labour should split are not Labour members.

  5. Fair enough Duncan you have never agreed with me in the past why should it be any different now.
    Remember a couple of years back when we argued over the subject of a the referendum question and whether it should include a question on full fiscal autonomy? I said Labour should support it. Take up Salmond’s offer. You were adamant that it had to be one question Yes or No. I said a FFA option (on the ballot paper) would win it out the park and Labour in Scotland would have been seen as the winners.
    Well you were proven right. You got the result you wanted, Scotland voted No. Labour won.
    Who knows you may be right again, stick to the plan, fight next years Holyrood and local council elections as the UK Labour Party in Scotland and return to government?

    1. Interesting discussion.

      Duncan, I know you are “at it” when you say the only people suggesting Scottish Labour should split are not Labour members. It’s being said by quite a few people North and South of the border, as well you know. And I’d be willing to bet quite a lot of money on it happening this year.

      But, assuming the split is a given, which I do, the really interesting question that arises concerns the nature of the split; will it be a real split or just a fake New Labour spinny split?

      We’ll all be watching. Give us one sniff of a suggestion that the split is fake and it’ll work against you badly and blow up in your face. So, any suggestion that you’ll work together at Westminster, that Scottish Labour MPs will accept the Labour whip, that strings are still getting pulled by London, and instead of helping you in the eyes of the electorate it will hurt you and it’ll be seen as just another cheap marketing stunt.

      On the other hand, a real split throws up some tantalising possibilities. What if a really independent Scottish Labour Party had a group hug and a chat and decided to support Scottish independence? After all, if independence is good for the gander (Scottish Labour), surely it’s good for the Goose (Scotland) too?

      Quite a pickle you’re in, eh…

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