The right leader is at least as important to Scottish Labour as the right policies, says BETH GREENE
Painful as it is to say, the Scottish election defeat was no surprise at all. Indeed some of us saw it coming from a distance and the reasons were many as the stats prove.
Many members are shouting out for more members’ say and involvement, but the sad truth is many districts and branches scream to get members involved without much success. It’s almost as if Scottish Labour is holding out for a hero, someone to inspire us and lead us into battle, figuratively speaking. Part of the SNP’s appeal is Salmond himself rather than the party; take him out of the equation and there isn’t much there. People believe in the man and the image – an essential part of politics today which we seem to overlook time and again.
Convince people you’ve got a strong charismatic leadership and you can convince them almost anything. The strong, straightforward image appeals to a lot of the people and particularly the under-30s. Tommy Sheridan had it, George Galloway has it and Alex Salmond has it. What’s more, the media thrives on it. I’m not a politician but I am a devoted Labourite and I know many an ordinary voter who’d support my theory.
I’ve heard mutterings that a uniquely Scottish image for Scottish Labour is pandering to the nationalists’ independence agenda. But I beg to differ: we will always be part of the whole but there’s nothing to be lost and everything to be gained by a more direct approach to Scottish issues and being seen to concentrate on that. I don’t need to highlight those policies, everyone knows the main points we should focus on for Scotland.
The SNP have a hands-on approach to almost everything because they make a point of involvement within their communities. Only a small minority of people approach councillors or MPs during their regular surgeries; most people phone the council and end up speaking to a variety of people without resolution to their problems. As a simple party member I make a point of keeping an ear to the ground in my community and passing on to my local Labour councillors or my MP any issues or complaints I hear about. More often than not, action will be taken and things resolved, leaving happy residents and voters with the knowledge that Labour sorted it for them. It’s something I’d encourage all members to do to help raise party profile.
Funding is always an issue but organising summer fun days, car boot sales, and all sorts of other activities only really needs a couple of active people to get started, and a small investment of time and effort can pay dividends. Despite being in government, the SNP still run a “Save the local hospital campaign” and always promote things like fund-raising for a local community centres etc – things every Labour branch is capable of doing.
We could have the best policies in Scotland, but without the right image we will neither inspire members nor persuade voters.
Beth Greene is a former business woman who is now deafblind and an advocate for others who are deafblind. Follow her on Twitter at @bethmeg.