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.

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2 thoughts on “Holding out for a hero?

  1. It amazes me that Alex Salmond is still ridiculed by party members (and even by this very site); I wonder how many of them would be prepared to debate him face to face? Dislike the man, his party and policy if you will, but to deny that he has connected with the electorate, in a way that none of Labour’s post-devolution Scottish leaders has managed to do, is ridiculous. He is a politician of genuine caliber, and sets a high benchmark for our next leader. If we needed a reminder that “strong charismatic leadership” was an essential factor in electoral success, May’s result provided it.

  2. I agree with the overall thrust of the piece in saying that stronger leaders are required at both the front-bench and grass-roots level – from Holyrood to the car-boot, if you will – so that Labour can come back fighting. By fighting I mean fighting for the good of the people – not just fighting against the SNP to win elections and then go back to business as usual. A leader with a strong vision of his/her own is what’s required, but of course they will also have to be open to other points of view, particularly the views of the people themselves. This is easy to say, but hard to accomplish.

    I can’t let this bit go, though, sorry:

    “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….

    The SNP have a hands-on approach to almost everything because they make a point of involvement within their communities.”

    Do they barely exist, or do they have their hands on everything? Both things can’t be true, surely?

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