In less than a week we will have in place a new leader and their deputy in Scotland.
This election has allowed our party to discuss what has gone wrong – and what needs to change. We’ve had a good debate and engaged thousands of party members. I’m pleased that the issues which have been at the heart of my campaign, changing our party and empowering our members, have been such a focus of these elections. But once our new leadership team is in place, with less than ten months to go until the Holyrood elections, we need to move on quickly from internal discussion to reach out to communities across the country.
As a candidate in this election for deputy leader I’ve had the chance to put forward my vision for what the job of deputy leader should be: giving our new leader the effective support they will need in their huge task, and ensuring our party is properly equipped to enable their message to reach every community in Scotland. Recent election results have shown the price we have paid for a lack of leadership and clarity of message.
That changes from Saturday with a new leadership team in place, and we need to grasp that opportunity straight away. As soon as the election is over we need to move forward as a united party, get on with making the changes we have debated, and get on the front foot once more in leading political debate in communities up and down the country. We do not have the luxury of time, and that is why I want to start the work immediately of ensuring reform of our party is driven by our membership. That’s why, if I’m elected as the next deputy leader, I’ll host an online Q&A on Facebook on Sunday, to listen to your views and work with members across the country to shape our plans for the future.
My experience of the election campaign and listening to the views and expertise of our membership has made me more convinced than ever that our current tick-box approach to policy making is not only failing our members but failing our party too. That is why if I am elected I will bring forward proposals to our party conference in September to move forward the work of reforming our policy process and ensuring our members are given a real say in next year’s manifesto. I have made the case for regional policy conferences and I believe there is no reason these could not be held ahead of conference too.
It’s vital that we reach out into the wider community, and do it quickly. I believe this begins with supporting local campaigns, so that it can once again be Scottish Labour leading change in communities across Scotland. We must work to engage civic Scotland, charities, businesses, local champions, and make sure that the voices for progressive change are in Scottish Labour. So ahead of conference, I will hold community engagement events in each region, to meet with local members and community groups to find out how Scottish Labour can lead on key issues locally. We must also hold regional skills workshops to share expertise and plan our campaigns.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed standing to be deputy leader. I have been inspired by the passion and determination shown by our members; the skills, ideas and drive for change that exists in our party across the country. But I am under no illusion about the challenges we face. We must be ready to embrace change, to approach next year’s election with a bold, ambitious manifesto, written by members. Once again we must offer change that means something to the people of Scotland, and this starts by leading in our communities at a grass-roots level.
The clock is already counting down to the elections next year. This election is only the first step to getting our party ready to win again. A new phase of work starts on Saturday, and there can be no delay in moving on from debating change to making it happen.