Leadership elections only the first step in engaging membership

richardimageRichard Baker MSP, standing to be Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour, sets out the immediate steps he’ll take if he is elected this coming Saturday.


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.

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6 thoughts on “Leadership elections only the first step in engaging membership

  1. “Lack of leadership and clarity of message”.
    This while the slow motion car wreck of an election, continues south of the border. Difficult to see any positives. Whoever wins will spit Labour Left from Right, Westminster from Activists, probably North from South( not including Scotland; Ken/Kez determined to be ‘loyal’).
    ” Debating change”???—–Where was the debate Richard? This was a non-event of an election in Scotland. Eliminate all the waffle, buzz phrases ect, and nothing happened. No policy debate. In fact Kezia stated Policy Doesn’t Matter! It’s communicating “What Labour Is For “.
    Now I would have thought what for and policy were the same thing, but that’s just my opinion.
    Well, good luck. Looks like Labour will need it.
    Someone once said ‘you make your own luck’, but he doesn’t seem to be running for Labour Leader.

  2. I agree on the “new phase of work”. Our party lost it’s way and it can be traced back to 8 August 2007 when this answer was given to consultation:-

    8. Will the Act introduce maximum limits on interest rates for consumer credit?

    No, the Government has decided not to introduce an interest rate ceiling on the basis of research by Policis (an independent company) on the effects of maximum limits interest rates in other countries. However, the Government will keep the decision not to introduce interest rate controls under review.

    That was the start of the end of “New Labour”. Mr Blair started off really well with minimum wage, devolution for Scotland, failed on reforming house of Lords and then lost his way. We need to regain the trust of broken promises

  3. Thank you for this. The Party needs to engage with all members of the community including and perhaps especially, the younger members, the 18 – 30 group. But engaging means we have to offer them something, security and sensible monetary and fiscal policies. Forget ‘end austerity’ because there are tough times ahead regarding spending and protecting services. Changes are bound to happen but the important thing is to detail the changes and discuss them sensibly with a positive outlook and end in sight. Whilst getting our message across, I see it as imperative to highlight the deficiencies of the SNP message and plans. Whilst I agree there should be no more inward reflection and more of an outward message about what Labour policies mean and what Labour will do for those in all communities, I see the threat of nationalism as abhorrent and it should be tackled head-on at the same time. The SNP are keeping quiet about many things and I wonder if there is genuinely a bit of a turn-off from their earlier success, as happened in Quebec? Let’s hope so but let us also highlight how bad nationalism is and what their ridiculous claims and policies wil mean for the Scottish people. I have voted for you for Deputy Leader and I expect you and the Leader to be forceful in taking responsible and sensible arguments to the electorate. I voted for Kezia Dugdale for Leader and both of you will have to stamp down on the SNP and their ridiculous policies; spell out what they mean for the Scottish people and at the same time state what you will do and highlight the differences. It is about going forward and strong leadership. The Party, both in Scotland and Westminster, has not been particularly strong and decisive. That must end. We must be able to demonstrate that we can manage the economy and for every time we put down or criticise the SNP or Conservatives, we must counter with a positive message concerning and confirming what we would do and at the same time, explain exactly what that means.
    Stuart Lee

  4. I wish all the best Richard although is sad that the Scottish Labour Party are facing an uphill struggle at the 2016 Holyrood elections, and even sadder that if you are elected as deputy leader beforehand in that you will probably lose your seat at the election as the polls indicate sorry!

  5. Richard, you need to get a bit more serious. Why not try a pipe? or maybe grow a moustache?

  6. Richard, could you remind us how much knife crime in Scotland costs again?
    Did you say 500 million?

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