The result in Scotland in May 2015 was a blow for everyone in the Labour movement. No one predicted it would be a near total wipeout. In Scotland itself fellow members are left with nearly no parliamentary representation and were plunged into not one but two leadership elections. Now you are straight back in the firing line trying to make the case for Labour against a resilient and insurgent Scottish National party.
You have had to take the loss, feel the pain and do it all again. Doorstep by doorstep. And, if some accounts are true, the environment seems even more aggressive towards us than last May, which in turn was worse than the referendum before it. I hear your pain.
In England, and no less Wales – where the party is facing its own elections for the assembly in Cardiff Bay – we look on with a combination of horror and disbelief. Worse still, we feel powerlessness.
There is a feeling that we are upset over someone else’s loss, intruding into something private. We are sometimes talked about as if we are sister parties not the same party and we are not; this is the SNP and their separateness argument winning. We too looked up to the Jim Murphys and Douglas Alexanders of this world; we too cannot believe that seats once held by towering figures like Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling are no longer Labour, let alone not even marginals; we too miss the 40-odd Labour MPs that should be sticking it to the Tories when the SNP are too busy sticking it to the Westminster system itself.
I went to Edinburgh and Glasgow on the Progress listening tour and my colleague Matthew Faulding went to Aberdeen. At each of these events, someone would say, ‘I know you [in England] will not care about our problems …’ We both were horrified. I think everyone in the Labour party south of the board cares deeply about our fellow Scottish Labour and its fortunes. It is not that we do not care; it is that we do not know how to help.
We can give our tweets, Facebook timelines, the odd bit of cash (I assume all donations are welcome) and shoe leather. So, again, the Progress team is coming up to do our small bit. It does not feel enough, but a better idea is not out there.
Kezia Dugdale – elected on a whopping 72.1 percent of the vote – is energetically rushing round the country, holding up a mirror to the so-called ‘anti-austerity’ rhetoric of the SNP who want to cut more and tax less than Labour and fighting for what we most care about: the best start for every child. Her aspirational home ownership offer has the right to be heard by every voter. I know Scottish Labour are rallying round their overwhelming choice. It is time now we all did.
So I for one am not going to sit out this fight. I have the minibus ready. Everyone is welcome, bring a friend, and for first timers there is training provided. Anyone who wants to join in can do so here.