Policies more than powers – CfS conference tomorrow

Stephen LowAhead of the Campaign for Socialism Conference in Glasgow on Saturday, Stephen Low outlines some of the things Labour needs to be doing.


Having won the referendum what we need to do now is get Labour back into Government, in Scotland and across the UK. To do that we’ll need to be radical, with a focus more on policies for people than powers for parliaments.

It is to aid in that process, helping Labour to develop and deepen our radical agenda, that the Campaign for Socialism has called tomorrow’s conference at the STUC in Glasgow.

The meeting will have contributions from senior MSPs including Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Neil Findlay MSP, as well as discussions led by the political officers of UNISON, Unite & GMB and figures from local government. There will even be a perspective from former GLC Deputy Leader, Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell.

How do we build the houses Scotland needs, and who builds them? How do we create and sustain the skilled jobs that our economy is so short of? What powers and what democratic structure do we need to deliver a winning agenda? How do we empower local government to be not just a provider of services but also a power house of local development? It is in providing radical and credible answers to these questions that Labour can make a political contribution that will be both distinctive and tackle real problems.

Unapologetically the meeting will be policy focused. Effective radicalism consists more in making plans to change lives than plans to change rulebooks.

Our aim of course is social change, but there are sound tactical reasons for putting an emphasis on policies rather than powers. Scotland faces massive problems of inequality, in-work poverty and unemployment. The root of those problems is an avaricious capitalism. Nationalism can’t tackle that – only a socialist agenda can.

More powers for the parliament have both been promised and are in the process of being delivered, but let’s not kid ourselves on that whatever we deliver will either make difference on its own or be enough to placate an increasingly desperate Yes campaign unable accept that the people of Scotland said no. That’s before the complete shamelessness and opportunism of the SNP is taken into account.

They demand ‘job creating powers’ when their intention under independence was to leave the primary job creating power that government has with the UK. They are now demanding that energy regulation should be devolved, something else that until only a month ago, if Scotland were independent, they were going to leave to Whitehall.

There are perfectly good reasons why, for example, energy regulation might be devolved – but the idea that Labour can seem distinct or seek to lead a debate where our opponents single static demand has to be ‘more’ makes little sense. They need to demand more, regardless of how much sense it makes, than we do. Their core purpose having been so resoundingly rejected by the people, they are determined to shout betrayal even, indeed especially, when we are delivering on our promises.

We are the party of more powers, but we’ll do better by being clear in our own minds that constitutional change isn’t social change. And by making sure that people know that.

The peoples flag isn’t a white cross on blue – it’s deepest red. We forget that at our peril.

The Campaign for Socialism “Labour after the referendum” Conference is at the STUC, 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow G3 6NG 10am – 3pm Sat 25th October 2014.

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One thought on “Policies more than powers – CfS conference tomorrow

  1. “Our aim of course is social change, but there are sound tactical reasons for putting an emphasis on policies rather than powers.”

    There are indeed, Stephen. The main one being that Scottish Labour don’t want any powers.

    Policies are much easier. Because then, you can just blether away to your hearts content. With power comes the need for action. With power comes responsibility.

    Like the weedy kid hiding behind the big bully, Scottish Labour is content to shout all its wee policies safe in the knowledge that it has neither.

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