Barrie Cunning is standing down as Secretary of his CLP and says part of the answer for Scottish Labour must be better engagement, both with members and across the UK Labour movement.
It’s with with a heavy heart I write this as I will be standing down as CLP Secretary for the beautiful constituency of Ettrick Roxburgh and Berwickshire. In the time I’ve been involved I’ve seen the party that once dominated Scottish politics lose all its Westminster seats bar one and get replaced by the Conservatives as the official opposition.
It’s easy to criticise and point out where we went wrong but offering a credible solution to the current challenges we face is no easy task. But it’s one we must embark upon.
As a Scottish Labour candidate in the recent election I was proud of our manifesto and I firmly believe that our progressive policies on housing, education, transport, health and taxation all resonated well with the electorate. But the issue that concerned a lot of voters was the constitutional question.
It pains me to say this but the Conservatives had a strong message which was we will fight to keep Scotland in the union and hold the government to account.
The constitutional question will continue to be a dominant feature in Scottish and UK politics for a long time and the Labour party both Scottish Labour and UK Labour needs to tackle this issue head on as opposed to brushing it to the side and hoping it goes away. We did that with immigration and it did us no favours whatsoever.
I welcome the party’s consultation with the membership on being more autonomous, but this has to be more than just a mere charm offensive and I sincerely hope it is. I’d also like to see Scottish Labour engage with their UK colleagues on the future of our party and movement.
The electorate is changing, and the Labour Party needs to acknowledge and embrace that change if it’s to remain a relevant force in both Scottish and UK politics.
Everyone will have their own thoughts as to what we should do to get back on track, but I believe it starts with re-engaging with the membership, talking to members and CLP office holders to get a better idea of what’s going on at a ground level.
I’d also like to see an open-door policy were CLP secretaries or chairs can speak directly to the general secretary about any concerns they may have. This could be done via a surgery type system where the General Secretary makes space for, say, ten appointments on the first Friday of every month. This is a practical proposal and one I believe would be positive for the party.
I think it would also be good if the General Secretary made a firm commitment to meet with all CLPs across the country over the course of a year. This would reinforce the message that the Labour Party is a members’ party, and I honestly believe it would help boost morale amongst the membership.
It’s our members who sell the Labour Party’s values to people when out canvassing or holding a stall or taking part in a campaign, and it’s vital that we re-engage, re-connect with and renew our relationship with the membership as part of a wider fightback strategy.