I remember the eighties and the last time our party faced the challenge of fighting back from a massive defeat.
Then it was under Thatcher. Our communities bore the brunt of brutal cuts and ideological attacks on working people. Then Labour Councils and Labour Councillors were the last line of defence for people across Scotland. And with David Cameron’s right wing government back in Downing Street, trying to finish the work that she started, it’s crucial that Labour looks to it’s grassroots base in order to rebuild for the future.
Our leadership team needs to be tough, proactive and unapologetic about the pursuit of Labour values. That is why I am backing Gordon Matheson to be Deputy Leader of our party.
In leading, and winning, a majority administration in Glasgow, Gordon has shown that he is not just a winner, but someone who can remain true to our party’s founding principles despite having to deal with Holyrood-inflicted cuts to Glasgow’s budget, worth £109m in this year alone.
No one should be in any doubt about the scale of the task facing our new leadership team. Recovery is not guaranteed. We have a long hard battle ahead to even earn the right to be listened to never mind to be trusted in government. From the very beginning our leadership team will have to be bold and relentless. In Glasgow, Gordon has shown that with strong leadership and the political will to take bold decisions, you can find innovative ways to deliver real change, to rebuild and regenerate local communities and give opportunities to the people we seek to represent.
When the Tories cut the Winter Fuel Allowance, Labour in Glasgow stepped in and replaced it with a Warm Home Dividend to ensure that no pensioner over the age of 80 had to choose between a hot meal and a warm home.
They created 6000 jobs and over 3000 affordable houses, ensuring that the Commonwealth Games, left a legacy of housing and employment, not just sport.
They delivered the Living Wage to every council employee and pushed it into the wider economy by radically reforming council procurement, convincing over local 250 companies to become Living Wage employers.
None of these achievements were easy or happened by accident, and if our party is to renew itself then it needs a Deputy Leader who will push the boundaries and find creative ways to deliver for the Scottish people despite the naysayers and roadblocks put in place by both governments at Westminster and Holyrood.
We need to re-establish trust with the Scottish people and offer them the change they demand, not the change we think they should want.
We must avoid navel gazing and introspection and look outwards, and that means a strong, stable leadership team with a Deputy Leader who can connect with our CLPs, councillors and activists but also with the communities we serve.
A Deputy Leader who can help to take us forward as a united and inclusive movement with all of our members, not just those in elected office, and working with the trade union movement to face up to our challenges and opponents as valued and trusted equals.
The renewal of our party will not happen from behind a desk in a parliament. It will be where it all started, at community level where working people and organisations come together to achieve more using our collective endeavour than they can as individuals.
Our party needs to regain its confidence and ambition, and the political will to take the issues and priorities that our membership and our wider communities care about, the values that we all hold in common, and use every available power and resource to deliver a fairer and more just Scotland.
Gordon’s track record shows that he not only shares this vision but can deliver it. That is why I am using my nomination, and my vote, to back Gordon for Deputy Leader, and why I urge you to do the same.