Before Christmas I asked members for their reflections on the devastating General Election result. I have been overwhelmed by the number of responses, many of which had clearly been given great thought and consideration. Over the festive period, I made a point to read every one of the almost 300 responses.
I want to thank everyone who responded and set out what I propose to do with those reflections. I have tried to capture below the common themes in the majority of replies. I promise that I will use these responses when the Scottish party’s own review takes place to ensure the voices and experiences of Glasgow members are heard and understood.
1) Perceived neutrality on the big issues
The UK party’s perceived ‘neutrality’ on Brexit and mixed messages over independence and a second independence referendum was a common theme across most of the responses I received. The majority of replies were clear that not having a much longer established and clear position on Brexit, the biggest issue facing the country, was a huge problem for Labour. The lack of political leadership on this issue was seen as a major factor. So too were the mixed messages and perceived (be it real or otherwise) weakness on independence. The contradictory statements of UK Shadow Cabinet members, against an agreed Scottish Labour policy on independence, saw a large number of members express concern that this made it harder for Scottish Labour to have a clear position and cost us dearly.
This is clearly a sensitive issue and one which all members will have their own view on, but it would be wrong to not report back that a majority of replies referenced that leadership issues caused the party problems, that it was a regular feature on the doors and cost Labour votes.
There was a strong sentiment across the replies that the party looked and felt divided. There appeared little or no unity of purpose and some suggested that it looked like it was only a welcome place for some.
4) Message and Policy
There was strong sentiment expressed that the Tories and SNP had a very simple ‘Get Brexit Done’/No2indyref2’/’Stop Brexit’ message while Labour had a much more mixed message on individual policies without a clear and simple overall message.
While not by any means unanimous, there was concern among a number of replies that our manifesto was simply not credible. Members who commented on policy thought that, individually, most of the policies in the manifesto were good and popular with voters. But when taken together it was simply not believed that Labour could deliver on all the promises made.
The four themes above were not the full extent of comments made but they do represent, I think fairly, the most common areas members raised in their responses to me.
I am very clear that:
• We must not continue to appear like we are sitting on the fence on the biggest issues. Consistent with our values, we must have a clear and unequivocal opposition to independence and another independence referendum, while at the same time offering a radical and credible vision for Scotland.
• We can only credibly preach unity to the country if we demonstrate unity ourselves. That’s why we must recognise and rebuild a broad church Labour Party that is united and focusing on healing the wounds in our country, not on fighting false battles within.
• Going into a UK leadership contest all the candidates must set out how they intend to work with the Scottish party, respect its autonomy and their view on the constitutional debate. I hope whatever position they adopt will be based on the views and agreed policy of Scottish members.
• We are also now less than 16 months from the next Scottish Parliament elections and we must start working now on building that campaign and agreeing a radical and deliverable policy platform for 2021.
Going forward, the Party in Scotland will be undertaking its own review. I will feed in my own views and also the thoughts of members who have sent me a response to date. I am keen that we continue this dialogue though, so please do send further thoughts or if you haven’t responded yet please do. I know this has been a difficult few years, but I believe now more than ever we need a strong and united Labour Party.
MSP for Glasgow Region