Ballot papers start dropping through Labour folk’s letterboxes today, inviting them to vote for a new Scottish Labour leader. So, the burd invited three high profile supporters to set out why they are supporting their chosen candidate. Kezia Dugdale MSP for the Lothians, newly elected in 2011 and already making her mark at Holyrood, is first up, telling us why she’ll be voting for Ken Macintosh MSP.
I supported Iain Gray and Johann Lamont for the leadership last time. I still admire them both, especially the dignity they’ve demonstrated over the last few months. Both are fine, principled people, passionate about social justice and with the deepest of intellects. Johann especially has been an inspiration to generations of Labour women activists.
But in this election, I want to tell you why I am supporting Ken Macintosh. A kind and exceptionally decent man with a steely determination firmly fixed on Scotland’s future.
When I was out canvassing in The Inch two weeks ago a woman answered the door. She said she had voted Labour in 2007 and in 2010, but after much thought opted for the SNP in May for the first time in her life.
She wasn’t a nationalist, and hasn’t been impressed by the SNP in recent months. So when I asked her why, she told me she knew what Scottish Labour was against, but could no longer say what we stood for. If even our own supporters feel that way, how can we possibly go on like before?
For the last three years we have been vocal – and in some areas successful – in exposing the SNP’s shortcomings on poverty, social justice, education and jobs. But we haven’t told people what a Labour Scotland looks like. Whether it’s a narrative or a story, what constitutes Labour’s ‘happy ending’ needs to be told.
Last May, only 1 in 8 people voted Labour. If we want to win the trust of more people than that, we can’t go on like before. The answer to our problems simply can’t be more of the same: we can’t go back to the voters and tell them they got it wrong. We have to listen to the message they gave us, however hard it is to hear.
The election result was a crisis for the Scottish Labour Party. But we didn’t lose the election in a six week campaign. We lost it by failing to reform and revitalise the way we work. The way we have presented and articulated over values over years.
To me, Ken Macintosh is the candidate who understands best the scale of the genuine change that Scottish Labour needs.
Ken knows that the Party needs to articulate far more clearly what it is for, rather than simply what it is against. Here are five reasons why I am supporting him:
First, he has the capacity to reach out to the whole of Scotland. Not simply geographically but demographically too. We cannot rely on a heartland vote that no longer exists – and we never should have.
Second, he is untarnished by the mistakes of the 2011 campaign. In fact, he was one of a couple of limited success stories, winning his seat against the odds and turning one of the safest opposition seats in Scotland into one of the safest Labour ones, increasing his majority by well over 1000 votes despite a very difficult boundary change. So Ken knows how to win.
Third, he is totally comfortable with his politics. As he says, he is neither a Unionist nor a Nationalist, but a Devolutionist. Someone committed to making devolution work. Turning a word associated with the delivery of the Scottish Parliament into the ideology that it should be: devolving more power not simply from London to Edinburgh, but from Edinburgh to local authorities, and from desks of Council officials into the hands of the communities themselves.
Fourth, he is comfortable with and around the media. Communication is absolutely everything in 21st century politics. From the sofa of STV’s new Scotland Tonight to the superhighway of Twitter and online campaigning, Ken has already demonstrated that he’s not only a competent media performer, but someone who voters can relate to.
And finally, he builds his politics on the foundation of equality and respect, listening to ideas and opinions and valuing members not just as campaigners but as the intellectual heart of our Party. A role too long over-looked.
These are all critical skills for a leader who will have to change Scottish Labour in the most difficult of times and when the stakes are at their highest. The new leader – the leader of the whole Party – will need broad support from councillors, MPs, MSPs, MEPs, local parties and most of all our members.
Too often, the Party has put on its best behaviour at the dinner table before the electorate and just about pulled it off. But now the dinner is up the walls and it’s time for our family to get its act together.
Ken Macintosh is the person to do that.
Through communication, consultation and camaraderie, Ken can and will rebuild a winning Labour family to be proud of.