Change starts now


The outcome of the Scottish referendum answers decisively the question on independence. But the issues unleashed and feelings exposed in the campaign will mean further important action for Labour, action to address the economic disaffection and political alienation which was laid bare on the doorsteps in Glasgow just as they are in towns across England.

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 15.37.53

While we campaigned for a No vote, too many of the poorest, most deprived, who we are in politics to empower and to represent, voted Yes.  They were angry so they voted Yes, and the result will not have reduced that. So the task of connecting with them is of paramount importance and our most urgent task.

In Scotland, before the referendum they were the “dispossessed” and didn’t vote. Now they have voted – not as the dispossessed but as the underdogs demanding change. We will ensure that it is Labour who delivers change by what we do on further powers for Scotland, by radical policies articulated by Labour and dedication from their local Labour representatives. Every Yes voter I met on their doorstep, I had in my mind that we will be coming back to that house in 2015 asking for their support for Labour in the General Election. We have to mend our fences with them and we can.  And we need to challenge the easy, utopian promises of the SNP and of UKIP. Because the reality is that it is only Labour who is on their side and who, at local and national level will deliver for them.

In Scotland alienation was put up in lights with the independence referendum. In England it’s been a slow burn.

The things that the Yes voters said on the doorstep were the same alienation we hear from people across England. We have all felt the anger of people who are struggling on low income, who saw MPs abuse their expenses, see their own wages stagnate as people from other parts of Europe do their work at lower rates of pay and get the jobs they hope would go to their son or daughter. And we have heard them say “You’re all the same, so I’m voting UKIP”. UKIP was never the cause of their disaffection.  But the support for UKIP has been the symptom, the signal of anger towards a political system in which they have no faith. So that’s why we will deal with the issues that cause such anger.  And that includes them being able to hear more clearly from the strong voices of Labour MPs in our regions.

The changes that have been precipitated in Scotland present the challenge, and open up the opportunities for change across England and Wales. There’s alienation in communities around London, but that alienation is increased for every mile further from the capital that you live, and with the lower down you are on the income scale. To inspire confidence and excite hope, our actions to empower our regions will come from those regions – from political leadership in the North East, the North West and Yorkshire. You cannot solve a top down problem with the centre seizing the initiative and taking action. It has to come from the bottom up, so that will mean time for reflection and discussion rather than a quick fix.

David Cameron’s response of a top down, elitist commission has nothing to do with the anger and alienation that was there in the No as well as the Yes voters, the UKIP voters and the non-voters.  Instead it was about heading off the threat posed by UKIP to his party, and assuaging his disaffected backbenchers. At a time when the Prime Minister should be bringing the country together, he proved his ambition for this country extends no further than his desire to lead it.

Labour politics is never easy. It’s easy to defend the status quo – as the Tories do – much harder to change it.  But we are in Labour because we believe in change not conservatism, or offering false promises – like UKIP and the SNP. We always used to call it “The Struggle”. It is exactly that. But it is a struggle which we must and can win for the people who need change but right now don’t see it.

Everything Labour.
Every weekday morning.

By clicking ‘subscribe’ you confirm you have read and agree to our privacy policy

More from LabourList

Donate to fund our journalism


Subscribe to our Daily Email