Richard Leonard: Without Jeremy Corbyn, Scottish Labour would have faced disaster

Richard Leonard

It’s two years ago this week that Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour party. Today, with Jeremy as leader, Labour is bigger than ever. We have advanced at the general election, including here in Scotland. Our 2017 manifesto was a radical and engaging programme for real change. I pay tribute to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and the way he has revitalised the party and energised young people. He has brought a new vitality to politics.

Last year, when times were tougher, many called on Jeremy to quit but I was proud to be one of those who stood by him and backed his leadership – because I believed the members’ judgement in electing him was right, and because I saw that his authentic and principled politics had the capacity to change politics for the better.

It is necessary to be consistent, and pursue real unity if we are to win.

It would have been a disaster if Jeremy had been forced out last year. The gains we made in the general election across the country, including real, if insufficient, progress here in Scotland presage victories to come. This would not have happened if the party had broken from the path of renewal that Jeremy represents. This is no time to return to the timid managerialism of recent times. Only radical measures are capable of tackling the varying crises we face; whether they be in insecure work, or housing or the environment – and only by being prepared to be radical can we become an inspiring alternative.

I’ve been active in the Labour party in Scotland for over 30 years and had the privilege of representing working people as a trade union organiser for over 20 years. Two years ago I was elected to the Scottish parliament.

I didn’t stand for election to nibble away at inequality and injustice. Or worse, to abstain on questions of inequality and injustice. My aim was and is to try to bring about real change. A change the balance of power in our society. To fight for equality and justice, challenge complacency on unemployment and poverty, and to win the battle of ideas with nationalism.

Labour’s message has got to be that we need to stop dividing people on the basis of nationality and start uniting them on the basis of class. The real division in our society isn’t between Scotland and England the real division is between those who through their hard work and endeavour create the wealth and those who own the wealth

These are the foundations upon which a distinctive British socialist tradition has been built. Jeremy is firmly in this tradition, a tradition defined as much by its vision as its values.

That is why in Jeremy we have a leader who can see the narrow confines of the focus groups of middle England, who is neither parochial nor insular. Not thinking small like the nationalists and Brexiteers. But thinking big.

He is a leader who supports peace not war and isn’t afraid to say so. Believing not just in the need for working people to have a democratic voice in the political system but a democratic voice in the economic system too. Who, along with John McDonnell, isn’t simply making the case for economic management but understands why we need to make the case for economic change.

Of course it’s not all about or down to Jeremy Corbyn – “No saviour from on high delivers” as a fine old song has it. It is in our own hands to build up the party, to organise the movement, to work with communities. Putting forward the vision of the new society we want to build, bringing about the real change that people so desperately need.

Inspiring the hopes of people in place of fear: with both political convictions and the courage of those political convictions.

We need to stay on the course that Jeremy’s leadership has set for the party. Locally we need a Scottish Labour party in tune with this new movement. A Scottish party that harnesses this movement for change can win both the next Scottish parliamentary election and help Labour win the next general election too – delivering a radical agenda here and in Westminster, with myself as Labour first minister of Scotland, and Jeremy Corbyn as Labour prime minister.

Richard Leonard is a candidate to be the next leader of the Scottish Labour party. 

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