With less than four months to go until the next Scottish parliamentary election, preparing for a campaign has never been more different. All parties are facing a tough challenge as we try to campaign while keeping everyone safe during this pandemic. But the challenge for our party goes well beyond the next four months.
I’m clear that Scottish Labour needs to use the next five years to rebuild our party, so that we can then do the crucial work of rebuilding Scotland. To do that, we must urgently improve our party machine and take the fight to the SNP and the Tories.
For far too long, Scottish Labour has been out of the game. In fact, we’ve walked away from the pitch. On poverty, education, health, drug deaths and economy, the SNP record is terrible, yet their poll ratings tell a different story.
For the past ten years, as the SNP professionalised their campaigning, Scottish Labour moved backwards, functioning with ever depleted resources and no clear strategy for winning the argument. Meanwhile, all the Scottish Tories can offer is an apology for Boris Johnson, surely the greatest threat to the UK today.
I have clear ideas for the radical programme we must build under a Covid Recovery Parliament together, and I want all members to part of it. Over the coming weeks in this race, I’ll be laying out the detail of what that policy platform looks like, and its focus on how we rebuild our economy, our communities, our public services and NHS, and crucially tackle poverty and the climate crisis.
That means a more professional approach to campaigning, using all the modern digital campaign techniques at our disposal but also giving our members the tools they need to make a confident and compelling case on the doorstep or in conversations with friends and family.
Progressive campaigns across the world have shown the power of creating high quality digital content. We have to spend less time focusing on what it is in print newspapers, and more time delivering engaging content across all social media platforms.
Our activists are the lifeblood of our movement. I want party members and activists to feel proud of our party once again. They are the people who get up at the crack of dawn on polling day to deliver leaflets; they are the volunteers who pound pavements in the wind and rain to bring the Labour message to voters. They invest in our party, and our party must invest in them.
I will create a training programme for all of our Scottish Labour activists, old and new, to help them spot the tricks of our opponents and take forward our message. Integral to taking forward our message is renewing our organising force, both on the ground but also online, with digital organisers encouraging our activists to share our message with their friends.
Our movement already has a huge amount of expertise, and we must make greater use of that. I pledge that our 2021 Scottish Labour manifesto will have members’ voices at the very heart of it, as you know best what resonates with your communities. It is crucial for us to build that radical Labour programme together, backed up by the people powered campaign I know our members can run.
Finally, let me be clear – we must never shy away from our core values. We won’t beat the Tories or the SNP by adopting their policies; we must take their arguments head-on. As leader of the Scottish Labour Party, I will lead from the front, rejecting the SNP and Tory attempts to return to the old politics. Instead, under my leadership we will make sure that what matters to the Scottish people is at the top of the agenda – poverty, inequality, schools, health and jobs.
My five-point plan to take on the SNP and the Tories:
- Create a world-leading digital directorate. Progressive campaigns around the world have shown the benefit of investing in creating high quality digital content. We have to adapt to modern campaigning by running a dedicated, well-resourced digital directorate in Scottish HQ.
- Provide training for activists to help them spot and counter the tricks employed by the SNP and provide rapid rebuttal that takes on their record. We must talk about the issues that matter to ordinary people – jobs, the health service and tackling poverty.
- Listen to members. Our movement has a huge range of expertise and we must make better use of it. If elected leader, I will ensure that member’s voices are at the heart of creating our 2021 Scottish manifesto.
- Renew Labour’s organising force with investment in both traditional and digital organising.
- Never shy away from our values. To beat the SNP and the Tories, we have to take their arguments head on with our distinct Labour values – focused on ending poverty, not returning to the divisive politics of old.