My Gran used to say, ‘all politicians are the same’ and as a consequence voted for the candidate whose eye brows were the furthest apart. While the eye brow test may be unique, sadly, her view of politicians is something every party canvasser has heard many times on the doorstep.
As ballot papers for the Scottish Labour leadership election drop through the letterbox this week, we do at least have a real contrast in both approach and policy. The polls make grim reading and anyone who really thinks Scottish Labour can recover simply by improving spin and presentation, is now bordering on the delusional.
This was reinforced to me in a series of discussions with UNISON members recently. The points I reflected in my last blog post on this issue were repeated many times. Another of my Gran’s favourite sayings was, ‘fine words butter no parsnips’, meaning that fine words count for nothing and that action means more than flattery or promises. Her words were a recurring theme, put in more direct 21stC language by member after member. They are fed up with vague generalities and want action. I was thinking she, and they, might have had a few choice words for one of the candidates in last night’s BBC hustings on this point!
That leads me to the question of policy. Yesterday’s Survation poll shows a growing number of voters saying that they would shift their support back to Labour, if the Labour Party supported the sort policies advocated by Neil Findlay and Katy Clark.
The main findings of the poll are that:
• A policy of a mandatory living wage would make 37% more likely to vote Labour
• A commitment to permanently abolishing tuition fees for university education in Scotland would make 30% more likely to vote Labour
• Promising to decommission the Trident nuclear weapons system would make 30% more likely to vote Labour
• A policy to re-nationalise Scottish rail services would make 27% more likely to vote Labour
• Promising free nursery places for children from the age of 12 months would make 21% more likely to vote Labour
From my own discussions with members I would add housing. Neil’s pledge to build 50,000 social houses for rent was just the specific and necessary action they were looking for – particularly the younger members who see no way into decent housing.
These numbers really matter because on current polling data, just defending the core vote won’t be nearly enough – even allowing for the likely bounce back when a new leader is elected. As Survation says: “This poll of SNP voters suggests that all is not lost for Labour if the party adopts a number of bold and progressive measures”.
Neil and Katy are arguing for just such a radical programme. They are credible, because they haven’t just produced them for this campaign, contradicting their past voting record. They have been longstanding advocates of change. In Scotland these are now mainstream views. If they look left wing to some, well that simply reflects how far away from the mainstream they have moved.
It’s politics as usual that will lose Scotland for Labour. We need to win back the missing Labour voters and we will do that, not with professional politicians, but with authentic leaders promoting radical policies that will make a real difference to people’s lives. That’s why I am voting for Neil Findlay and Katy Clark.
Trade union members can show their support for Neil and Katy at Change for Working Scotland.