I want to lead Scottish Labour because I want Labour to lead Scotland, and change Scotland.
We have children being fed from food banks, huge housing waiting lists, creaking public services and the scandal of 15-minute care visits. Scotland needs to change, rapidly and radically. The inequalities in health and wealth that scar Scottish society need to be tackled, our young people need the chance to work and we need to end the housing shortage. Only in government can Labour conquer these social evils, and it is to achieve that task that I seek to lead the Scottish Labour Party.
But Labour will only win the chance to change Scotland if we convince people changing Scotland is really what we are about. We need policies that recognise the challenges people face and are radical enough to tackle them. We need a different approach in policy, strategy and leadership. Politics as usual won’t be enough.
I can represent and drive through that different approach, because I’m not politics as usual. I didn’t serve a political apprenticeship, I served an actual apprenticeship, as a bricklayer. I worked at the trade for ten years. During that time I studied part-time, eventually returning to education full-time, graduating from Strathclyde University then working first as a housing officer then as a teacher. I know the problems ordinary people face because I’ve lived them. So while I’m as concerned as anyone that we put Labour’s message across as effectively as possible, our future success lies in substance more than spin.
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Pointing to the existence of problems isn’t enough, it’s promising concrete action that will rebuild support. People are, generally speaking, alert to their own difficulties. The 150,000 people on housing waiting lists don’t need lectures about a housing shortage. The graduate behind the bar on a zero-hours contract understands the concept of underemployment. The family struggling to find affordable childcare needs more than a snappy soundbite.
We’ll only get listened to and supported if we are advocating policies that will make a real difference to people’s lives. We are the party of more powers for Scotland. But that will count for little if we aren’t telling people that we are the party of more jobs, more houses and more college places.
We need an economy that works for all the people, where all the people are able to work in jobs with decent pay. A society where young people get access to quality apprenticeships and training. Councils must be freed up to make decisions and given more control over their finances. Perhaps most of all we need to commit to a massive housebuilding programme with all the social and economic benefits that will bring.
Labour will only succeed if we enact policies which are as ambitious as the scale of the problems we face. I am prepared for that challenge – that is why I want to lead Labour, and Scotland.
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