Substance wins over style

kezia dugdale Pic Lisa Ferguson 31/10/2015''Scottish Labour Conference 2015 - Leader of the Scottish Labour Party delivers her keynote speach at Perth Concert Hall
kezia dugdale Pic Lisa Ferguson 31/10/2015''Scottish Labour Conference 2015 - Leader of the Scottish Labour Party delivers her keynote speach at Perth Concert Hall
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Jeremy Corbyn is the best thing to have happened to the Labour Party. He is all about substance over style and policy over personality. Under Kezia Dugdale’s leadership, the Scottish Labour Party has autonomy. We need to not just talk about change but rather embrace that change and it’s great to see that this is happening.

This year’s Scottish Labour party conference took place in the beautiful historic town of Perth.

The overall theme of conference was “take a fresh look” at the Scottish Labour party and keynote speeches were delivered by Ian Murray, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Andrew Little, leader of the New Zealand party, Kezia Dugdale, leader of the Scottish Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour party.

Ian Murray gave a heart-warming story of a boy growing up in one of the most deprived areas of Edinburgh whose father passed away when he was aged nine and being the first person in his family to go to university.

In his own words, and by his own admission, he never expected to go to university or become an MP and emphasised that it is possible for someone to come from the same area as him and be the next First Minister or entrepreneur and echoed Kezia Dugdale’s previous comments about the state of education in Scotland and how more must be done to unlock the talent of tomorrow.

The New Zealand Labour leader Andrew Little spoke about the similarities between Scottish and New Zealand Labour in terms of heritage and culture but also spoke about the need to rebuild the party back after suffering a crushing defeat after a long period in government and emphasised the need to “change the party’s thinking in terms of culture and campaigning” in a proportional representation system somewhat similar to the one used in the Scottish Parliament election. As a Labour party member, activist and as someone hoping to stand in 2016, I welcome Andrew’s comments because in order for Scottish Labour to appeal to the voters in 2016 we need to not just talk about change but rather embrace that change and it’s great to see under Kezia’s leadership that its happening.

Kezia Dugdale echoed Andrew’s comments when she spoke about change and putting members at the heart of policy making in Scotland and having a bottom-up as opposed to a top-down decision making structure. Kezia Dugdale spoke with a strong passion and vision about the Scotland she wants to lead in 2016 but also acknowledged the “huge challenges” the party faces.

In her first speech to conference as Labour leader Kezia criticised the Scottish government and said that the difference between Scottish Labour and the SNP “is that our politics and policies don’t know barriers, we are not a nationalist but an internationalist party.”

Kezia also said: “The SNP government want to talk about the argument of the past because they can’t defend the threadbare record of the Scottish Government and we will talk about the future because Scotland is failing behind an the world is moving on”

Jeremy Corbyn gave an excellent speech and it’s fair to say that he is the best thing to have happened to the Labour Party. Fire in the belly is the best term to describe Jeremy Corbyn, who has a clear vision of how he will work with Kezia and emphasised that from now on it was “co-operation and not competition and any decisions affecting Scottish Labour and the people of Scotland would be taken by Scottish Labour. Scottish Labour being more autonomous and more member led is the way forward.”

This Scottish Labour conference took the bold and somewhat radical steps of holding a members’ day were contentious issues such as trident could be debated between members were a motion could be passed or rejected.

In regard to Trident the motion to not renew Trident was passed with an overwhelming 70% in favour and 30% against. Critics of the Labour party will say that this is a gimmick intent to entice people to come back to Labour but it’s more than that. Scottish Labour party believes actions speak louder than words, substance over style and policy over personality and that’s the real future of the Scottish Labour party as opposed to a party who have had eight years in power who are strong on rhetoric and weak on policy. We are not New Labour. We are not old Labour. We are Scottish Labour.

1Barrie Cunning is the secretary of the Ettrick, Roxburgh Berwickshire Constituency Labour Party