Glasgow stands today at a crossroads, the election results in our city last year were a disaster for Scottish Labour. Conference, I felt the pain of our defeat and I thank Charlie Gordon, Frank McAveety, Bill Butler and Pauline McNeill for their service to this city, and our party.
Here in Glasgow we failed to convince the voters that Scottish Labour had the answers to the challenges we face, we failed to convince the voters that we had the vision to meet the ambition of our people.
The problem, conference, is political not organisational. Changing our rules will not save us.
However, I do believe that this rules conference presents us with an opportunity to begin the journey back, not for power’s sake, but for the right to advance our cause.
A new leader, a leader of the whole of our Scottish Party, will challenge us to rise to the task we face.
A leadership election is our opportunity to debate how we wish to articulate our historic and timeless values in a new age. An age of new faces, an age when for the first time, separation on our island is a real possibility, an age in which our Scottish Parliament has matured but in which it is being run by those who belittle its real power to transform, an age in which a new generation must face down a new Tory threat to those institutions and ideas which we value most.
Given the scale of the job we have to do, why wouldn’t we want to involve our whole party in sharing the load? Why would we say the answers must come from politicians in one institution or another, from activists in one part of the country or another, from interest groups in one section of our party or another?
Today could be the first step for Scottish Labour. Perhaps it is a step we should have taken before today, but it is the step that we must take if we are to raise a new voice, a Labour voice, a voice that can speak to, and for Scotland.
Gordon Matheson has already spoken about how we have begun the fightback here in Glasgow. He has my support, and the support of all our Glasgow MSPs. Working together, candidates for the City Council, Glasgow MSPs, Glasgow MPs, Glasgow CLPs, the trades unions, all of our Party, we are determined to put right what went wrong for Labour in Glasgow in May. There is no arrogance in our desire to retain control of this city, there is simply an unwavering commitment to the people, challenges and opportunities of Glasgow.
A new leader, of the whole Party, will as never before have the authority and responsibility to make sure that winning back people’s confidence in next May’s local government elections is the Scottish Labour Party’s first and highest priority.
A new Party leader should, and must mean, all of our representative, at whatever level, and all of our Party – working together.
We cannot divide and win in Glasgow, we cannot divide and put the case for home rule within a strong and mutual union with our neighbours. We cannot divide and settle our arguments with each other in the press, and then expect our message to be taken seriously. We cannot divide in public and then expect the public to give us their trust.
Glasgow Labour is determined not to allow next year’s elections to be a stepping stone to separation but today in Glasgow, Scottish Labour can take the first step towards a new relationship with each other and with the Scottish people.
Conference, I urge you to support the Rule amendment, and I look forward to the final report of the Review Group which I hope will be bold enough to jolt our certainties and radical enough to meet our challenge.
Click here to find out more about the Review of Labour in Scotland and the rules change agreed by Special Conference.