There is a photo of Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May shaking hands in Edinburgh that has, at the time of writing, been retweeted almost 31,000 times. The message to accompany the photo was that no matter your politics, the sight of two women in such positions of power is progress.
But there was also another important symbolic message in that photo—the Labour Party is far from power. A Tory Prime Minister and a nationalist First Minister, with Labour nowhere to be found. And being far from power means we can’t transform the lives of the people of Britain as we have done in the past. With the Tories in office in Westminster and the SNP recently returned to power in Holyrood, albeit having lost their majority, the people who desperately need a Labour government are losing out.
It’s not always fashionable to say so these days, but the last Labour government achieved great things. We made fundamental changes to our economy and society– LGBT rights, the minimum wage, lifting millions of families out of poverty, establishing the Scottish Parliament and making investment in international development an accepted fact of political life. We didn’t get everything right, but I hope everybody in our party can agree that a Labour government on its worst day is better than a Tory Government on its best.
That’s why for me the most important question in the UK Labour leadership contest is who we think can lead us back into government. Some things can be achieved from opposition, but only from power can we really give everybody a fair chance in life and invest in our public services. I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn can appeal to enough voters across the country to win a General Election. I believe Owen Smith can do that, which is why he has my support in this contest.
I recognise that many party members don’t like how we got here and are concerned about the way a leadership contest was triggered. I understand that, but we have a contest and we have to make a choice.
“If 80 per cent of my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament lost confidence in my leadership I simply could not do my job”As the leader of the Scottish Labour Party I know how far we have to go to win back support. For Labour to ever return to power we first need to be united as a party. I think Owen Smith is the person to bring our party back together again. I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn can do that. There is no denying the mandate he received from party members last year, but the job of a leader is impossible without the support of colleagues in Parliament.
I received a big mandate from party members when I was elected Scottish Labour leader last year. Yet if 80 per cent of my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament lost confidence in my leadership I simply could not do my job.
Owen Smith is someone who can take the fight to the Tories. He successfully led the campaign against the cuts to tax credits and disability benefits, galvanising support not just in Parliament but in the country too. He combines the best of Labour’s radical traditions with the desire and ability to lead us back into government.
Labour Party members face an important choice. It isn’t overstating things to say that the decision we make together in the coming weeks will determine the future of our party, and the country, for generations to come. We can back Owen Smith and focus on returning to government, where we can invest in education and grow our economy in a way that benefits everybody. Or we can carry on as a divided and weak opposition, leaving the Tories to carry on in office with the devastating consequences that has for families across the UK.
The future of Britain rests in our hands. For the sake of future generations, we must get it right by voting for Owen Smith.