Scottish Labour

Gordon Aikman (2 April 1985-1 February 2017)

851136294He wanted his legacy to be change for other motor neurone sufferers – an obituary of Gordon Aikman

First published on LabourList

Gordon Aikman was propelled into the media when he was tragically diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 29 during the Scottish independence referendum. Gordon served as the ‘No’ campaign’s director of research when his hands started to feel numb and he – reluctantly – went to the doctors. What started as ‘struggle with tying shoelaces and buttoning shirts’ led to some life changing decisions. ‘Quitting [Better Together] was never an option’ he told the Scotsman in June 2014. He did, however, have to cut of out commute from Edinburgh to Glasgow and work remotely. He powered through and was part of the team that held the United Kingdom together. In the same piece he warned that he would most likely being in a wheelchair by Christmas and he warned his friends of the steep decline that could follow. He defied the timing suggested by his doctors time and again. Sadly, on Wednesday Gordon lost his battle with MND and leaves behind a massive hole in so many people’s lives. (more…)

Five reasons Labour won’t come third in Scotland this May

First published on LabourList

The team of spin doctors around Seumas Milne are colluding with Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Tories in the expectations game for Jeremy Corbyn’s first real electoral test in May. Both of them want people and the media to think that Scottish Labour might come third in the coming Scottish parliament elections. Davidson because it makes it more likely her party will come in second. However, for the Labour leader’s office it seems that they are prepared to throw hard-working members of the Scottish parliament under a bus just so expectations are exceeded in a few months’ time.

Those campaigning for a Corbyn leadership last summer told the wider party that an anti-austerity leader would turn around Labour’s fortunes in Scotland. The rhetoric and the party policy has changed north of the border: a top rate of tax to pay for a fair start fund for the poorest kids, 1p on income tax to reverse local government and education cuts. Scottish Labour has even junked its historic support for Trident to align itself with the new leadership, and voted in Holyrood accordingly.

Having spent this time last week on the doorstep in six very different Scottish constituencies, I know our party colleagues there need our help with one-to-one chats with voters, not journalists. (more…)

Never think we don’t care

Scotland_tour-199x400.jpgFirst published on LabourHame

Ahead of the Progress campaign tour to Scotland’s central belt, Richard Angell – director of Progress and founder of @Lab3seats – outlines why UK Labour are keen to rally round.

The result in Scotland in May 2015 was a blow for everyone in the Labour movement. No one predicted it would be a near total wipeout. In Scotland itself fellow members are left with nearly no parliamentary representation and were plunged into not one but two leadership elections. Now you are straight back in the firing line trying to make the case for Labour against a resilient and insurgent Scottish National party.

You have had to take the loss, feel the pain and do it all again. Doorstep by doorstep. And, if some accounts are true, the environment seems even more aggressive towards us than last May, which in turn was worse than the referendum before it. I hear your pain. (more…)

Turnout tests

First published in Progress magazine

Is the notion that boosted turnout will turn Labour’s fortunes around simply outlandish? Richard Angell examines its chances

We had a problem of mobilising people’, said leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn – with little chance of getting on the ballot, let alone winning – as he explained why Labour lost when Progress sat down with him on 11 June 2015. A lot has changed since that interview, not least the reluctant nominee receiving a stonking 59 per cent of the first preference vote on 12 September. (more…)

Five lessons from seven seats

IMG_0182First published on Labour Hame

As the starting gun was fired on the general election campaign, the Progress team visited seven seats in Scotland to help some excellent Labour candidates – all standing for election or re-election for the first time – knock back the Scottish National party and knock out the Conservatives nationally.

Every Labour member of parliament returned to Westminster brings the Labour government that this country so desperately needs ever closer. More SNP MPs leaves only David Cameron rubbing his hands.

It was an exhilarating and exhausting two days as we stretched the three seat challenge (#Lab3seats) model to visit seven seats in 36 hours. It was fascinating for everyone on our tour. 1,078 contacts later, there are some lessons which I think are worth sharing. (more…)

‘It’s restored my faith in politics’

Gordon AikmanFirst published in Progress magazine

Gordon Aikman wants nothing left unsaid | Richard Angell and Adam Harrison

Gordon Aikman has been busy of late. The former Labour party staffer-turned-director of research for the unionist referendum campaign Better Together has met Hillary Clinton, been in and out of No 10, received wide coverage in national newspapers and, most recently, his partner, Joe, proposed after a day visiting the White House and the Oval Office.

In the final weeks of the independence referendum campaign Aikman found out he had motor neurone disease. The condition was recently propelled into the news thanks to the Oscar-winning film The Theory of Everything. Unlike Stephen Hawking, Aikman’s strain of the disease means he has just months to live. ‘I think we could all learn from Philip Gould [the New Labour pollster] and others about making the most of every day. Life is finite.’ ‘With the progressive nature of MND, I know that today is my healthiest day; I am only going to get worse. I’ve been living life and enjoying life as much as I can.’ (more…)

‘What could actually get worse?’

First published on Progressonline 

Labour’s lead role in the Better Together campaign represents a huge, yet untapped, opportunity for our party. People previously uninterested in politics, or whose primary attachment was to another party, turned out to campaign, wearing our stickers and T-shirts. One GP I met when canvassing was wearing a Labour ‘No’ campaign T-shirt. I asked if he was a member. ‘No, to be honest I move between Labour and the Tories but I wanted to help. Now I have met the new candidate I am seriously considering joining Labour,’ came the reply. (more…)

Nice to feel wanted

First published in Progress magazine

English marginals need real attention

During the course of a campaign that ran at full speed for longer than can reasonably be expected, Better Together mobilised members of both the frontbench and the backbenches of Labour’s Westminster and Holyrood teams in the effort to save the union. Both the official ‘No’ campaign and the Labour party pulled in resources to combat the nationalists. In the last few months organisers were moved from southern English target seats as far away as Plymouth, key campaigners were moved from English and Welsh marginals and in the last week of the campaign regional offices across the country upped sticks and were out knocking doors for our Scottish cousins. Indeed, from Hogmanay onwards I was the lucky recipient of increasingly panicked texts and emails about venturing north to help the Better Together campaign.

This was no doubt the right thing to do but it does prompt several avenues of questioning. (more…)