SEC report – May 2016

The May meeting of the Scottish Executive Committee inevitably focused on the election post-mortem.

Brian Roy set out his analysis of the voting and the party’s own polling. The numbers can be found in the SPICe report, for those in need of further depressing reading.

The party’s mid-campaign polling was better than the final result and this appears to be the basis for the suggestion that the anti-Semitism row had an impact on the result. While it was certainly unhelpful and may have had an impact in one or two areas, most SEC members were sceptical that it had much of a wider impact.

Much more significant was the squeeze on the constitution, reinforced by the huge resources available to the Tories to exploit it. There were differences of emphasis on the SEC between those who favoured a stronger ‘unionist’ position on the constitution and those who argue that, while this may have helped in this election, in the longer term it’s a dead end position consigning the party to around a quarter of the vote.

There was strong support for the manifesto, even if some reservations about leaving the publication so late. The strong anti-austerity pitch places Scottish Labour in a stronger position as the cuts begin to bite deeper in this parliament. Polling demonstrated that this was popular with the voters and it was the late focus on the constitution that was more damaging.

The ‘Both Votes Labour’ message at least addressed the historic problem with the list vote, but did not resolve the gap. There were significant differences in organisational performance at local level. Increased membership doesn’t always translate to more activists on the ground, as other parties have also found. There are obvious challenges over funding, paid staff and engagement of all elected representatives. The SEC recognised the huge efforts put in by staff and many activists.

There was broad agreement on the next steps following the EU referendum. These include a focus on building for next year’s council elections, fundraising, MSP contracts building a regional strategy, as well as the new Leader’s political office.

Other political reports covered the excellent work done in the House of Lords over the Trade Union Bill. There was also a discussion on a framework for local government election manifestos for next year.

After the break, the SEC considered a procedural document for local government selections. While there are obvious challenges in building greater political engagement amongst Labour councillors, media references to ‘deadwood’ are unhelpful. There will be a call for candidates and a letter to existing councillors to identify those who wish to stand next year. The Local Campaign Forums will need to be reactivated in most areas. Further progress is also dependent on the Boundary Commission deliberations and the SEC received an update on progress with that review.

The SEC received an update on party autonomy discussions following the joint statement agreed between Kezia and Jeremy. A consultation paper will be agreed by the joint SEC/NEC working group. On the issue of wider political devolution reform, Jon Trickett MP is visitingScotland this week.

There was a report on the investigation into the well publicised disputes in East Kilbride CLP. This will be referred to the Constitution Sub-Committee.

Another long and difficult SEC meeting. However, considerably less fractious than some other post-election discussions in recent times – with a clearer understanding of the task ahead.