Monday, 22 September 2008

Iain Gray speaks his mind

Iain Gray's speech to Labour's UK conference this morning. With additional thoughts in red. Kind of like the round on 'Mock the Week' where they do "what they are really thinking..."

"Thank you conference. It is a great honour to address you for the first time, as the new leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament. (take note Des Browne – I’m playing your game)

This is an opportunity I have, not just for Labour, but because of Labour. My story is a Labour story.

I was born in the NHS Labour created, a child of the health service's first decade. I was the first in my family to go to university, access opened up by a Labour government. I was a teacher in schools Labour had made comprehensive and inclusive. And for 12 years I worked for Oxfam, campaigning for debt relief, a landmine ban and increased aid - things Labour finally delivered on.

I was a founder member of the Scottish parliament Labour created and my name is on the first legislation it ever passed. (then I was kicked out the Parliament – by a Tory – and spent 4 years working as a special advisor to Alastair Darling)

To be given the chance to serve this movement as leader of Labour in that Scottish Parliament is a privilege. (thank you Ms Alexander for giving me this opportunity)

But the greater prize we seek is to serve Scotland and make it all that it can be, for every one of its citizens. In Scotland we have been out of power now for over a year and I can tell you it still hurts. (I gave up a good job on the promise of a Cabinet position – and now look at where we are)

It hurts, not for personal pride, not because we miss the trappings of power. It hurts because we have lost the chance to shape our country's future. It hurts because we have to watch an SNP administration cutting services, failing to invest in our prosperity, and using the Scottish Parliament we worked so hard for - not as the powerful instrument of social progress it is, but as a platform for separatist posturing. (Of course it would help us immensely if the Westminster-run economy wasn’t in ruins)

The Nationalists are using that parliament to let Scotland down, when we know we could use it to raise Scotland up. (If I keep kicking the Nats maybe no one will notice I don’t have any new ideas for Scotland)

We have been accused of sleepwalking into our election loss in 2007. Well, if we did, we are wide awake now. (well, except Gordon, who is still living this nightmare)

During my election, the message I took out to members, trade unionists and Labour politicians in Scotland, was that to win back power in Scotland, Labour must rediscover our conviction, reassert our self belief, and reunite around our shared values and common purpose. (if anyone knows what these are, answers on a postcard to Margaret Curran)

Now is the time to face outwards not in, to speak clearly about the concerns and aspirations of those we serve. To hold our nerve and hold our focus on the cost of living, access to housing, jobs, training, skills, schools and hospitals. Now is the time to unite behind our Prime Minister Gordon Brown and fight shoulder to shoulder and side by side with him for the fairer future we know we can have. (“Stand by your man…”)

When times are difficult people and parties let their true colours show. (Grey)

Over the summer Alex Salmond let his true colours shine through, when he told an interviewer that he thought Scotland "hadn't minded' Thatcher's economics. Well he did not speak for me. He did not speak for Scotland. He really did speak for himself. (I know he didn’t really say that – but the hysteric headlines were brilliant)

The SNP have been prepared to ditch every manifesto pledge, every promise - to students, to the elderly to parents - to deliver on just two commitments - both tax cuts, stripping over half a billion pounds out of the Scottish budget. (We’d rather tax people more to pay for the war in Iraq while stripping away vital services)

The price is being paid in communities across Scotland, in cuts in schools, in reduced services for the elderly, in homelessness projects closed down. (Post Office closures… oh no wait, that was us)

In Glenrothes the SNP candidate is a council leader who has raised homecare charges from £4 a WEEK to £11 an HOUR. (I can’t say his name – don’t want to give Peter Grant the free publicity)

That is why my first act as Scottish leader was to go to Glenrothes to campaign alongside Des Browne. (My second bestest chum – after Gordon of course!)

And that is why I will do everything in my power to ensure that Labour's Lindsay Roy will be the next MP for Glenrothes, and carry on the legacy of John Macdougall.

Yet the Nationalist cuts are not enough for the Lib Dems. Their new leader in Scotland wants to strip a further £800 million out of public services. (Better not name Tavish Scott either. Actually, that probably doesn’t matter as much – no one knows who he is)

There is only one party in Scotland defending the services so important to the young, the elderly and the disabled. (Post Offices… oh no, shhhh)

There is only one force for fairness in the Scottish Parliament. And that is Scottish Labour. (Too bad I’m not the leader of this Scottish Labour thing)

There is only one party in Scotland arguing for the investment in schools, apprenticeships and universities, which will secure for Scotland the future we want to have. And that is Scottish Labour. Labour is at its best when we let our true colours show. (More grey)

Standing up for the vulnerable, lifting up those who face barriers to their ambition, facing up, to the big challenges of globalisation and climate change. (Which of course I can tackle as leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament)

The past week has been dominated by the crisis in HBOS and its takeover by Lloyds TSB. Thousands of jobs are threatened, and we will do everything we can, to minimise that impact. I am leaving directly after this speech to attend an emergency meeting, called at Labour's suggestion, to consider what should be done. (We’re getting good at reacting to crisis – we’ve had plenty practise)

But without the action already taken by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, HBOS would probably have disappeared last Thursday and taken ALL the jobs and ALL the savings and ALL the mortgages with it. (I say probably, I don’t really know. Economics was never my strong point. Physics – now there’s a real subject…)

No-one except Alex Salmond believes that HBOS would have been saved by Scottish independence. The people of Scotland don't want independence. They want the best chance to take the opportunities being part of Britain presents. (Team GB! Team GB!)

They want a strong Scottish Parliament, standing up for Scotland's interests within the UK. (Actually, that’s probably why they voted us out last year)

If you want to see op timism, confidence and hope in these difficult times, go to Rosyth dockyard. Fearing closure for years, but now investing in dock 1, taking on dozens of apprentices, looking forward to employing hundreds more. Long term, highly skilled, decently paid jobs - preparing for a carrier contract Scotland has access to only because of its partnership with the rest of Britain. (And then we can send it off to war! Hurrah!)

But the SNP have a plan to change that. The Nationalists want the Tories to win the next general election. They are working actively to try and make that happen. In 1979 nationalist MPs opened the door and ushered Margaret Thatcher in to power. Thirty years later, and Nationalist MSPs are dusting off their doorman's cap, hoping to do David Cameron the same favour. (Actually, Dave’s not so bad. I met him once. Decent type for a Tory toff)

When I was a teacher in the early eighties in an Edinburgh school, I saw the Tories drain the hope, the energy, the spirit from a whole generation of young people. Even the best of them sure they would never have a job, that society had no place for them, that there was no point in even trying. (Ah, how times have changed)

We must never let that happen again. That school is rebuilt now, and so are the life chances of the pupils who go there. Scotland's greatest resource is not its finite oil reserves. It is the limitless reserve of our people's potential. (Release our potential? Did someone say that already? I think that sounds like a mantra for Glenrothes!)

Our ambition for them - and for our country - should have no limit either. Proud of all that we have done, passionate about what we will do now, united in our determination to win the fight for the fairer Scotland, the better Britain we want, we believe in, and we know we can create. (Did that sound as bad out loud as it did in my head?)"


Sam 22 September 2008 at 22:09  

Physic Malc eh!

"Scotland's greatest resource is not its finite oil reserves. It is the limitless reserve of our people's potential."

"the fairer Scotland, the better Britain we want, we believe in, and we know we can create"

It's not West Wing is it?

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