#ScotLab19: Red Robin roundup - a good weekend for Leonard

Scottish Labour members have left Dundee after their annual conference, but what stands out?

Conference started on Friday with good attendance from all over Scotland, with policy debates on both health and the economy topping the agenda.

Much more time seemed to be available for ordinary delegates to speak in debates, something members welcomed when they spoke to The Red Robin in Dundee.

One longtime member who was critical of the "stage managed production" that conference was perceived as in recent years praised #ScotLab19 as having an atmosphere where the grassroots could "debate their party's future".

Midlothian MP Danielle Rowley led a session on Universal Credit to a packed hall, interviewing a claimant who had been through a harrowing experience after living in one of the first regions to be hit by the roll out of the controversial new benefit system.

On Friday afternoon, Jeremy Corbyn's address to the Scottish conference was well received, with members telling The Red Robin they were most excited about his inclusion of climate change as a class issue as a major theme of his speech.

The Labour leader also made significant comments about independence and Brexit, setting out the party's position as being "obsessed" with tackling the problems of people's daily lives rather than with the constitution.

Corbyn also sent out a call for unity, referring to recent MPs resignations and other tensions in the party by saying Labour could only be held back by turning on itself rather than its opposition.

Saturday kicked off with a communities debate, but most members said their stand out highlight of the day was a popular speech by Richard Leonard which recieved praise from across the party and outside of it too from commentators and also party opponents.

Packed with proposals for what a future Scottish Labour goverment would do, Leonard most notably laid out a landmark public transport policy which would include universal free bus travel, something members said they would be excited to campaign on.

Attendees speaking to The Red Robin said they were impressed that Leonard had seemingly managed to reach out beyond the conference as he settles into his leadership, finding his own distinct message for Scots as he looks to leading the party into the 2021 Holyrood elections and beyond.

Paul Sweeney MP told The Red Robin that Leonard's speech was one of his highlights, describing it as a return to the "fine Labour tradition" of municipal socialism which was "repurposed for the 21st century".

He added: "Richard's announcement on free bus travel for under 25s and our aspiration for a renationalised bus system free at the point of use will transform my city of Glasgow and have a massive improvement on the economic, social and environmental condition of the city.

"I was also deeply moved by the huge show of solidarity by conference for the railway engineers of the Caley Railway Works in Springburn who are fighting to save their jobs and 160 years of railway engineering in Springburn. Another demonstration of our willingness to use the powers of the state to improve lives, industry and the dignity of skilled employment."

For the second conference, the grassroots was well reflected with a wide range of strong, politically consistent motions from across the country and from other party groups such as Scottish Labour women's conference and Scottish Young Labour.

Despite some signals beforehand from the right of the party that the conference could see tensions come to the surface, conversations outside of the main debates showed delegates overwhelmingly supportive of both Leonard and Corbyn's leadership of the party.

Delegates also didn't seem to have been impacted by the string of recent media reports surrounding party infighting, much of which has been fueled by leaks many think are designed to destabilise the party.

Those The Red Robin spoke to were critical of these leaks, showing concern about the demoralising impact this behaviour could have on party staff as they work on difficult issues like antisemitism.

Although there has recently been some loud voices disagreeing with the direction of travel the party is on at both a Scottish and UK level, this was not reflected amongst the wider membership in Dundee and members seemed confident that it was not reflective of the reality of the party's broad membership.

Overall, Richard Leonard is likely to have left Dundee confident in his leadership with a strong base of support as he moves forward.


Image: Scottish Labour

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