It’s quite an odd feeling reading your own obituary.

At least that’s what it’s felt like picking up a paper over the last seven days since I resigned as leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

At the time, I wrote an open letter explaining why to all intents and purposes I’d “chucked it”. In it, I said I was going to spend more time with my constituents, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

So much of a leader’s time is spent problem solving. And it’s often the trickiest, most intractable problems, because, bluntly, if they were easy to fix they wouldn’t have been dumped on your desk.

But the truth is they were nothing like the problems faced by so many of the people I came into politics to help.

Just before I resigned I held a surgery in the parliament. No sharp implements were required, that’s the odd long-served description members of parliaments have for the hour or two they spend a couple of times a month speaking to real people.

Not taking selfies in High Streets waving saltires, or taking planted questions from invited audiences in some bland hotel. But actual real, decent, often very vulnerable, people in need of help and you’re the last port of call.

That day a 20-year-old guy arrived 15 minutes late to see me. I was annoyed because my diary is, or at least was, timed to the second.

He was exasperated because it wasn’t his fault. He’d had to wait for his mum’s support worker to turn up before he could leave the house.

For four years this guy has cared for his mother as she battled a severe and debilitating mental health condition. He’s watched the police handcuff her for her own apparent safety and he’s found her one too many times in the depths of despair.

Yet no one seems to care. Not the police, or the doctors or the council, who’ve had complaints about the woman’s screaming.

He had a job but has had to give up because he couldn’t hold that down and be there for his mum and his little brother

That’s real life and real strength. All I can do is advocate and represent him.

That’s political speak for shouting and screaming with a little black book of decent contacts. I can’t instantly fix it for him and he knows no one can. But he just wants someone to try.

That’s what I came into politics to do, to try. To give a voice to the underdog and battle against a system that is so broken for so many. And it’s what I’m going to keep on doing.

Whilst I’m tired and frustrated with petty party politics , I’ll never tire of crusading on behalf of people like that young man.

People that just want a sense of fairness about life. That if you work hard, you can get on and there’s a solid decent safety net for those who need it.

Not just because it’s the right thing to do but because there’s a simple truth that all our fortunes are tied together on this earth.

 

This article first appeared in the Daily Record newspaper on the 5th of September 2017.

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