These days as a Scottish Labour Party member you could sometimes feel like ending it all.
So on a dark night recently I found myself looking down at the Clyde, when a stranger appeared next to me.
“Hello,” he said “my name’s Clarence, what’s the problem?”
“Well, I am wondering what has the point been? A whole century of work and struggle, but now, what are we? Red Tories? I am at the end of my rope.”
“Well” replied Clarence “I had intended to take you on a tour of Glasgow to show you what it would have been like without Labour, but time’s short: there are lots of people like you to get round. It’s understandable, with those appalling opinion polls.
“You will just have to imagine it all…
“Imagine the UK, Scotland and Glasgow without the NHS.
“Without the Welfare State.
“Without laws against discrimination on grounds of race, gender and sexual orientation.
“Without votes at eighteen.
“Without the Open University.
“Without abortion rights for women.
“Without Equal Pay Acts.
”Without employment tribunals.”
I replied “I know! But that was all decades ago!” Clarence hit back:
“Imagine the UK, Scotland and Glasgow without the National Minimum Wage.
“Without the right to be a member of a trade union.
“Without the New Deal, which put 1.8 million people back to work, paid for by a windfall tax on privatised utilities.
“Without foreign aid spending more than doubled.”
“Without Pension Credit.”
“Without extended Maternity and Paternity Leave.”
“Without Winter Fuel Payments increased from £10 to £200 and £300 to the over-80s”
“Without all of the measures which raised a million children out of poverty.
“Without minimum incomes for pensioners and families.
“And without tripled expenditure on the NHS.”
“And what about Iraq? And Trident?
“Yes, Iraq was a terrible mistake, but not one that could ever be made again, thank God.” (He looked up sheepishly.)
“But imagine Sierra Leone with thousands more deaths and amputations.
“And imagine Kosovo after a Serbian genocide.
“Imagine Afghanistan still run by the Taliban and used a launch pad for terrorism. And millions of Afghani women and girls living as slaves.
“As for Trident, you have been around long enough to know what Nye said about ‘sending a Foreign Secretary into the negotiating chamber naked,’ and an ‘emotional spasm’
“ And you will remember 1983, when unilateral nuclear disarmament was in our manifesto, and on the doorstep we were told ‘if others have got nukes, we should keep them too.’ Do you think that people feel safer now than they did then?
“At the very least, nuclear disarmament should not happen unless the majority of the British people have voted for it.”
I could not help but agree with Clarence. He went on:
“And imagine a Scotland and a Glasgow without Labour.
“Without any of the UK-wide benefits I have already reminded you of.
“Without the Holyrood Scottish Parliament.
“Without free elderly care.
“Without the £1 billion write-off of housing debt, allowing transformation of housing stock in Glasgow and elsewhere.
“Without the abolition of university tuition fees .
“Without a smoking ban ahead of the rest of the UK.
“Without nationalisation of the Royal Jubilee Hospital to provide the finest heart service in the UK, if not Europe.
“Without free bus travel for the over-60s.
“And without investment in hundreds of schools across the country.”
“And what about now? The foodbanks and all that?”
“You really cannot blame yourself and Labour for that. If something is wrong at the UK level, it is the Tories and Lib Dems are responsible – they have been in power for the past five years. And likewise in Scotland – it is the SNP who have been in power for eight years, half of it with the support of the Tories.”
I turned to Clarence to answer that he was of course right, and that Labour had created all that was best in the UK and Scotland, but he had vanished as mysteriously as he had arrived.
I wondered a bit about Clarence: not much of a Labour name, on first hearing. But neither is Clem, or even Anthony Wedgwood-Benn. And that may be another part of the whole point: Labour is the party for all classes and backgrounds.
It is also the party of the UK and of Scotland. The differences between us do not matter for a party which fights for a better society as a whole – and a better country as a whole.
But there was no time to be lost, and I started back to the Labour Campaign HQ. When I got there, the place was full and vibrant, with plenty to be done.
And some joker had painted a red star on its front door.