THE enemy is at the gates. If the polls are to be believed, Glasgow will fall to the SNP in May’s local government elections and Frank McAveety’s head will be stuck on a spike above the City Chambers.

Labour has run Scotland’s biggest city for all but five of the past 63 years. When I was first elected as a councillor, in 1995, Labour held 77 out of 83 wards. The SNP had just one. In Bridgeton, the late Elaine Smith received an astonishing 84.1 per cent of the votes cast.

The symbolism of Labour losing Glasgow cannot be overstated. The situation is so desperate that, across the country, the party could even finish third behind the spectacularly re-energised Tories. Labour’s hold on Glasgow once seemed as mighty as the great ocean liners that were launched from the Clyde shipyards. How did the party I have loved my whole life rust, corrode and sink?

There is no single answer. Labour’s social base has eroded. Heavy industries such as engineering and steel no longer employ tens of thousands of unionised workers. Fewer of us live in social housing. But the greatest damage has been self-inflicted by Labour politicians who lost touch with their voters.

It is more than 25 years since Margaret Thatcher left Downing Street but Glasgow remembers. When I left school, four of the seven constituencies with the highest unemployment in Scotland were in the city. She offered nothing but the dole. I joined Labour 29 years ago to fight the Tories, not to share platforms and campaign rooms with them.

During the 1980s and 1990s, John Smith and Donald Dewar couldn’t always stop the Conservatives but Scots knew where they stood. Those same folk were first confused, and then angry, when they saw Labour teaming up with the Tories against independence. When Labour’s Alistair Darling got a standing ovation at a Scottish Conservative party conference it told many of our traditional supporters to choose another party. An obvious but important point is that Labour is the party that actually created the Scottish Parliament. Nicola Sturgeon stands in Donald Dewar’s shoes.

The journey to the independence referendum and the empowerment of the Scottish people began with Labour. Kezia Dugdale’s call for a “new Act of Union” is not a rediscovery of the brave and radical spirit that delivered devolution. When we have an immediate crisis, with Downing Street chaotically lurching towards a hard Brexit, it is a distracting and hollow sales pitch. Her job is to stand up for the 62 per cent of Scots who voted to stay in the European Union.

This means having the courage to work constructively with the Scottish Government to build the widest possible coalition to put pressure on Theresa May. The former leader of Edinburgh City Council, Mark Lazarowicz, has urged Labour to look seriously at the First Minister’s Norway-style Brexit deal for Scotland. He joins a growing list of senior figures in the party who have become much more open-minded about Scotland’s constitutional future.

Scottish politics can be as bitter and brutal as an Old Firm derby. But tribalism lets us all down. It’s time for Team Scotland. The Commonwealth Games shows what we can achieve when we work together. Alex Salmond helped me spearhead the bid. An SNP First Minister and a Labour council leader, we travelled to Sri Lanka as a single party to make the case for Glasgow and it was a massive success.

If Labour can show that it is serious about standing up for Scotland, perhaps the people of Glasgow might also give us a second chance. I often recall a conversation I had with Donald Dewar. He had not long had heart bypass surgery and was in reflective mood. We had taken a drive and stopped at the top of Drumchapel to look out across his constituency.

He pressed two points upon me: “Those who vote you in can just as quickly vote you out, Steven” he said. I look about me and sadly know this to be true. He then ruminated on devolution: “Whoever gets to the flag first, it is their values that will dominate this new Scotland.”

Labour did not drop the flag; we gave it away. This mindset cannot be allowed to continue. Labour can be relevant again, winning hearts and minds, if it re-embraces its radical spirit of home rule.

Steven Purcell, former Labour leader of Glasgow City Council, is director of Twenty Ten Consultancy.