Now that we’re just over half way through what will hopefully be no more than ten years of opposition, it’s time to pause and ask ourselves what Labour has to show for it.
If we were in Government we’d have a track record of legislation passed, spending decisions made and all the interventions taken to show what a Labour vote is worth.
In opposition though, we have still achieved much to be proud of, from Ed Miliband’s victory when he took on both the Tories and their pals in the media though to calls for a judge-led inquiry into dodgy practices, Stella Creasy’s campaign against pay day lenders and our recent defeat of the Government’s heartless plans to scrap tax credits.
Those are achievements to be proud of, but equally, outside of Westminster, the Labour Party is doing so much more.
Put simply, Labour is in office. We are in office in cities and towns and counties across the country. Although Labour council leaders are grappling with unpalatable cuts worth billions of pounds, we still command considerable resources which are vital now more than ever if we are to implement Labour’s values of social justice for all.
To achieve this, we need to use every tool at our disposal, and yes, in some cases that means accepting the Tory’s limited devolution offer as at least a starting point. In our fight for social justice we will use any weapon available to ensure the people we represent have jobs and that their children will have better jobs.
In Newcastle, I signed a City Deal which freed the way for investment that has so far led to more than 1,000 jobs. That’s a commitment to employment that is repeated in Labour councils across the country. In Wolverhampton Rodger Lawrence has led on an Education Business Partnership developing a skilled workforce for the city.
In Cardiff, Phil Bale is leading talks on a £1.2bn City Deal which will cement the council’s economic ambitions. That same level of ambition is seen in Southampton, where Simon Letts is using an Invest in Southampton development body to bring in hundreds of jobs using the dedication normally only associated with the commercial property sector. And our commitment to delivering on the issues that matter has seen Labour leaders unite with shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy to commit to making our cities zero carbon by 2050, a much bolder commitment than anything this government will do.
And this commitment wins elections – Jim McMahon’s impressive recent success in Oldham was built on his track record as an innovative, creative, business-friendly council leader. On the doorstep people knew him and his record of transforming Oldham for the better.
This Government has turned its back on job creation; Labour councils are taking on the challenge. We’re not waiting for a Labour Government; we’re getting on and making a difference wherever we can. Council leaders are turning our local authorities into job creation agencies in all but name. We are showing our ambition in the face of austerity, putting into practice our values by helping create jobs and helping people train to do them. It is a record we should be proud of, and use to rebuild our party’s reputation for economic competence. After all it’s what our party stands for – the clue is in our name.
Nick Forbes is the leader of Newcastle City Council