Labour’s leader needs a united team if it is build an election-winning offer, defeat the revival of grammar schools and capitalise on the party’s new financial security, its top official has said.
Iain McNicol issued a pre-conference call to arms and said the winner of the leadership contest needs a “unified” team to take on the Tories.
It is a relatively rare public intervention from Labour’s general secretary, who has faced negative briefing over his job from Corbynistas but is well-liked by party staff.
Today he used a newspaper article to deliver a relatively upbeat message but one which began with a tribute to Jo Cox.
“Her loss reminds us that there are those, motivated by hate, who would tear down everything we hold dear. Jo will forever remind us that we have far more in common than that which divides us,” he wrote in The Guardian.
At the end of a summer of turmoil, but one which has seen an influx of new members, McNicol said Labour’s finances had moved into surplus after paying off the £25m debt with which it was saddled after the 2005 general election.
He said the new leader – Jeremy Corbyn is likely to defeat Owen Smith tomorrow – faces “great challenges ahead” and, in what seemed a reference to the struggles among Labour MPs, added: “There must be strong opposition in parliament.”
The role of McNicol has prompted much debate among allies of Corbyn but the official sidestepped this and called on people across the party to focus on what the public wants rather than to be consumed by internal debate.
“The main challenge, though, is to bring the Labour party together. If we can harness our finances, engage and involve our membership and have a broad political offer, then we can achieve something great. At elections, we cannot choose our opponents, our press or our voters. We cannot run campaigns telling people why they’re wrong and we’re right. We cannot be divided when our mission is to unite the country. Or if we do, we shouldn’t be surprised when voters punish us at the polls. So we, as a party, need to learn the lessons and listen to what people have been telling us about their community, their nation and their sense of security.
“There has been talk of olive branches and putting the band back together. All the money and all the members will amount to little if we can’t build a unified team to harness those resources. We must work together, under one banner, and defeat this Tory government. Theresa May has never won an election as prime minister. Our job is to make sure she never does.”