Clive Lewis sets out pitch for leadership in email to Labour colleagues

Clive Lewis

Below is the full text of an email that Clive Lewis has sent to Labour MPs ahead of the Parliamentary Labour Party hustings tonight.

Dear colleagues,

I look forward to seeing you at the hustings this evening, and to speaking with you all over the next week.

I have entered this leadership contest to tell the truth and to set out the transformation we must undertake so that we can win.

I am running as a unity candidate from the left of the party. My aim is to learn from colleagues and from the other candidates, and to initiate a process of debate and a renewal – not just to beat everyone else.

Democracy and pluralism will be at the heart of my vision for Labour, and that includes how we work in parliament. Members are not foot soldiers to be called upon at election time and then brushed aside, and MPs are not lobby fodder. We need a leadership that listens to everyone in the PLP, and brings on board the wealth of talent and expertise that has too often been neglected. In the coming days, I will lay out in more detail how I would approach working with the PLP.

I am proud to have played a role in the creation of the Labour party as a mass movement over the past four years. I’m a socialist from the same broad tradition of the party as Jeremy but I’m also strongly opposed to the pointless factional warfare and culture of command and control, that has crippled our party and our collective creativity. As Labour leader, my aim will be to take the best of the Corbyn project, unite the party and unite the country.

The crisis we face as a party is existential, and we can’t solve the problems of the 21st century with answers from the 1950s. People’s concerns around insecure work, lack of opportunity, automation and globalisation are absolutely real and legitimate but we can’t solve them by being nostalgic about a by-gone time.

As a party, we face a choice. Do we triangulate and attempt to mimic right wing frames around migration and a distorted view of patriotism that contributes to the country becoming more xenophobic, isolationist and inward-looking? Or do we champion the benefits of internationalism and build solidarity between our diverse communities through greater social and economic equality? Yes, we have to listen, but the onus must also be to lead – especially if what we hear is racist, sexist or runs counter to our values.

We must counter the rise of the far right not only by urgently restructuring our economic model to fit the needs of the modern workforce and impending climate crisis, but also by putting forward an alternative, positive vision for the future of the union. A vision of Britain that is inclusive and tolerant, that listens to the needs of its local communities and believes in building bridges between them. A vision that is built from the bottom up so every part of our society feels it has ownership over its destiny.

My lived experience, as a mixed-heritage black man, helps provide me with some possible answers. In many ways, the story of my family is the story of Britain. My dad came to the UK from Grenada, one of the last bastions of the British empire. Along with my English mum, we lived on a council estate in Northampton where, nearby, my dad worked in a food processing factory and over time became increasingly involved in his trade union, eventually becoming a full-time trade union official for the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union. Alongside him in the factory worked my English granddad, a white working-class veteran of the allied invasion of Normandy in the second world war. On paper, you couldn’t have come up with two people with more different lives. But it was their shared values that made us work as a family and taught me that people, no matter what their differences, have so much in common.

I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that the Labour Party can’t do this alone. For years, I’ve championed the need to build progressive alliances both inside and outside the Labour Party, to construct the broadest coalition of people to work together on issues we can agree on. The global rise of the far right is facilitated in part through their exceptional organisation. Progressive forces in the UK need to modernise and do the same. Just like in my life, diversity makes progressives stronger, not weaker. As Labour Party leader, I would prioritise building these alliances and putting aside our futile tribalism. This is how we can win.

The Labour Party has rescued the country from great crises before and we can do it again. But only when we are brave enough to change. In the 1930s it was the Labour movement that was the first to stand against fascism, and in 1945, when our country was broken after the end of the war, it was a Labour government that had a vision to rebuild the UK by creating shared public institutions such as the welfare state and the NHS. Today, the crisis we face, after a decade of austerity, and 40 years of failed neoliberal policies is just as severe.

The Green New Deal offers us a toolbox through which we can do this; to regenerate the country, create jobs, invest in the regions, build vital local infrastructure and crucially, introduce pioneering local participatory democracy initiatives. This is how we can build a collective vision of what identity means in modern Britain – through collective action and empowerment. I love this country and it angers me that those in power are stretching it to destruction. That’s why I’m standing to be Labour Party leader. I want to lead a country that truly serves all its people and is a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.

See you tonight.


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