“I am asking you to make the brave, not the easy choice” – Lisa Nandy’s launch speech

Lisa Nandy

Below is the full text of Lisa Nandy’s leadership campaign launch speech.

I am so pleased to be back here in Dagenham today. This is a place that means so much to me for so many reasons. The home of the Ford Machinists and their landmark fight for Equal Pay. A fight that showed the world what strong women leaders like Rose Boland and Vera Sime could do when they refused to accept the status quo.

Where, against the far right, who have tried to exploit the insecurity of a community in economic decline, Jon and activists across Dagenham and Rainham have used the strength and moral courage of our movement to defeat hate with hope time and time again.

So it is awesome – in the literal sense of the word – to be standing here in this community, so rich with the past and so radical about the future, asking for your permission to lead our Party back to power and become this country’s next Labour Prime Minister.

Barbara Castle once said, “in politics, guts is all”. It’s in that spirit I want to talk about the leadership that is needed at this moment. The empathy, stamina and moral courage that has driven big, deep lasting change in this country over 100 years.

These have been a bruising few years and a shattering defeat. But now is not the time to steady the ship or play it safe. If we do not change course as a labour movement, we will die and we will deserve to. This is the moment when we up our game and recover our ambition. So I am asking you to make the brave, not the easy choice, in this leadership contest.

Ours has always been a movement that faces north, south, east and west. But at this critical moment in our nation’s history, Labour is in retreat. Defeated and divided in Scotland. Beaten back in North Wales and large parts of the northern, southern and Midlands towns. And in the fight of our lives in many parts of the major cities.

The stark reality is the path back to power runs not along our red wall but across a red bridge that connects our towns and cities and stretches from Dagenham to Fulham, Aberdeen to Glasgow, and Cardiff to Wrexham.

But some no longer seem to believe we can stand for all of the diverse communities in Britain.  They have accepted the idea, peddled by those who seek to defeat us, that we are locked into a tug of war and we must choose: between working and middle class, leave and remain, north and south, young and old, towns and cities.

But I do not accept this. For all of the radicalism and energy of our recent years, they are wrong to believe that this is a zero-sum game. I am not giving up. Ours is a harder and a better path than the Tories. Not just to try and game out how far along the see-saw we can shuffle to win Putney without losing Mansfield. But to make the case to both and to win the argument.

So on Brexit – one of the biggest tests Labour’s diverse coalition has ever faced – we completely failed to offer the leadership the country needs. While one part of our leadership bounced up and down for Remain, others clamoured for Leave.

We let the Tories determine how we would become divided from our people. And we put our activists and councillors in an impossible position in both Leave and Remain areas. The choice: to be for Labour, or to be for your community. You could not be both. I promise you that under my leadership this will never, ever happen again.

I come from a family that spans the broadest political tradition, from Liberalism to Marxism, and it’s that that makes me understand that you take on your opponent’s argument at the strongest, not the weakest point, or you do not defeat it at all. It demands that you run towards trouble. The path of least resistance has never pointed towards progress.

In Scotland, where we have been beaten by nationalists again and again, we have to accept we do not have all the answers. Now is not the time to argue amongst ourselves about resources or strategies.

Now is the time to look outwards, paint with broad strokes and set up an international commission, led by and for Scottish people, that seeks to learn from the few examples where at times in modern history the cause of social justice has beaten divisive nationalism.

Because I believe there is more we have in common as a nation than that which divides us. This is the country that lies beneath the surface and it must be heard.  We have done it before, at moments in our history.

Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime was a slogan. But behind it lay something far more profound. It recognised that people who were victims of crime and wanted more police on the streets so that the people who were ruining their lives would be taken off them – were right.

And that people who hated the fact that children who were poorer or from minority backgrounds were more likely to end up in prison – were right.  And that both more police, and restorative justice could break the cycle and deal with the concerns of both. That is as true now as it was then.

Knife crime in Croydon and drug running in Barrow is not a tug of war for more resources but the same disease with different symptoms. Young people who feel little hope and little stake.

Take climate change. Without any doubt the biggest challenge we face. But when activists in Balham talk about a green revolution, people in Bassetlaw, whose power stations are closing, hear that their job is being lost and their energy bill is going up.

But what those Balham activists are talking about when they call for a green revolution can create jobs and bring down bills, and means action on transport – one of the biggest remaining sources of emissions. To tackle climate change we need new, cleaner, more reliable transport. This is the better buses that Bassetlaw needs.

We might speak a different language but our ambitions are the same. And Labour is already building this red bridge. Whether it’s here in Dagenham, where Darren and the local council have used the power of clean energy to drive investment, support struggling families and cut carbon emissions. It’s no longer a zero-sum game.

Or back home in Wigan when youth services collapsed across the country, our Labour Council put up millions so that right there in the centre of town stands not just a youth zone but a visible symbol to young people of how much they mean to Labour. We believe in them, and because of that, they believe in us.

We may not be in power, but we should never believe we’re powerless. Just look at the campaigns trade unions like Unite and the GMB are winning that are improving pay and conditions for millions. We have ambitions for the future that match those of our communities. For 15 years, we’ve thought we could change the man at the top and it would fix this.

But the leadership that is needed now is not the man standing behind the despatch box. It is the leadership of those Dagenham women who went out, made waves and said not one moment longer will we accept that we are worth less than other workers and we will build a movement to create change. And the Cabinet Minister who stepped forward, heard them and opened that door.

Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade not because it is easy but because it is hard”. That is what I have learnt – from my battle against the last Labour government to get child refugees out of Yarls Wood or to take homeless teenagers off the streets of Soho.

As a new MP waging a lonely war to defeat the free schools that deny children with special needs a decent education. As the vice-chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, standing up for Palestinian children and against anti-Semitism, for the right of both Palestine to be recognised and Israel to exist.

Or in recent years, standing up for a compromise on Brexit that has pitted me against our party’s leadership and my constituents and forced me to take on, and win, the argument with both.

I have learnt that progress is not inevitable. If you want a better country you have to go out and fight for it. The arc of history does not always bend to the left. But these are the fights that Labour must have. And that Labour can win. When we are prepared to go out, take on the argument and do so from a place of hope and not anger, we always win.

From the Race Relations Act – deeply personal to me and part of my family story – to the Crosland Reforms that ensured children in this country could grow up with others from different backgrounds – and gave me my lifelong best friends – we have never enabled this country to be the best it can be by playing it safe. There are moments in history when you stand up. Now is one of those moments.

10 years ago – what feels a lifetime – I was scooped up by Tessa Jowell as a new MP from a very different wing of the party, and the country, to support her to deliver the Olympic Games. It remains one of the formative experiences of my life.

Just down the road from here, in an act of extraordinary symbolism, Bury lad Danny Boyle organised rehearsals for the opening ceremony in the car park of the old Ford plant. It was to become the moment when the real, radical patriotic story of Britain in all it’s messy complexity and diversity was told to millions around the world.

Thousands of volunteers took part in hundreds of hours of rehearsals and nothing leaked. In the words of one volunteer Danny Boyle said “we could film, tweet, text and post if we wanted to but he asked us not to.” This was a unique bond of trust. He believed in them, so they believed in him. I do too.

That is why I want to lead this party, and seek your permission to become the next Labour Prime Minister, to enable us to become the country that I have believed in all of my life but never seen. I can see it and I feel I can almost touch it.

The Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley once said Labour is the light on the hill for people in times of darkness. That is my Labour, our Labour, our country. With your help I can do this. We can do this. Our country can do this. We win this together.

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