Having lost our fourth general election, Labour needs to urgently do away with the naked factionalism that allowed the party to become characterised by constant calls for deselections, central control of candidate selections, antisemitism and intolerance of debate. The experiment of the last few years has clearly failed and the custodians of that experiment, those who led it, need to accept their role in that failure.
They failed all those in our communities who desperately need a Labour government; they failed our supporters on Brexit whether they were Remain or Leave; they failed on tackling racism by not dealing robustly with antisemitism and leading us into an Equalities and Human Rights Commission investigation; they failed all those excellent members, councillors and activists who were excluded from being considered in selections in favour of tawdry stitch-ups; they failed all those who make up the ‘broad-church’ that wins elections in favour of ‘factional purity’ leaving some of our best talents on the back-benches; they failed on providing a progressive, internationalist and patriotic outlook that people across all our nations could embrace, as is the Labour Party tradition.
But perhaps most importantly, the result of that failure was gifting the Conservatives with a majority. One that allows them to dismantle the protections that exist to support the most vulnerable in society and to put at risk the progressive, forward thinking, internationalist and inclusive society in which all our communities and citizens can thrive. Enough is enough!
The Labour Party is thankfully now electing a new leader and a new leadership can be expected to bring changes in the team at the top, in priorities and direction. But four general election defeats and the scale of the challenge of winning the next general election means a new Labour leader alone is not enough – more fundamental change is needed. To rebuild our election-winning, party we also need significant change in strategy, organisation, the relationship with power between members and the party, and a reassessment of accountability in the party.
We need to ensure our head office and regional offices are staffed with the best talents in our movement appointed for their knowledge, expertise, experience, dynamism and commitment to helping our candidates win. Not those appointed because of their loyalty to the leader. We need an independent complaints process that has clear expectations regarding behaviour and is robust, prompt and fair in its operation. I’m a lifelong anti-racist and if that means anything, at the very minimum it has to be ensuring zero tolerance of any form of racism within our party – not just attending anti-racism demos.
We need a culture of openness and transparency. Conflicts of interests for those making decisions need to be managed. Candidate selections should default to members having the most, and the final, say. Trade unions should publish data of the candidates that they support, their diversity traits including gender, ethnicity, sexuality and disability and the amount of resources put behind each candidate.
‘Losing the Red Wall’ is a great metaphor but what does it actually mean? Clearly, we have lost the trust of former Labour supporters in many of our heartlands. There is also a complacent assumption amongst many that we can continue to rely on our BAME communities to blindly always vote Labour. Yet recent elections show significant shifts away from the Labour Party in the Jewish, Hindu and Sikh communities – much of this self-inflicted, but also in response to a concerted effort to appeal to these communities by the Tories on issues such as aspiration and representation.
With the diversity of our traditional heartlands seats this trust isn’t going to be rebuilt by having a bumper manifesto that tries to be all things to all people. But we can start rebuilding by having meaningful conversations about the issues that matter to people in these communities, such as immigration. Honest conversations will not necessarily yield a policy solution for every voter but it will demonstrate that we are listening, interested and understanding their concerns – the foundations of rebuilding trust.
This national executive committee by-election gives members the chance to improve the diversity and representation of member reps on Labour’s most important decision-making body, and to return to the ‘broad-church’ party that wins elections. We have to renew, reconnect and rebuild trust with voters who left us and this is an opportunity to broaden the NEC to represent all traditions of the Labour Party to start that process. I’ll work with the new leader to face the many challenges of winning the next general election. I will bring with me the background of a long-standing and dedicated party activist, a passionate equalities campaigner and my independent-minded commitment to a member-led, democratic Labour Party.