Michael Payne: Why I’m backing Keir Starmer to be the next Labour leader

Michael Payne

72 years ago, the Labour Party gave birth to the NHS. The radical dream of universal healthcare free at the point of use became a reality because Clement Attlee’s Labour won power for a purpose: to transform our country after the ravages of war, rationing and social austerity. Attlee and Nye Bevan understood that progress in the advance of socialism and social justice cannot just be measured by the passion with which we hold our ideals, the number of resolutions we pass, or by how many meetings we attend to achieve them.

They understood that it can only be measured by the real nation-changing and sustainable difference we make to the majority of people’s lives. And I’m proud to be one of nearly 7,000 Labour councillors who make a real difference to people’s lives day in, day out. Across the country, Labour councillors are putting socialist principles into practice by harnessing the power of the community to advance the cause of the individual. That vital task of advancing the cause of social justice and building more equal and fair communities has been made even more difficult as a direct result of a decade of Tory austerity.

Every day, we live with the dire consequences of a ruthless Tory government that has closed Sure Start centres, slashed school budgets, created a national housing crisis and decimated funding for local public services by stripping 60p in every £1 from our budgets. And every day that Labour spends in opposition nationally is yet another day for privilege to use democracy to entrench poverty. The communities we serve desperately and urgently need a Labour government that understands how poverty can use democracy to unwind unfair privilege.

To achieve that, we need a Labour leader who shares Nye Bevan’s belief: “The language of priorities is the religion of socialism… the argument is about power… because only by the possession of power can you get the priorities correct.” The leader we must elect is Keir Starmer. I’m backing Keir Starmer because he has a track record of giving a voice to the voiceless, power to the powerless, and because he’s got the vision, values and integrity to win power for a purpose.

For decades, Keir has fought to overturn injustice. As a lawyer, he gave free advice to those on the receiving end of Margaret Thatcher’s pernicious Poll Tax. As MP for Holborn and St Pancras, he’s been a strong advocate for Labour in local government. As Shadow Brexit Secretary, he demonstrated formidable skill at holding the Tory government to account. As Labour leader, he will end divisiveness and unite our movement. And as Labour’s next Prime Minister, he will use power for a purpose by uniting this country and leading a government for the many, not the few.

At the beginning of the 1945 general election campaign, Bevan said: “We have been the dreamers, we have been the sufferers, now we are the builders.” Only by electing Keir as our next Labour leader can we rebuild our party and elect a radical socialist Labour government as transformative as Attlee’s – for it is only by winning power for a purpose that when we see a wrong we can right it, when we observe an injustice we can halt it and when we witness pain and suffering we can relieve it and heal it. Another future really is possible, if we have the courage to seize it.

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