Labour needs a renaissance – and Renaissance needs you

Stephen Kinnock

Major events like pandemics tend to stir a ‘rally round the flag’ tendency in the instinctively patriotic British people, which means it has not been easy for Keir Starmer during his first 15 months as opposition leader to gain the ear of the British public.

But with life gradually returning to normal, it has been encouraging to see Keir out and about in the communities where our party desperately needs to reclaim ground if we are to win the next election. Since Kim Leadbeater’s recent by-election win, the party has had a spring in its step, with Keir declaring that “Labour is back” – though he’ll know full well that there is a mountain to climb.

Let’s be clear: Labour, as a party, must change, or risk irrelevance. The fact remains that Labour needs to win 44 seats in 2024 just to deny the Tories a majority and an eye-watering 124 seats, a swing of over 10%, to win outright. More than 60% of these seats are in the North, the Midlands or Wales; one in four are in southern England, and one in seven are Scottish. 104 of these are in towns rather than cities.

What is absolutely clear is that there is no route back to government that doesn’t run through those voters and communities who have felt abandoned by Labour and who turned to the Conservatives in 2019, despite historically returning Labour MPs. What is even clearer is that one man at the top cannot do this alone.

That’s why last month I brought together a group of Labour MPs, councillors, 2019 election candidates, trade unionists and business people to launch ‘Renaissance‘ – a new organisation that will have a laser-like focus on supporting the Labour Party to reconnect with the voters who feel the party has abandoned them over the past ten to 15 years. I’m delighted that influential Labour figures like Yvette Cooper, Carolyn Harris, Justin Madders and Ruth Smeeth have joined the Renaissance advisory board to help support our work.

Labour needs to win everywhere. But for the party to have real purpose, it simply must reestablish itself as the natural home for those working people and families who feel their communities have been forgotten, often in areas away from the big cities. If Labour is to be a whole nation party, which it must, these are the places to start.

Renaissance’s journey starts by listening to voters when they say that it was the Labour Party that deserted them, not the other way around. Labour Together’s 2019 election report and Deborah Mattinson’s recent book have provided us with some outstanding research on which to build. Like others, they recognise that this loss of support was not only about Brexit or our previous leadership, it was also the result of long-term decline. This has been felt most strongly amongst voters who hold communitarian values; locally-focused, patriotic, believe in hard work, decency, contribution and reciprocity, and who put their families first.

But if Labour is to rebuild over the next four years, and reconnect with these voters, the party must scratch beneath the surface to understand why. This is exactly what we have been doing with Renaissance’s first project – a set of workshops with 60 former Labour voters who say they would be open to voting Labour again. We’ll publish our report later this summer, and take our findings to Keir Starmer’s office, to constituency Labour parties and to Labour candidates in a quest to support the party’s journey back to government.

Whilst we’re still digesting the feedback that emerged from the workshops, one message has come through loud and clear: our goal must be to reestablish Labour as the natural home for working people and families by putting good, secure jobs at the heart of everything we say and do. Labour’s summer campaigns are a solid start.

Renaissance’s work will be less about policy specifics and more about the broad direction that Labour must take Britain; a project for national renewal that seizes the moment and offers a sense of hope and optimism about the future. Conversations about people’s hopes, dreams and aspirations for themselves, their families and communities, have therefore been at the heart of the workshops we’ve been running.

Renaissance will be speaking directly to party members and supporters, but we are also asking for support from anyone who wants a Labour Party they can vote for with pride at the next election. By signing up today, Renaissance supporters will not just receive regular updates on our activities, but will also be offered opportunities to support our work and get involved in reaching out to potential Labour voters.

Labour needs a Renaissance. This exciting new project can support Labour to be the party Britain needs it to be, and can help Keir Starmer to make Britain the best country to grow up in and the best country to grow old in.

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