I am just an ordinary Labour Party member with one vote. And I haven’t got a clue who I’ll give that vote to. Underwhelmed by the personalities and ideas on offer so far, this is the kind of speech that I would love to hear.
"The old order is gone. It is not coming back. The great danger for the Tories is that they think people want more of the same. They don’t. But they will always vote for competence over incompetence – perceived or real. The great danger for us in Labour is that we don’t find the ideas that capture that new order. Under my leadership, we will.
The politics of left and right is fading, so too tribal loyalty. But managerial politics will no longer do. Competence – judged by most as effective stewardship of the economy – in a political movement should be a given. The fact that people felt we lacked it tells us why, fundamentally, the Tories won.
Competence – economic competence – aside, people value their own personal good, the collective good, authenticity and identity when casting their vote. Probably because that’s what we all value in our personal lives; it’s no great secret. The SNP won a landslide because they amply met all those criteria. The Tories met some, not all and were given the benefit of the doubt. Arguably UKIP met more than us and so did well.
Labour’s task, led by me, is to find a set of convincing, coherent ideas that will appeal to the diverse and disparate people across these lands and persuade them to put their trust in us again.
That is a huge challenge, but one I am brimming with energy and enthusiasm for. But I must start by saying I do not have all the answers. No one person does. I have the ideas, the skills and the will but this parliament is a long five years and we need to spend more time reconnecting with people and testing our ideas to destruction with the people who matter: the voters.
Much of our election manifesto had popular appeal, but if people don’t believe you can implement it, it’s irrelevant. Firstly, we have to re-establish our economic reputation. Not by aping the Tories, but by rebutting the lie that Labour overspent and caused the financial crash. And lie it most certainly is. Not only did building schools and hospitals not cause the crash, Labour did more than any other Western government to prevent total collapse of the system and get the economy started again. The Tories wrecked it afterwards with austerity, that every other nation long ago ditched. The truth is there, we just have to be bold enough to repeat it until we – and the voters – are sick of hearing it.
We then have to make sure people believe we are on their side – reconnect with their identity and aspirations. If people can be successful by their own hand and deed, Labour must make it easy for them. The other side of that bargain is that individuals, businesses and organisations should pay their fair tax contribution towards the nation that nurtures them; for the roads to transport goods; the graduate that brings new skills to a business or the police that protect the factory or office. No person, no business is successful in a vacuum – we all depend on the fabric of the society around us.
We have to be open with voters that we cannot fund everything we would like to. To be authentic then, we have to spend money on our priorities. Surely, that has to be health and education – if that means less on defence or rationing some universal benefits, like the winter fuel allowance, then so be it. But we should never, ever apologise for giving our children the best education facilities nor our elderly the best medical and social care. That is what we aspire to; that is authentic Labour; that is our identity.
There is so much more! Labour has to tackle the vested interests that are holding us back and creating inequality. But is has to be more carrot and less stick – we should reward businesses paying a living wage, for instance with tax breaks, and encourage employee representation on boards and responsible executive pay. We can’t do this without meaningful, open dialogue with those involved.
A Labour Government will have neither the will nor the funds to subsidise profitable corporations. But we must support and encourage best practice in partnership, demonstrating that such things are in everyone’s interests.
Everyone needs to believe that Labour will further both their personal and the collective good. And furthering the personal and collective good is Labour’s very reason for being. I embrace it.
We also need a simplified, transparent and fair tax system. Complexity only benefits those who can afford advice to escape paying it. No one wants to pay more tax when they think it disappears into a bureaucratic black hole. With a transparent and fair system it is possible to make the case for additional tax and spending where there is a need and the public support it – think of the national insurance rise in 2002 for the NHS. Labour needs to change the tune from “tax is bad” to “how and where would you like your money best spent”.
We must, both for noble and pragmatic reasons, form common cause with other parties and push for electoral reform. First Past the Post is the Tories’ greatest electoral weapon – look at the election results from the last century if you doubt me. It is the only way that they and the vested interests that line up behind them - the Tory press, the financial elite, the bankers and tax exiles - keep such a stranglehold on our country’s resources.
We need to breathe fresh life into venerable institutions that are in danger of crumbling. A government mandate should reflect the will of the people. If we cannot command more than 50% of votes – and I believe we can in any voting system – then it is only right that we work with others. We have no monopoly on good ideas. Even the broken Tory clock is right twice a day! Our current system is dangerously distorting regional differences in a nation that needs to come together and heal.
It is hardly surprising people are disenchanted with democracy when their votes don’t count and decisions are taken in distant places by unknown faces. It’s winner-takes-all here, so 75% of the electorate should just go home and let the government get on with it for five years.
No! No! No! We need constant, vibrant political debate. Labour, or whoever is in government, should never take parliament or the public for granted. The Tories will. It is their way: they are born to rule. It should never be ours – we believe in solidarity, and consensus wherever possible. That is authentic Labour.
I want to go on! Reform of schools or hospitals should be led by those who work in it and those who use those services. Government must enable, not dictate. But it should never be afraid of being active: to open up opportunities, tackle vested interests or ensure accountability. Some public services are too important, too personal to be outsourced or corporatized or operate without any democratic accountability. The NHS is the most obvious, though not only, example.
We have to win the arguments for immigration, Europe and an open international outlook. SNP Nationalism will tear our nation apart; while UKIP’s little England mentality will diminish us morally, strategically and economically. But we need authentic, evidence-based lines of attack. Labour needs to win people round. As Labour leader, I will lead that charge.
We must trust in the people, nations, regions, cities and parishes of our great United Kingdom to make their own decisions, innovate and forge their own futures, in partnership with – but not, absolutely not, under the control of, central government.
With your support and trust, I will take on all-comers as Labour leader. But I can only do it with arguments I – and we – believe in. Only then will others believe in it too.
There is so much for Labour to do. I am crushed that our power and influence will be limited for the next five years. I want to talk about every individual issue – housing, environment, our wider movement, but I don’t yet have all the answers.
The most important thing for Labour is to re-establish our competence and rediscover our authentic voice. You have heard mine. Elect me as your leader and my voice, Labour’s voice will ring true again and will win people over across our wonderful nation.”
By A Labour Leadership candidate