The General Election result was devastating for all of us who campaigned so hard for the radical change our country needs, but much more those whose lives would have been transformed by a Labour Government. The month following our worst defeat since 1935 has been difficult, as we faced up to a triumphant Boris Johnson, but there is now an opportunity to rebuild.
I have been encouraged by the honesty with which Labour members have faced up to understanding the reasons for our defeat, and the commitment to learning the lessons in order to rebuild our support. I had hoped that there would be a longer period for this reflection, but we have found ourselves going straight into leadership elections.
The candidates in these elections have accepted that we primarily lost because of voters’ views on the leadership, polarisation on Brexit, and the lack of confidence in our ability to deliver on the manifesto – although sometimes placing different emphasis on each. We are now leaving the EU on 31 January and therefore need to look at the other issues as we move to select our new leader.
I believe that Keir Starmer is best placed to provide the leadership we need to win the confidence of voters. Working closely with Keir over the last three years, I’ve seen the skills that he would bring to the job and the values that drive him in politics. From an ordinary home, he rose to become one of the country’s top human rights lawyers, challenging injustice and corporate power.
The country’s largest trade union, UNISON, is backing Keir and in a powerful article, its General Secretary Dave Prentis described him as “the right person to lead Labour on the long road back to government. But just as importantly, he’s the right person to take his values – our values – back into government too.”
Keir has drawn support from across the party in his campaign for the leadership and recognises the importance of uniting all sections of the party. At his campaign launch on Saturday, he was right to say that we mustn’t trash the last four years or the last Labour Government. We should build on what we got right and learn from our mistakes during both periods.
Over the last four years we have been right to lead the fight against austerity and to have developed exciting new policies to tackle climate change, growing inequality, workplace insecurity and the crisis in our public services – and Keir has been clear that we should “anchor ourselves” in the case that we have made “for a bold and radical Labour government.”
Everything is at stake in these elections. As Angela Rayner said when launching her Deputy Leadership campaign, “as a party, we face a choice: win or die”. She highlighted that the weakening of our traditional base in working class communities has been happening for many years and is shared by democratic socialist parties across Europe.
In doing so, Angela was right to recognise the scale of the challenge facing us, saying that “our coalition, the foundation of our party, is broken ….. we must rethink and renew our purpose and how we convince people to share it.” It is a huge task for which we need the strong, thoughtful and unifying leadership that I think Keir and Angela will provide.
Watch Keir’s introductory campaign video here.
Find out more about Angela’s campaign here.