Why I’m Backing Liz Kendall

Liz Kendall

 

This is the speech that I gave to Birmingham Selly Oak CLP at our nomination meeting:

 

“I’d like to tell you why I think that Liz Kendall ought to be the next leader of the Labour Party. A defeat of the magnitude that we experienced a little over four months ago poses some fundamental questions about what our objectives are as a party.

This leadership election isn’t just a question of who will be the face on the leaflets that we deliver. It is about much more than that. It is about whom we will be offering to the country as our next Prime Minister.

For me, Liz is the candidate who has the qualities to be our next Labour Prime Minister. She recognises that a Labour Party that is not in government is a Labour Party that cannot achieve the vision for a modern Britain to which we all aspire.

Liz recognises that that doesn’t mean turning our back on our Labour values – our vision of a world where power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few – it means achieving a Labour government so that we can act on our best instincts rather than simply shouting about them.

There is huge frustration and anger in the Labour Party and in the country at the moment. That can only be right: the consequences of a Tory government are plain to see. But how do we harness that anger and that outrage?

Opposing the government and their policies is a cause that can unite people and there will undoubtedly be fights that are worth having, but we must go further than that.

For me, the fundamental question is this: do we become a party that defines itself solely by opposition to the government, or do we become a party that harnesses that passion and translates it into a positive vision that we can take to the country in 2020?

I joined the Labour Party in 2008 because I was proud of the achievements of the Labour government under which I grew up. I grew up in a world where the NHS could be relied upon; where university education was a path open to all; and where your background didn’t determine your future.

When I joined the Labour Party, I knew nothing except Labour governments. The sad truth is that there probably aren’t too many members who can say the same.

If we look at what the Tories are doing now – to the most vulnerable in our society, to public services, and to those people who simply want to get on in life – they are able to do it because we let down those people who rely on a Labour government.

If I’ve learned anything about politics in the past five years it is the utter futility of being in opposition. I didn’t join the Labour Party to join a party of protest – I joined it to be in a party of government. It doesn’t matter how righteous the cause or how loud we shout unless we can take enough people with us. That means that we have to reach out to those people who have voted Conservative.

To me, that means backing Liz Kendall, and electing her as our next Labour Prime Minister. She is the candidate who can win over some of the 11 million decent people who voted Tory at the last election. She is the person who can stand up for our traditional values in a modern world.

We are entering a period in our party’s history were we will need a leader with the bravery to lead our party and the vision to win over our country. That’s why I am backing Liz Kendall to be the next leader of the Labour Party.”

Defeat

Waking up on the morning after the night before is never a pleasant experience. That was particularly true after waking up following the general election results. We have a majority Conservative government, and I do not yet know what that will mean: I was six years old when the Tories last had a majority.

We have a good idea of what a Tory government will bring. They will try to repeal the ban on fox hunting, hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, repeal the Human Rights Act, implement boundary changes to remove the electoral system’s bias towards Labour, and will continue in their tradition of attacking public services. They did not run a flashy general election campaign, but instead concentrated on the themes of leadership and economic stability. The consensus is that Labour won 4 out of the 5 weeks of the short campaign and that the Tories ran a campaign that was uninspiring. This was not, therefore, an election victory for the Conservatives that was built upon a good campaign.This election was a resounding & catastrophic defeat for the Labour Party and it is a defeat that has been built over five years.

Labour’s message over the course of the last parliament was targeted at a narrow audience, and was overly complicated and badly framed. Our election campaign was fought and lost on Labour issues: the NHS, the welfare state and the cost of living. We failed to convince the public that Labour could do better that the Conservatives.

On the NHS, we talked about privatisation and reorganisation before realising that a convincing argument lay in the fall in standards. On welfare, we talked about the bedroom tax and a welfare cap, before realising that this left us vulnerable to an attack that we were the party of welfare. On the cost of living, we talked about zero-hours contracts before realising that this did not reflect a wider change in the labour market and about an energy freeze that quickly became irrelevant. We spent time talking about the economy by reshaping capitalism in a way that was never fully explained or understood by the electorate. Our conversion to economic conservatism came far too late and was far too lacklustre to allow Labour’s otherwise sensible messages to be heard.

It is easy to blame the media, and to blame the voters. I have had both of these thoughts over the past 24 hours, and they are both wrong. This facile analysis does no credit to the Labour activists who have worked tirelessly over the past five years in the most difficult of circumstances to secure a better future for the people of the United Kingdom.

Our campaign was fought and lost on Labour issues because we failed to address the concerns of voters that we heard on the doorstep. I imagine that every Labour activist will recognise my experience of being told on a daily basis that they did not rate Ed Miliband as a convincing candidate for prime minister. We failed to defend the record of the last Labour Government and the leadership too easily shrugged off the narrative  that took hold about the ideological impurity of the electoral successes of New Labour. Crucially, we failed to enlarge the coalition of voters that Labour needs in order to form a government.

Those concerns are now obvious and we will be able to have a lengthy discussion about them during the forthcoming leadership election. That election will be the time for a sober and thoughtful analysis of the Party’s position. The next Labour leader will need to force a long-term restructuring of a Labour Party that looks more at home in 1985 than in 2015 or 2020. Turning Labour back into a credible party of government may well take more than five years. The candidate that we choose will need to be somebody who is not tainted by past or current failings and who recognises that we have failed the people who need a Labour government.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strasbourg

Every man has two countries: his own and France

                                                                       – Thomas Jefferson

I’ve been in Strasbourg for just over two weeks now, which is the longest period of time that I’ve spent in France. The city is great and I would say that it is definitely worth visiting.

The Pont Couverts

The Pont Couverts

I arrived in Strasbourg a week before I started working so have had some time to wander around the streets on the Grande Île (the city centre) and take in some of the sights of the City. The Grande Île itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it really shows. The medieval buildings are a wonder to look at, the best examples being found in the Petite-France area surrounding the Pont Couverts to the South of the city centre.

Strasbourg is a much smaller city that I ever imagined whilst planning my trip, so walking around is definitely the way to get the best possible view of the city. Strasbourg has an excellent public transport system based around an effective tram system making it very easy to get around.

Petite France

Petite France

I’ve loved every minute of the time that I have spent here so far. I was pretty nervous about moving to a country where I did not speak the language and knew no-one, but I have found that the Strasbourgeois are very friendly and helpful to “outsiders” like me. I even received good service from the supposedly impenetrable French post office, so I must be doing something right. Whilst I am here I really want to try to make the effort to improve my French – the last time that I had any formal education in French was about 10 years ago – and I think that spending 5 months here in France will be the best possible opportunity to do that.

Whilst I was planning my time in France I read a book that was recommended to me called “Talk to the Snail” by Stephen Clarke. It’s an amusing and witty take on the prejudices that the English have about the French and vice versa. I’d in turn recommend it to anyone who is visiting France. It’s particularly useful on the way to handle staff in French restaurants (I say this after having one terrible experience with a waiter in a touristy restaurant).

Le Quai des Pêcheurs

Le Quai des Pêcheurs

Strasbourg Cathedral

Strasbourg Cathedral

It’s possible to see pretty much everything that Strasbourg has to offer in a few days, if you take time to enjoy the city and soak up the atmosphere. I think that it’s worth going to visit the European District if you are visiting Strasbourg; it’s about a 15 minute tram ride from the city centre.  The buildings there are very modern, particularly the European Parliament building which is very impressive in a way that only the EU could achieve. The building itself is enormous and is only occupied by MEPs and their staff one week in four with the rest of the time being spent in Brussles. Strasbourg’s mayor has done a lot of work to advertise the city as the European Capital, so it is a big part of the city’s identity.

The European Parliament

The European Parliament

I’m going to be working during the weeks now, but I am planning on taking some trips at weekends to some of the other towns and cities in Eastern France, particularly in Alsace-Lorraine. I am really looking forward to my time here.

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