The Conservatives in the United Kingdom want us to believe they reign supreme. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is a political genius and Prime Minister David Cameron is a modern-day, one-nation Macmillan.
In reality, the Conservatives are not so deeply entrenched in power and they are not widely liked. Their values are seen as toxic, they are bereft of ideas and their long-term economic plan doesn’t exist. Yet, last May, they won the general election, while Labour went down to one of its worst ever defeats.
Now they have made a land grab for Labour policies in a pretence that they hold our values. They have taken the living wage. They have taken Labour’s work on apprenticeships with their proposed levy on business. They have taken our idea for a national infrastructure commission , and they have taken prison reform as their own.
At the heart of Labour’s policy review was the devolution of power and resources to English cities, counties and communities. But the leadership couldn’t let go of its desire to control from the centre. Labour was too arrogant to listen and too timid to act. As it vacillated about the New Deal for England, Osborne grabbed it and claimed it as his own “northern powerhouse”. But he will continue to punish the poor for the sins of the banking sector.
The Tory version of the living wage will not end in-work poverty. Tory apprenticeship schemes will be limited. The Tory infrastructure commission will be undermined by a failure of political ambition. Political opportunism trumps substance. Tory politics is thin gruel.
In 2010, during Labour’s leadership election, the argument was surrendered on the deficit and the economy. And Labour never recovered. In the 2015 leadership election, we surrendered the argument on devolution. Labour is stuck in an unpopular, outdated politics of taxing and spending and using state control. It has got us into a situation in which a Tory chancellor looks more in tune with Labour councils in the north than the Labour party itself.
One can’t let Labour lose again. One can no longer be a party fearful of new ideas and wedded to institutional conservatism. Labour has let down tens of thousands of members, whose selfless work is a great force for good in Britain. The country needs a Labour party capable of boldness, but absolutely clear that what matters is building a broad coalition of electoral support. We didn’t do that in 2010 and we ignored it in 2015. So this week we launch an organisation called Labour Together.
We will work with members who supported any of the four leadership candidates and with organisations across the spectrum of the Labour movement. We will support grass roots Labour in our communities. We know that Labour only wins when it is united and when it is patriotic and speaks for the whole country.
Jeremy Corbyn has rightly challenged the party to rethink the way in which it does politics. This is a challenge we wholeheartedly embrace. Together with my colleagues Lisa Nandy, Steve Reed and council leaders Judith Blake, of Leeds, and Nick Forbes, of Newcastle, I will lead an initiative to bring together all sections of our party to discuss and debate the future of the party and the country.
We will take forward the work of the 2012-2014 policy review and anchor it more deeply in the life of our communities. We will connect our council and city leaders and develop our local community organising and our networks of thinkers, social entrepreneurs and policy makers.
Labour lost everywhere to everybody. It was wiped out in Scotland because it was the party of Westminster. It lost in England and Wales because voters didn’t trust it with the country’s finances. On a range of electorally significant issues, Labour was out of touch with the views of the electorate.
Labour Together will learn the lessons of defeat so that it can win again. It will build a broad inclusive politics to challenge the huge inequalities in power, wealth and opportunity that still blight too many people’s lives. Labour wants power to be shared with local people, not just with town halls and local politicians. Local people know best how to solve local problems and the party must involve them in policymaking and shaping its public services.
And Labour wants the same power for people in the economy. The party’s priority must be a new political economy that is pro-worker and pro-business, supporting people to develop the skills, power and knowledge they need to act as full economic citizens.
Labour needs to help people to help themselves. The power of people’s relationships can transform lives for the better and give them a sense of identity and belonging.
Labour lost in 2010 and again in 2015 and now it faces political irrelevance unless it can transform itself. Let us trust the people of Britain. Power must lie with them. Only they can decide their own destiny. The aim is to bring the Labour party together to become once again the party of the whole country and the party of the future.
— Guardian News & Media Ltd
Jon Cruddas is Member of the British Parliament and co-ordinator of the Labour Party’s policy review.