On election night, I was making my way to the count after a solid day of campaigning in Birmingham Yardley (Lab Gain). In all honestly, I thought the Labour Party could make a return to power tonight through a minority government. It wasn’t in my wildest dreams or even of Labour Party strategists apparently that the Conservative Party could be returned with a majority. When the BBC exit poll came in, my heart sank and from that point, I knew a lot of the hard-work activists had put in up and down the country would have been for nothing. As the night went on, I saw seats I campaigned in and candidates I knew fail to make headway against the Tories in seats like Nuneaton, North Warwickshire, Cannock Chase and Pudsey. The election was won for the Tories up and down in very normal English towns, where Labour’s message and rhetoric just didn’t resonate with hard-working people and families throughout the country. Election night for me was however a bittersweet night. I saw the all our hard-work swept away in a sea of blue. However, in my own seat Yardley we benefited from the collapse of the Liberal Democrats and the hard-work of our campaign team and brilliant candidate. I saw this in other seats, such as Ilford North, where Wes Streeting overturned an 8,000 Tory Majority. Labour did win where we had hard-working candidates, who really engaged with the local community. However, in too many seats despite how hard-working the candidate was, the voters just didn’t trust the Labour Party.
The crux of our problem was the view of Ed Miliband, lack of trust on the economy and a coherent and convincing vision for the country. To quote Clinton, “It’s the economy, stupid!”. At the end of the day voters want to know what your government will do to improve their lives and the lives of their children. We had campaigned on some important issues, such as abolishing the cruel bedroom tax. However we forgot the silent majority of British people who aren't in dire poverty but aren't rich either. These are the people who want to work hard and put a bit away for their kids. They don't have old boys’ networks, just a bit of grit and hard-work. This silent majority won the election for the Tories. We have to win back the silent majority of Middle England, so Labour can build a winning coalition once again like Tony Blair did in 1997, 2001 and 2005.
One of the key failures of the Miliband leadership was that he incorrectly apotheosised that the centre-ground had moved to the left. To put it bluntly, it has not and any candidate who believes by going left Labour can win again is a danger to the continued existence of the Labour Party. The Labour Party is at its best when it applies our values to the challenges of the present and the future. Labour Party revisionist intellectual heavyweights, such as Anthony Crosland and Anthony Giddens recognised that. I’m backing Liz Kendall because she recognises that we can be true to our values while at the same time addressing the challenges of today. The Labour Party cannot prescribe the same solutions as it did in the 2015 General Election and expect the general public to be any more positive towards it.
The redistribution of wealth is quite frankly an obsession of the statist left and Milifans alike. However, it is simple economics that if you want to even think about redistributing wealth you must first support the creation of that wealth. The Labour Party at the last election quite frankly came across as anti-business. I never want a Leader of the Labour Party again to stand up and refer to businesses as predators. This leads me to a very simple principle, the Labour Party must recognise that it can be both pro-business and pro-worker. An economy with strong business, which pays its workers a living wage or more is the heart of a fairer and more just society.
The Labour Party in the years ahead faces challenges on the economy, immigration, Europe, welfare reform and devolution. I want to see a Labour Party at the forefront of radical change in Britain. I want a Labour Party focused on what works for working people and not what is dogmatic or ideological. Liz Kendall has shown she is the fresh start candidate and the candidate who will say what is right even if it is uncomfortable for the Labour Party. We cannot afford to simply end this Leadership Election with a Female or Northern Ed Miliband. We cannot afford to carry on with the politics of failure that will now characterise Miliband. Lets not idolise the leader who lost us the election. Lets have turn over the page and have a fresh start.
Throughout the Leadership Campaign so far Liz Kendall has stood out as the fresh start candidate, the candidate of fiscal responsibility, and the candidate of radical reform, not radical spending and most importantly the candidate of Labour values. I am supporting Liz Kendall for the leadership of the Labour Party because she understands that fiscal responsibility isn’t the opposite of our values, it is in our values. I was delighted to see Liz has thrown her weight behind devolution recently and has proposed to devolve the Work Programme to devolved local government.
Liz’s campaign clearly has great ideas behind it. However, I think it is imperative we stick to the path of reform and leave the comfort zone of left-wing politics. We shouldn’t just propose small trinkets of reform, we need to offer a radical vision for the future. We need to go all the way of the devolution and we should never shy away from talking about welfare reform. One of the greatest mistakes of Tony Blair was certainly sacking Frank Field as Minister for Welfare Reform because he was simply too radical. Most importantly, we must move away from the state solutions of the past. The state has a role to play but we need to look at radical non-state solutions and that starts with devolution. To that extent, I hope If Liz was to be elected Leader she would listen to all corners of the party, especially including Blue Labour, which in the recent book of the same name has presented a clear and radical vision of a new politics of the common good.
Labour wins when it applies its values to the challenges of today and the future. Labour will win again when it presents a radical vision of the common good. Labour wins when it speaks to Middle England. I believe Liz Kendall is best placed to deliver this and ensure Labour is returned to power in 2020.