Labour has begun the work of building a mass party

While the Tories' membership dwindles, we are changing our party and processes to make politics relevant to ordinary people.

Politics matter and political parties matter. What they say and do matter. How a political party operates, raises money, recruits members and select candidates matters. Why? Because it gives us a lodestar, a set of values and guiding principles on how to deal with things.

Just chatting to my constituents, meeting them in the streets, or seeing them in my surgery, I know what ordinary people are facing on daily basis - a cost of living crisis that’s unprecedented. Prices have risen faster than wages in 38 of the 39 months that David Cameron has been in Downing Street. The average worker is around £1,500 worse off under this government than under the last Labour government. At the same time, David Cameron has cut taxes for people earning over £150,000 whilst hiking them up for everyone else.

David Cameron and George Osborne boast about fixing the economy, but ordinary people in Britain don’t feel it. Yet it’s no surprise that they are so out of touch with ordinary people.

The membership of the Tory Party is dwindling; they are funded by cash from their friends in the City, bankers and hedge fund managers. They listen to their big donors, the corporate lobbyists, the richest and the most powerful. That’s why we say David Cameron is not only out of touch with ordinary British families, he is always standing up for the wrong people.

It’s the way the Tory Party operates. It’s in their DNA. The Labour Party is very different. We want to govern in the interests of all the people and not just a narrow elite. We are a One Nation Labour Party that aspires to be a One Nation Labour Government.

But for us to truly to be a One Nation Party we need to reform and strengthen our party. We are proud that our members are ordinary people who come from all walks of life. Another great source of pride – and strength – are our links with trade unions who represent shop workers, bus drivers, office workers - the backbone of our economy. We are proud those ordinary workers are a part of the Labour Party, but we want them to play an even greater role in the party. Not just at edges but right in the centre.

And yes we are ambitious, we want to see a mass party – and yes we want to have ordinary Labour Party members in every street in Britain. It means members of trade unions, who are now affiliates, becoming full and active members. It will mean a stronger Labour Party.

So we have begun a process of talking and consulting with ordinary members, trade unionists and supporters to ask how we can strengthen our party. Headed by Lord Collins, our former general secretary, we are going to work out how we can really change our party structures, processes and finances to build a modern 21st century Labour Party. Ordinary members will get their say and will vote on the final proposals at a Special Conference in March.

This is an exciting time for us in the party. Exciting, because we know that by changing our party and processes, we will be changing how we do politics and so help make politics more relevant to ordinary people.

We are doing this because politics matter and political parties matter. We are doing this because we want to change the Labour Party to be ready, in less than two years' time, to be Britain’s One Nation Labour Government.

Phil Wilson is Labour MP for Sedgefield

Ed Miliband speaks to reporters after Labour candidate Andy Sawford won the Corby by-election on November 16, 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
Labour candidate Phil Wilson is 48 years of age and has lived in the Sedgefield constituency all his life. His father worked down Fishburn colliery before closure.
Getty Images.
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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.