Yes she Kendall? Photo: Getty Images
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I'm backing Liz Kendall for one reason - because she can beat the Conservatives

So I’m backing Liz for leader because I think she is brave and because I think she is right. But most of all I am backing Liz because I think she can win.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: the Labour Party exists to win elections.

We’re not a protest group or a glorified charity campaign, we do not exist to ‘raise issues’ or ‘start debates’. We exist to win a public mandate to change the country for the better.

This is important because it puts what happened in the General Election into context. A defeat on this scale is not just a bump in the road, it’s a crisis posing fundamental questions about our aims and objectives. This crisis requires a radical response.

That’s why the overwhelming focus of this leadership election should be picking a leader who can win in 2020. Not one who can ‘unite the party’, paper over the cracks and get big cheers at party conference. We need somebody who can beat the Tories and lead us back into power.

I’m also clear that the only way to beat the Tories is to reach out from our base and start winning Tory voters over to Labour. This may sound obvious, but it seems to have become a strangely unfashionable view in some Labour circles. I’m forever reading about how if just a few more Greens had voted for us, or if turnout was a little higher then Ed Miliband would even now be measuring the Downing Street curtains.

This is dangerous nonsense. Over 11 million people voted Conservative in the election, and if we make no attempt to win back those voters then Labour will never form a majority government again.

To win these people back, Labour will have to change. We will have to leave the comfort blanket of opposition and wrestle with the difficult issues that serious parties of Government must confront. This means fighting on unfamiliar turf, whether it’s defence spending or public service reform.

Some in Labour will say that this means adopting a ‘Tory agenda’, but if we allow ourselves to believe that wanting to defend our country or to make public services more efficient are Tory ideas then we might as well give up and go home. A party that seeks to win popular support and govern for the whole country must speak on issues that concern the whole country, not just those that excite its core supporters.

To do all of this will require a leader with bravery and vision. Someone who can move on from the past and think creatively about the challenges facing modern Britain. Someone who can ignore siren voices from all sides and stick to what’s right and what resonates strongly with the British public.

In my opinion the only leadership contender displaying these qualities is Liz Kendall and that’s why I’m backing her in the leadership contest.

Whether it’s reforming our public services to give people more control or carving out an ambitious new role for Britain in the world, Liz is the candidate who has been making the running and mapping out a platform from which Labour could take on the Tories. Liz would also offer Labour a fresh start. Free from endlessly debating the successes and failures of the Blair and Brown years, we could finally move the debate on to show what a modern Labour Party will do to improve the lives of millions.

Crucially, I believe Liz has the desire and determination to win in 2020. She understands that winning is not an afterthought in some great intellectual project, winning should be the aim. For too long pragmatic steeliness has been missing in our politics and we need to get the bit between our teeth again. Our desire to win elections should never be seen as a betrayal of our principles, but the truest expression of them.

Over the next five years I will see hundreds of constituents who are suffering because of the bedroom tax. The Labour Party could have helped these people, but they will continue to suffer because we couldn’t win an election. That should be a huge wake up call to every Labour MP and party member.

So I’m backing Liz for leader because I think she is brave and because I think she is right. But most of all I am backing Liz because I think she can win.

Simon Danczuk is MP for Rochdale.

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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