Chuka Umunna addresses a Labour party rally. Photo:Getty Images
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Why we are endorsing Liz Kendall for the Labour leadership

Chuka Umunna, Emma Reynolds, Stephen Twigg and Jonathan Reynolds - Chuka Umunna's leadership team - explain why they're backing Liz Kendall's campaign for the Labour leadership.

In this time of change our party must move beyond its comfort zone and find new ways of realising its age-old goals of equality and freedom.

The Labour Party’s greatest strength has always been our commitment to a society that is fairer and freer, more equal and more democratic.  Our mission has always been to apply that commitment to the circumstances of our time. Today, when those circumstances are changing increasingly rapidly and old assumptions are breaking down, that task is tougher, and more pressing, than ever.

It is no longer simply enough to get into power and, from Whitehall, pull the old social-democratic levers: tax rates and regulation, welfare payments and tax credits. They have their place but these alone are inadequate to the task of delivering a fair, united society at a time when technology cycles are speeding up, new economic competitors are on the rise and the make-up and identity of our country are evolving. Living up to our age-old mission demands a willingness to grapple with the economic, social and global challenges as they are before us now.

Our movement faces three main, interlocking economic questions that are much more acute now than in the past: How to deliver excellent public services at a time when money is tight? How to harness the technological changes that are disrupting established industries and destroying jobs to create new, better opportunities? And how to remain competitive in a time of globalisation, paying our way in the world over the coming decades?

The answers, too, are interlocking. They include a more creative and strategic relationship between the state and business, a much better use of government’s convening power to channel investment into R&D and a genuinely life-long education system. The only sustainable foundation for Britain’s future prosperity is better productivity and a confident, adaptive workforce - not the private consumption and house price inflation on which our economy has too often been based in the past.

Our movement also faces newly urgent social questions. Building solidarity between different segments of the country is a bigger task today than it was in 1997. The very coherence of the United Kingdom is at risk. Regional identity is becoming more pronounced. In an increasingly diverse society, integration of different communities is ever-more essential. Our ageing population puts new pressures on public services and on the pact between the generations.

As the party that has always stood for a cohesive society, we in Labour must lead the charge in transforming the institutions of our country to keep up with evolving realities. That means reshaping the state: moving towards a more federal United Kingdom, devolving power and money to cities and regions, reforming our electoral system and political bodies to reflect the more open and pluralistic country they represent. And it means a new approach to public services: integrating health, mental health and social care services, starting at “what works” and putting the principles of prevention and innovation at the heart of the welfare state.

As the internationalists of British politics, those who see responsibilities and opportunities beyond our own borders, we in Labour must also champion a new approach to the world stage. Britain is no longer a recent superpower with an automatic claim to a place at the top table of nations, but a country with a moderately large population that must earn its right to that place. As CNN’s Fareed Zakaria wrote last week, Britain “has essentially resigned as a global power” under David Cameron - but is “even now, a country with the talent, history and capacity to shape the international order.”

So let our party lead this argument for a smart and engaged use of Britain’s vast soft power, its military expertise and specialisms and the versatility and reach that come from its unique network of alliances. We should, for example, fight to stay in the EU not just out of economic, transactional reasons but as part of a bigger, emotional, fundamentally optimistic vision of Britain’s future: as a country that chooses prosperity, security and geopolitical influence over an isolation that (as Zakaria concludes) would be bad not just for us, but for the world as a whole.

The job for the next Labour leader is to weave these imperatives, economic, social and global, into a credible national story of a country proud of its history and confident of owning the future. A vision of a Britain in which all can get on, whose citizens are financially secure and in control of their lives and happiness - and are, collectively, secure and effective in the wider world. A vision both rooted in the party’s eternal values and alive to the complexities and realities of the context in which we must now realise them.

For us, our next leader must get this vision right. On all these big subjects, Liz Kendall has asked the tough questions and started to chart a course to the answers. She has been courageous in challenging conventional wisdom. She has no compunction in moving Labour beyond our comfort zone and is determined to build a team ready to chart a route forward. This is exactly what our party needs and that is why we are nominating her to be the next leader of the Labour Party.

Chuka Umunna, Labour MP for Streatham & Shadow Business Secretary

Emma Reynolds, Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East & Shadow Communities Secretary

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde & Shadow Climate Change Minister

Stephen Twigg, Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby & Shadow Justice Minister

Chuka Umunna is Labour MP for Streatham.

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The biggest divide in politics is not left against right, but liberals against authoritarians

My week, including a Lib Dem membership rise, The Avalanches, and why I'm putting pressure on Theresa May over child refugees.

It is a boost for us that Nick Clegg has agreed to return to the front line and be our Brexit spokesperson. I hadn’t even had a chance at our meeting to make him the offer when he said: “Before we start, I’ve been thinking about this and want to take on the fight over Europe.”

With Labour apparently willing to give the Tories a free pass to take us out of Europe, the Liberal Democrats are the only UK-wide party that will go into the next election campaigning to maintain our membership of the EU. The stage is remarkably clear for us to remind Theresa May precisely what she would be risking if we abandon free trade, free movement, environmental protection, workers’ rights and cross-border security co-operation. More than a month on from the referendum, all we have heard from the Tories is that “Brexit means Brexit” – but they have given us no clue that they understand what that means.

 

Premature obituaries

Not long ago, the received wisdom was that all political parties were dying – but lately the supposed corpses have twitched into life. True, many who have joined Labour’s ranks are so hard left that they don’t see winning elections as a primary (or even a desirable) purpose of a party, and opening up Labour to those with a very different agenda could ultimately destroy it.

Our experience has been happier: 20,000 people joined the Liberal Democrat fightback in the wake of the 2015 general election result, and 17,000 more have joined since the referendum. We now have more members than at any time this century.

 

Breaking up is hard to do

Journalists have been asking repeatedly if I want to see the break-up of the Labour Party, with moderates defecting to the Liberal Democrats. I have been clear that I am not a home-wrecker and it is for Labour to determine its own future, just as I focus on advancing the Liberal Democrat cause. Yet I have also been clear that I am happy for my party to be a home for liberals of whatever hue. I enjoyed campaigning in the referendum with a variety of progressive figures, just as moderates from different parties shared platforms in 1975. It struck me that far more unites us than divides us.

That said, not all “moderate” Labour figures could be described as “liberal”, as John Reid demonstrated as Labour home secretary. The modern political divide is less left v right than authoritarian v liberal. Both left and right are looking increasingly authoritarian and outright nasty, with fewer voices prepared to stand up for liberal values.

 

What I did on my holidays

Time off has been virtually non-existent, but I am reading A Wilderness of Mirrors by Mark Meynell (about loss of trust in politics, the media and just about everything). I’m also obsessively listening to Wildflower by the Avalanches, their second album, 16 years after their first. It’s outstanding – almost 60 minutes of intelligently crafted dialogue, samples and epic production.

During the political maelstrom, I have been thinking back to the idyllic few days I spent over half-term on the Scottish island of Colonsay: swimming in the sea with the kids (very cold but strangely exhilarating ­after a decent jog), running and walking. An added bonus is that Colonsay is the smallest island in the world to have its own brewery. I can now heartily recommend it.

 

Preparing for the next fight

The odds are weirdly long on an early general election, but I refuse to be complacent – and not merely because the bookies were so wrong about Brexit. If we have learned one truth about Theresa May as Prime Minister so far, it is that she is utterly ruthless. After her savage cabinet sackings, this is, in effect, a new government. She has refused to go to the country, even though she lectured Gordon Brown on the need to gain the endorsement of the electorate when he replaced Tony Blair. Perhaps she doesn’t care much about legitimacy, but she cares about power.

You can be sure that she will be keeping half an eye on Labour’s leadership election. With Jeremy Corbyn potentially reconfirmed as leader in September against the wishes of three-quarters of his MPs, Mrs May might conclude that she will never have a better chance to increase her narrow majority. Throw in the possibility that the economy worsens next year as Brexit starts to bite, and I rule nothing out.

So, we are already selecting candidates. It is vital that they dig in early. As we are the only party prepared to make the positive case for Europe, such an election would present us with an amazing opportunity.

 

Sitting Priti

David Cameron pledged to take an unspecified number of unaccompanied children from camps across the Continent. I am putting pressure on Theresa May to turn that vague commitment into a proper plan. Having visited such camps, I have been fighting for Britain to give sanctuary to a minimum of 3,000 unaccompanied children, who are currently open to the worst kinds of exploitation. We have heard nothing but silence from the government, with underfunded councils reporting that they are not receiving the help they need from Whitehall.

Meanwhile, it remains government policy to send refugees to Turkey – whose increasingly authoritarian government has just suspended human rights protection.

As if all of this were not grim enough, we have a new Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, who has said that she thinks aid should be used largely to promote trade. As someone who wants our country to be respected around the world, I find this plain embarrassing. Actually, it’s worse. It’s shaming. As with Europe, so with the world: the ­Conservative government is hauling up the drawbridge just when we need more than ever to engage with people beyond our shores.

Tim Farron is the leader of the Liberal Democrats. To join the party, visit: libdems.org.uk/join

Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats.

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue