Some lost by a lot more. Photo: Getty Images
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I lost to the Conservatives by just 378 votes. Here's what I've learned

Labour didn't have enough to say to businesses, or enough for people on long hours not zero hours. That must never happen again. 

In the month since I lost by 378 votes in Bury North, I’ve spent my time throwing my arms round my family and throwing myself back into my business. 

Defeat, like success, rarely happens overnight. Labour’s explosive loss last month can’t be put down to just one thing or person. One focus since the defeat has rightly been to ask why we appeared to be anti business and said so little on new jobs and job creation. As a Labour businessman myself, I ask, why aren’t we a party with a deference to business? Not just education, but business and starting up in business, should be our vehicle for social mobility. For it is. We need more employers, risk takers and entrepreneurs. Labour needs them and our country needs more of them.  Where the risk in an idea is embraced, an entrepreneur commits their idea to the economy, employs themselves with others and sets to the task of succeeding. Their business, good business, for and with others. Their contribution to the economic wealth of the whole country with a well run company, making money, growing employment, providing social mobility, paying for public services and increasing repeat opportunities for themselves and others.

Social mobility is not just being about equal opportunity but a second opportunity. Everyone having repeat access to opportunity. Much is made of mobility through good education, the arts and relationships with our fellow citizens but good business and sound employment promotes social mobility and makes it possible. Labour should redefine its support for business with a belief in the transformative impact that good business can have on an individual’s social mobility, providing repeat opportunity across society and increasing economic freedoms.

Labour’s political direction said very little about the future economy we’d help create, nothing of the new jobs, or the fresh ideas to deliver the greater equality we demand. On jobs, we’d change minimum wages, laws and taxes but said nothing of our design for decent jobs with an investment and understanding in private job creation. Job creation is not about outsourcing the risk of public services to the private sector either - as the Tories believe. Its about a vision, a white heat revolution in pursuit of better and new. This is as much about about how our universities and technical sectors work with our science industries as it is improving the access for small business to the supply chains of big business. It is especially about helping more of the trigger moments to happen in a small company when they decide they can commit to a new member of the team and another draw on the payroll. 

After some excellent work in government a decade ago, we forgot about skills, and said nothing on future high growth sectors that a Labour government would help bring to their tipping points, back up or spread. These sectors include high tech, creative and green industries along with a a deep commitment to help start ups of all kinds with an approach that helps share the risk of setting up your own business, encourages it, and not just stake claims on successes through taxation.

A prospective Labour government can play a vital role in ensuring the best of British business and new ideas for a fresh economy and greater equality. The model of successful growth funding successful public services is not broken, its just too narrow. So let’s outline a clear, enabling, pro business argument as the prospective government. Articulate a plan that addresses; the needs of priority sectors, talent supply chains for growth industries, offers incentives, shares risk, identifies regional priorities, considers the distribution of industry, improves small business lending, help start ups and their cash flow, and above all show we’ve a deep commitment to business growth and new jobs. In doing so we have a chance to move away from an all too often tendency to present to the wider public as judgemental of success.

At this election, our proposition was all opposition. We spoke of all we’d stop and little of what we’d do. Our offer was a complaint.  We spoke to those in need of a Labour government and said little to appeal to those who might be persuaded to want one. We rightly spoke of zero hours and wrongly said nothing to those working long hours. So as we jostle and jockey for a way ahead let’s make sure, well before next time, that we show we have the interests not just of those in need of a payday but those responsible for making payroll. 

Let’s appeal to those who know the humility and pride of what employing people feels like, creating opportunities for work, looking after a team, developing their talents and raising the bar on the best of British business. Small firms do far more every day to keep people gainfully employed, paying taxes and contributing to our economy, than any professional politician might. Let’s grasp the risk and reward deal of private enterprise, harness it and help spread it as an evangelical, pro worker, business believing, Labour party. And commit to fairness and fortune.

James Frith was Labour's candidate in Bury North. He owns a small business, and tweets as @JamesFrith.

Photo: Getty Images
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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.