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.

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Will Euroscepticism prove an unbeatable advantage in the Conservative leadership race?

Conservative members who are eager for Brexit are still searching for a heavyweight champion - and they could yet inherit the earth.

Put your money on Liam Fox? The former Defence Secretary has been given a boost by the news that ConservativeHome’s rolling survey of party members preferences for the next Conservative leader. Jeremy Wilson at BusinessInsider and James Millar at the Sunday Post have both tipped Fox for the top job.

Are they right? The expectation among Conservative MPs is that there will be several candidates from the Tory right: Dominic Raab, Priti Patel and potentially Owen Paterson could all be candidates, while Boris Johnson, in the words of one: “rides both horses – is he the candidate of the left, of the right, or both?”

MPs will whittle down the field of candidates to a top two, who will then be voted on by the membership.  (As Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, notes in his interview with my colleague George Eaton, Conservative MPs could choose to offer a wider field if they so desired, but would be unlikely to surrender more power to party activists.)

The extreme likelihood is that that contest will be between two candidates: George Osborne and not-George Osborne.  “We know that the Chancellor has a bye to the final,” one minister observes, “But once you’re in the final – well, then it’s anyone’s game.”

Could “not-George Osborne” be Liam Fox? Well, the difficulty, as one MP observes, is we don’t really know what the Conservative leadership election is about:

“We don’t even know what the questions are to which the candidates will attempt to present themselves as the answer. Usually, that question would be: who can win us the election? But now that Labour have Corbyn, that question is taken care of.”

So what’s the question that MPs will be asking? We simply don’t know – and it may be that they come to a very different conclusion to their members, just as in 2001, when Ken Clarke won among MPs – before being defeated in a landslide by Conservative activists.

Much depends not only on the outcome of the European referendum, but also on its conduct. If the contest is particularly bruising, it may be that MPs are looking for a candidate who will “heal and settle”, in the words of one. That would disadvantage Fox, who will likely be a combative presence in the European referendum, and could benefit Boris Johnson, who, as one MP put it, “rides both horses” and will be less intimately linked with the referendum and its outcome than Osborne.

But equally, it could be that Euroscepticism proves to be a less powerful card than we currently expect. Ignoring the not inconsiderable organisational hurdles that have to be cleared to beat Theresa May, Boris Johnson, and potentially any or all of the “next generation” of Sajid Javid, Nicky Morgan or Stephen Crabb, we simply don’t know what the reaction of Conservative members to the In-Out referendum will be.

Firstly, there’s a non-trivial possibility that Leave could still win, despite its difficulties at centre-forward. The incentive to “reward” an Outer will be smaller. But if Britain votes to Remain – and if that vote is seen by Conservative members as the result of “dirty tricks” by the Conservative leadership – it could be that many members, far from sticking around for another three to four years to vote in the election, simply decide to leave. The last time that Cameron went against the dearest instincts of many of his party grassroots, the result was victory for the Prime Minister – and an activist base that, as the result of defections to Ukip and cancelled membership fees, is more socially liberal and more sympathetic to Cameron than it was before. Don’t forget that, for all the worry about “entryism” in the Labour leadership, it was “exitism” – of Labour members who supported David Miliband and liked the New Labour years  - that shifted that party towards Jeremy Corbyn.

It could be that if – as Brady predicts in this week’s New Statesman – the final two is an Inner and an Outer, the Eurosceptic candidate finds that the members who might have backed them are simply no longer around.

It comes back to the biggest known unknown in the race to succeed Cameron: Conservative members. For the first time in British political history, a Prime Minister will be chosen, not by MPs with an electoral mandate of their own or by voters at a general election but by an entirelyself-selecting group: party members. And we simply don't know enough about what they feel - yet. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.