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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Theresa May gambles that the EU will blink first

In her Brexit speech, the Prime Minister raised the stakes by declaring that "no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain". 

It was at Lancaster House in 1988 that Margaret Thatcher delivered a speech heralding British membership of the single market. Twenty eight years later, at the same venue, Theresa May confirmed the UK’s retreat.

As had been clear ever since her Brexit speech in October, May recognises that her primary objective of controlling immigration is incompatible with continued membership. Inside the single market, she noted, the UK would still have to accept free movement and the rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). “It would to all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU at all,” May surmised.

The Prime Minister also confirmed, as anticipated, that the UK would no longer remain a full member of the Customs Union. “We want to get out into the wider world, to trade and do business all around the globe,” May declared.

But she also recognises that a substantial proportion of this will continue to be with Europe (the destination for half of current UK exports). Her ambition, she declared, was “a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement”. May added that she wanted either “a completely new customs agreement” or associate membership of the Customs Union.

Though the Prime Minister has long ruled out free movement and the acceptance of ECJ jurisdiction, she has not pledged to end budget contributions. But in her speech she diminished this potential concession, warning that the days when the UK provided “vast” amounts were over.

Having signalled what she wanted to take from the EU, what did May have to give? She struck a notably more conciliatory tone, emphasising that it was “overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain’s national interest that the EU should succeed”. The day after Donald Trump gleefully predicted the institution’s demise, her words were in marked contrast to those of the president-elect.

In an age of Isis and Russian revanchism, May also emphasised the UK’s “unique intelligence capabilities” which would help to keep “people in Europe safe from terrorism”. She added: “At a time when there is growing concern about European security, Britain’s servicemen and women, based in European countries including Estonia, Poland and Romania, will continue to do their duty. We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.”

The EU’s defining political objective is to ensure that others do not follow the UK out of the club. The rise of nationalists such as Marine Le Pen, Alternative für Deutschland and the Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom) has made Europe less, rather than more, amenable to British demands. In this hazardous climate, the UK cannot be seen to enjoy a cost-free Brexit.

May’s wager is that the price will not be excessive. She warned that a “punitive deal that punishes Britain” would be “an act of calamitous self-harm”. But as Greece can testify, economic self-interest does not always trump politics.

Unlike David Cameron, however, who merely stated that he “ruled nothing out” during his EU renegotiation, May signalled that she was prepared to walk away. “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain,” she declared. Such an outcome would prove economically calamitous for the UK, forcing it to accept punitively high tariffs. But in this face-off, May’s gamble is that Brussels will blink first.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.