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7 July 2011updated 11 Sep 2021 8:08am

Moving on from New Labour

Why we've launched Next Generation Labour.

By Cat Smith

Did Labour lose the general election because it wasn’t New Labour enough? To win again, should Labour be triangulating more with the Tories? Accept more of the Tory cuts agenda? Or look back to a pre-1945 welfare state agenda and a more socially conservative agenda?

Next Generation Labour has been set up to challenge this kind of outdated thinking still being advocated by some in Labour. Since the election last year, the Labour Party has quite rightly been engaging in an important debate about how to fulfil its most urgent task, ensuring that the Tories are kicked out of power at the next election.

This has seen the strand known as Blue Labour emerge and Progress becoming increasingly active. But much of what is on offer is either reheated Blairite formulae – or a dead end for Labour.

Next Generation Labour intends to play a full role in this important discussion from a different perspective.

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Originating from former Compass Youth Executive members (we resigned earlier in the year when it ended its focus on changing the Labour Party), Next Generation Labour will not only be advocating that Labour advances progressive centre-left policies – but that it needs to do this in order to win.

Ed Miliband was right to say we must learn why five million people stopped voting Labour during the 13 years we were in power. The loss of these voters was the fundamental reason for the general election defeat.

Ed’s election was an important step forward in Labour addressing where it had gone wrong in government.

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However, some in the Party are calling for him to repeat the old errors by ceding ground to the Tories on cuts or on social issues. Others are encouraging Ed to now stand for different values than those that got him elected as party leader, with Dan Hodges’ latest New Statesman piece, ‘On no account let Ed be Ed’ is just the latest such example.

Such thinking fails to acknowledge that it was under a New Labour policy agenda that we lost 5m votes from 1997 – with 4m of these under Tony Blair.

For many of the younger generation, this loss of support was, in part, because Labour became identified with failing to ensure growth was shared fairly enough – whilst the very wealthiest got ever richer; raising tuition fees, pursuing war, attacking civil liberties and demonising immigrants and the vulnerable.

In reconnecting Labour it’s just as important to understand that these 5m lost Labour voters did not, in the main, go to the right. The Tories only gained 1m from 1997-2010. More than 1.6m went to the Liberal Democrats who sought to reach out to progressive voters on issues such as Iraq, university costs and ID cards. Whilst many other former Labour voters and Labour identifiers decided not to turn out and vote at all, no doubt feeling abandoned by our Party.

But what is the alternative? There is a large section of the electorate who do not back the Tories , as shown by both the 36 per cent the Tories received at last year’s election and its current polling.. From this Labour can forge a winning alliance.

The same people who are most under threat from the Tories reactionary agenda are the very same ones we need to win back to Labour: young people, ordinary working people, the most deprived and impoverished, ethnic minorities and women.

To reach out to these voters, we have to take the fight to the Tories showing the public that Labour offers a radically different alternative. A positive agenda that protects people’s living standards, defends public services against further Tory onslaughts, builds a modern and green economy, champions equality for all and a just and peaceful foreign policy can help us do this.

Taking on the Tories, with progressive alternatives, not triangulating, is the best way to ensure that Labour wins again.

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