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20 September 2013

Labour has begun the work of building a mass party

While the Tories' membership dwindles, we are changing our party and processes to make politics relevant to ordinary people.

By Phil Wilson

Politics matter and political parties matter. What they say and do matter. How a political party operates, raises money, recruits members and select candidates matters. Why? Because it gives us a lodestar, a set of values and guiding principles on how to deal with things.

Just chatting to my constituents, meeting them in the streets, or seeing them in my surgery, I know what ordinary people are facing on daily basis – a cost of living crisis that’s unprecedented. Prices have risen faster than wages in 38 of the 39 months that David Cameron has been in Downing Street. The average worker is around £1,500 worse off under this government than under the last Labour government. At the same time, David Cameron has cut taxes for people earning over £150,000 whilst hiking them up for everyone else.

David Cameron and George Osborne boast about fixing the economy, but ordinary people in Britain don’t feel it. Yet it’s no surprise that they are so out of touch with ordinary people.

The membership of the Tory Party is dwindling; they are funded by cash from their friends in the City, bankers and hedge fund managers. They listen to their big donors, the corporate lobbyists, the richest and the most powerful. That’s why we say David Cameron is not only out of touch with ordinary British families, he is always standing up for the wrong people.

It’s the way the Tory Party operates. It’s in their DNA. The Labour Party is very different. We want to govern in the interests of all the people and not just a narrow elite. We are a One Nation Labour Party that aspires to be a One Nation Labour Government.

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But for us to truly to be a One Nation Party we need to reform and strengthen our party. We are proud that our members are ordinary people who come from all walks of life. Another great source of pride – and strength – are our links with trade unions who represent shop workers, bus drivers, office workers – the backbone of our economy. We are proud those ordinary workers are a part of the Labour Party, but we want them to play an even greater role in the party. Not just at edges but right in the centre.

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And yes we are ambitious, we want to see a mass party – and yes we want to have ordinary Labour Party members in every street in Britain. It means members of trade unions, who are now affiliates, becoming full and active members. It will mean a stronger Labour Party.

So we have begun a process of talking and consulting with ordinary members, trade unionists and supporters to ask how we can strengthen our party. Headed by Lord Collins, our former general secretary, we are going to work out how we can really change our party structures, processes and finances to build a modern 21st century Labour Party. Ordinary members will get their say and will vote on the final proposals at a Special Conference in March.

This is an exciting time for us in the party. Exciting, because we know that by changing our party and processes, we will be changing how we do politics and so help make politics more relevant to ordinary people.

We are doing this because politics matter and political parties matter. We are doing this because we want to change the Labour Party to be ready, in less than two years’ time, to be Britain’s One Nation Labour Government.

Phil Wilson is Labour MP for Sedgefield