My decision to nominate Liz Kendall for the leadership of the Labour Party will be greeted with “Quelle Surprise?” by the usual suspects. They will attempt to explain my support for Liz as to be expected from a “Blairite.” These out-dated, misleading labels are not only a nonsense they allow people to promote extraordinary views. Some are even suggesting that advocating Labour’s historic and enduring mission to help people get on in life is a right wing conspiracy! As Labour’s young voter election coordinator it is what many young people told me time and time again was the most important factor in deciding whether and how to vote. They believe in personal responsibility but also wanted a Government committed to ensuring people have the chance to progress based on merit and hard work not parental background or postcode.
Yes, I plead guilty to believing that Tony Blair did far more good than bad for Labour and being proud of much of what the last Labour government achieved.
But neither Liz Kendall or I believe that Labour’s route back to Government can be charted via the New Labour handbook. At that time we didn’t have a legacy of a thirteen-year record in Government or the complex triple challenge of Labour meltdown in Scotland, working class alienation and middle class fear.
As others have stated, despite many achievements, New Labour was too hands off with the economy, too hands on with the state and reluctant to acknowledge the negative impact of growing inequality. As Liz has rightly made clear our duty is to respond to the challenges of the future not be constrained by the past. So why Liz Kendall?
Because she offers a fresh start allowing us to focus relentlessly on the future without being constantly dragged back by the baggage of the past. Liz is strong but also has the authenticity and humility to reach out to people alienated from the Westminster elite. Her leadership offers the best prospect of rebuilding a coalition of people from all backgrounds, classes and parts of our country who feel able to trust Labour with the Government of the country again.
She knows that a collection of policies however important are no replacement for a patriotic Labour vision of how our country can be so much better if it utilises the talents of all it’s people, shatters the glass ceilings which hold so many back and supports strong families and active communities. Liz will develop a new economic policy different to the new Labour years and different to the past five years but relevant to the challenges and opportunities of 2020 and 2030. An economy where Government is active in supporting small businesses to survive and grow and creating a business environment which supports UK companies to win global orders and attract inward investment. Devolving decision making and resources so the good jobs of the future are available across the country. Incentivising and championing wealth creators while ensuring all workers are treated with dignity and respect. An economy where education, skills and fair pay are the drivers, which ensure people, can get on and progress to a better life.
Liz believes in a welfare system, which treats vulnerable people with dignity and compassion, but will also reinvigorate the principle, that those who contribute the most should benefit the most. In recent years, Liz has been Labour’s leading advocate for the redistribution of power from state to citizen. She will shift Labour policy radically away from the over-centralised top-down state of the Blair/ Brown years and move it on from the past five years where people power made it to our manifesto thanks to the sterling efforts of Jon Cruddas but never to the heart of Labour’s agenda, supporting the devolution of power and resources from Whitehall to town halls an City regions, while ensuring this must be linked to a stronger voice for citizens and civil society in shaping their communities and insisting areas outside the big cities are not left behind.
This also means a public service improvement agenda, which recognises that good schools need great leadership and teachers but also involved parents treated as partners in their children’s education. The NHS is our proudest achievement but patients and families are too often viewed as passive recipients of care. We need to learn from developments such as personal social care and health budgets where people are rightly able to shape and control their own support and therefore their own quality of life.
The scale of Labour’s defeat and the challenges of rebuilding and renewing which lie ahead require radical and bold change. Liz Kendall is the change candidate who knows more of the same will lead to the same result for Labour. She is the new generation leader who can rebuild our relationship with voters of all backgrounds who no longer trust or like us very much.