The Labour Party took an unmistakable drubbing in the general election. But I wasn’t surprised that Caroline Flint was one of the first to pick herself up and brush herself off. She knows that being Deputy Leader would not be the easy option, but she’s never been afraid of hard work nor of telling the truth when this means challenging orthodoxy.
Caroline worked for me as one of my ministers when I was Home Secretary and she always rose to the challenge. She is very much a public servant in the best sense, wanting to improve the lives of people and nurture the political party that means so much to her.
She is also a politician who knows what a struggle life can be for many families and she talks their language. She understands the desire to get on in life.
Caroline talks a lot of sense when she says the challenge is not just about the centre ground, it’s about the ground to the south, to the north and in Scotland. Labour only wins when we create broad-based coalitions, with roots in every part of the country and all classes. The development of the popular tide of opinion which catches not just the mood of the moment but the expectations and the hopes of those who by helping themselves know they are able to offer help to others.
She doesn’t go out of her way to grab the limelight but she doesn’t shirk from responsibilities either. It can be a challenge going on Question Time or facing Andrew Neil or John Humphrys face to face but, throughout, the last Parliament when a senior Labour figure was required to perform on the media she stepped up.
I know too that Caroline isn’t afraid to do the unsung work. I’ve seen her canvassing door to door in the rain, engaging with voters and persuading people that Labour has their interests at heart.
Caroline has what it takes to reinvigorate members and to reconnect with voters. She has an appeal that stretches across the country, and that’s more important than ever if Labour is to win power again.