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5 August 2015

To win the election, Labour needs to unify around Yvette Cooper

I remember all too well the repeated defeats of the 1980s. Let's not got back, warns David Hanson MP.

By David Hanson

Being a party of protest again is a luxury that millions simply can’t afford. The party needs to unite around Yvette.

It’s been a brutal three months for our party. The manner of our defeat has been rehearsed so frequently and so widely it now rolls off the tongue. However, some of the ramifications from May 7 are worth reiterating.

Labour lost seats – in Scotland, Wales and England. We are now at 1980s numbers of MPs.

In order to get a working majority at the next election, Labour would need to win in areas that have never returned a Labour MP – like Basingstoke and Chingford.

There are more Labour MPs within 20 miles of my constituency than there are in the whole of the south of England outside of London.

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That’s the scale of our task.

It requires a 2020 result of 1997 proportions.

More recently, the events of the last few weeks surrounding the Welfare Bill have hammered home how awful being consigned to opposition is. There are people who desperately need a Labour government to stand up for them, to ensure that their schools have adequate resources and to guarantee that there will be investment in the jobs of the future. Thousands of children live in real poverty in my constituency in North Wales yet the Tories have scrapped the child poverty target. The party needs to remember that stacking up votes in our city heartlands is all well and good but our failure to win any seats in vast parts of the county has let people down.

To use a popular phrase, we’ve seen this movie before. In the 1980s Labour spent a generation in the political wilderness, making speeches waving placards and planning demos yet ultimately crushed by the brutal levers of Conservative rule.

Delyn is a Labour seat now. It was Tory one throughout that decade. I know how awful that period was – I was the losing candidate there.

It was a complete and utter disaster and our opposition utterly failed to prevent a regression in social mobility and a diabolical neglect of public services. That’s why the Labour Party, a party that I’ve been part of for nearly 40 years, must think very seriously about who it selects as its next leader.

Being a party of protest again is a luxury that millions of Britons simply can’t afford.

Over the years, I’ve supported Neil Kinnock and John Smith in their respective leadership elections, served as a PPS to Tony Blair and minister in his government and worked as a minister for Gordon Brown during his premiership.

I’ve experienced different types of leadership from different parts of the party and it’s clear to me that Yvette is the candidate that is best placed to hold our base together as well as win new votes and regain those we lost in May.

And here’s why:

First, Yvette has the experience to convince the country that Labour should be trusted with government again. I’ve worked with her as shadow Immigration Minister and I’ve been impressed with how well she’s handled a home office brief that includes terrorism, crime and the UK’s border policy. She also demonstrated courageous leadership by arguing that the government must do more for Syrian refugees.

Second, I believe that Yvette will hit the ground running as leader and will hold the Tories to account from day one of her leadership. We need to elect someone who will offer a consistently strong performance in the Commons and who can keep their calm under intense pressure and media scrutiny. Yvette Cooper sounds the part and she commands authority. We must offer the country a Prime-Minister-in-Waiting.

Finally, united parties win elections so the party needs to rally around the chosen leader and the new leader needs to carry all parts of the party, not just a narrow section of it. Yvette is best placed to unite this great party for this hard fight

And for me, the bottom line is simple – her values for a fair and just society are clear and lead me to give her my support.  

It’s time for the party to be serious about its future. The stakes are too high for us to be complacent. If we choose the wrong leader, we won’t just lose the next election; we will be out of power for a generation. That’s why I believe it’s time for Yvette.