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  1. Election 2024
24 September 2018

“Let’s take back control of socialism”: Stella Creasy’s rallying cry to Corbynsceptics

Full text of the Walthamstow MP’s speech to Progress on the Labour conference fringe.

By Stella Creasy

We’ve been here [in Liverpool] for two days now. Did anyone sign up for this? I mean really – did you? So what are you still doing here?

Anyone here tonight – or indeed boycotting this event – because being political means to you sitting in meetings or shouting “Red Tory” at people who think differently to you, then you can do one.

Socialism isn’t a Scout badge you get to sew on after a few protest marches and trolling sessions. It lives or dies in the long hard yards of fighting injustice and inequality, day in and day out so you can make radical change happen.

Two years in, what has Momentum achieved? To what single cause can they lay claim? They’ve found time to decide how to deselect me, but not to take a stand against what the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg is doing to this country through Brexit. Absolute boys? More like absolute melts, as I believe the kids say.

Socialism truly is the language of priorities. You want to call yourself a socialist? Show the British public they are foremost in our minds, not who is branch membership secretary.

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But if you are also here to sigh and tell me that because of this mess we should give up, walk away from Labour, well then jog on too.  

Those armchair generals who gave up the grind of going to general committee meetings many years ago – if they ever did at all – who say Labour is somehow lost now miss the point.

Labour has been coasting for decades on the hope that the offer of past glories – the NHS, equalities legislation, the Good Friday Agreement – is justification enough for us to limp back into power.

You want Labour truly to be a force for good? Then stop being hung up on Momentum’s time-wasting antics or longing for the past when the world has changed. This isn’t about taking the party back. It’s about taking this country forward. Because at our best we have always understood that.

There’s nothing moderate about a minimum wage for those who live on it. There’s nothing centrist about Sure Start for those families who depend on it. There’s nothing sell out about putting Wonga out of business for those in debt. There’s nothing insignificant about abortion rights for Northern Irish women.

Ah but you say, walking away isn’t about policy – it’s about principle. You quote Ghandi: “Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out”

I choose to show solidarity to the Jewish Labour Movement in word and deed. But don’t pretend to me that anti-Semitism in our movement is new. It’s just now you see it – and no one is doing enough about it. Silence is cowardice. So now more than ever don’t be silent.

On every issue the choice facing every labour member – from the leadership to the grassroots – is clear, in or out of office. In this time now, in this moment do you create chaos, or do you create change?

Our opponents aren’t navel gazing. In a world with Trump, Bannon, and Boris if you want Britain to have a left wing future, rather to be in their clutches, then it’s a battle of ideas, not individuals we need to win.  

And no one at this conference is winning.

Want to make change happen? Stop pointing at stuff and trying to ban it, nationalise it, or rationalise it and failing to make a difference. Start being the change-maker this country needs you to be.

Fight for child trust funds to get every kid the pot of cash they need at 18 – not just those who go to university.

Fight Brexit, for goodness sake – when you can see what damage no-deal will mean, you can’t say any deal is going to be good for Britain.

Fight for the self-employed to have pensions and sick pay through breadfund schemes. For a windfall tax on PFI companies. And for freedom of movement – stop pandering to those who use immigration as a distraction rather than deal with automation. You want to give our towns a future? Talk skills not just Slovenians.

And don’t just change the conversation to ideas, change the culture too.

25 years of watching men of all ages treat women in this party as useful idiots and I’m so over it; patronising about campaigning whilst pontificating about “strategy”, talking about running “females” as candidates like expensive racehorses. Lip service to equalities issues, which are always somehow second order to the economy and forming closed networks to share stories, jobs and influence. All of that in the sea too.

In Ireland there’s a big group of seasoned campaigners who won a referendum on a potentially explosive question. No, I’ve no idea why the People’s Vote campaign is yet to talk to these women who ran the abortion campaign about how they did that. No idea at all why those ladies are not on speed dial. Mystery.

This movement doesn’t just have to open its way of selecting. It needs to open up its way of thinking. The group think that comes from closed and tired clichés about leadership holds back not only our ability to respond to the world but shape it. Patronage, machine politics and backroom deals are just as toxic to our future as momentum’s timewasting.

Don’t leave sorting this out to other people or rage against the dying light of the “old Labour Party”. There’s no cavalry coming, there’s only us to stand up for what we believe in and stand together with those willing to work for shared ideals.

So sign up for this. I’m not asking you to stay put in Labour. I’m asking you to stand proud as Labour. Comrades – let’s take back control of socialism.

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