Sun On Sunday
When the exit poll appeared on our screens at 10pm on May 7, the floor gave way beneath the Labour Party.
Like me, every candidate, activist and supporter felt a sickening sense of disappointment and disbelief. It got worse than we all feared – when we got a majority Conservative Government.
Where did it all go wrong? For me, the fundamental weakness in our last five years was we talked a lot about what we were against but little about what we were for. We rightly expressed our outrage about growing inequality and injustice but did not speak enough to people’s hopes or ambitions.
Voters didn’t understand our vision for society because we didn’t really tell them what it was. They heard us hammering the bedroom tax and zero-hours contracts and their response was: “I agree with much of that but what does it mean for me when I’m not on zero hours or liable for bedroom tax? How would a Labour government help me and my family to do better?”
On May 7, the message from the majority of the electorate was clear; we think you don’t care about us – hardworking families trying to get on. Labour was rejected as we seemed focused on a narrow, disadvantaged section of the population. In my pamphlet – A New Nation: Building A United Kingdom of Purpose, Patriotism and Resilience – I argue to have a chance of winning in 2020, we must do three things.
First, we have to convince British people we can once again be trusted with the economy.
We have to make it clear our top priority will be to balance the books by modernising the welfare state and delivering policies that foster investment, competitiveness and growth. Rebuilding our relationship with large and small businesses, heeding their good ideas, must be a vital part of this approach.
Second, we have to reclaim patriotism. I’m proud to be British and I love the UK as a united country of fair play and liberty, bound by our shared values of compassion and of courage.
Decentralising power and resources, putting the English regions on a similar footing to Scotland and Wales, making governments listen, celebrating what is best about Britain. In this age of insecurity we must stand tall in Europe and Nato so we can have real influence on the decisions that impact directly on our national interests and security.
Third, we have to show Labour is the only party that can deliver the radical changes needed to build a more resilient country. High skills, properly funded research, an economy that is not dependent on huge household debt and a manufacturing renaissance.
May 7 taught us niche politics is fine if we want to be a protest movement but a dead end if we’re serious about winning in 2020. There must be no going back to the 1980s wilderness years.
That really compels us to aim higher and wider. We must show we are determined to achieve true security and real opportunity for everyone in our country.
We must never forget that “getting on in life” is a force for good, not an excuse for envy.
A Labour Party truly “for the many not the few” must be sound on the economy, strong on reform and resolute on or place in the world. That’s the way to win for our country.