Now’s The Time For Unity – To Put The Tories On The Back Foot
THIS summer we have seen an intense leadership election in the Labour Party, less than one year after Jeremy Corbyn won a massive mandate.
Despite the increasingly hostile smears against Jeremy and his team in parts of the media, and efforts by some opponents of Jeremy within the Labour Party to try to reduce the breadth of the electorate able to take part in this election, an amazing 506,438 people voted, and of these an incredible 313,209 voted for Jeremy and his ideas on how we rebuild and transform Britain so no-one and no community is left behind.
We need to be clear what these 313,209 people have voted for.
Over the course of the campaign, Jeremy outlined a vision — including a comprehensive series of concrete and detailed policy measures — for a radical, reforming Labour government that will reset the government’s economic and social policies to ensure the interests of the 1 per cent are no longer put ahead of the 99 per cent.
It is this programme that Labour must now champion in the months ahead, and I believe that by outlining this vision to change Britain we are starting to put forward a compelling and genuine alternative to the public that can win for Labour at the next general election.
In particular, this summer has seen Jeremy outline 10 pledges to rebuild and transform Britain based on a coherent economic alternative of investing in our future.
As part of this, we have started to lay the basis for the work we need to do in convincing people across every area of Britain, and every section of British society, of the clear difference a reforming Labour government can make to the lives of the overwhelming majority of people who have failed to benefit from the Tory-led governments of recent years.
In the area of health, to give just one example, Jeremy pledged that “we will end health service privatisation and bring services into a secure, publicly provided NHS,” and “we will integrate the NHS and social care for older and disabled people, funding dignity across the board and ensure parity for mental health services.”
With such a clear vision, we can show people that it is Labour that will protect our NHS and provide much-needed investment in our social care.
All of us now must surely want to turn our full attention and talents to the job of holding this failed Tory government to account. And we need to be clear that the Tories have failed on issue after issue, from the housing shortage to the growing crisis of underinvestment in our NHS.
The underlying reason for this is the Tories’ ongoing and ideologically driven commitment to austerity.
The 2015 general election showed that you can’t defeat the Tories without fully opposing austerity and setting out a credible economic alternative.
We need to be clear that, despite some spin from Theresa May and her new Cabinet, austerity continues to decimate our vulnerable communities, with the worst effects of cuts to public services and reforms to welfare still to come for many, especially with the choppy economic waters ahead following the EU referendum result.
As I’ve noted before, prior to the attempts following the EU referendum to force Jeremy out of the party leadership, as an anti-austerity party with a genuine economic alternative based on investing in our future, Labour was making steps in the right direction in a number of areas.
This included Labour making steps forwards electorally. Labour has won all the recent mayoral contests and the parliamentary by-elections under Jeremy’s leadership.
In May, our national share of the vote — the most important indicator — was up. At the 2015 general election, we were nearly seven points behind. In May, we were a point ahead.
We also forced retreats and U-turns on over 20 Tory policies, including the proposed cuts to tax credits and personal independence payments, benefiting literally millions of people.
Our party as a whole now has a responsibility to both our own membership and the millions of people across Britain that need a Labour government to respect Jeremy’s mandate and work together on the basis of a clear investment-led alternative economic strategy that can be the basis for a future general election victory.
If we are united as an opposition behind this clear alternative, I believe we can make great steps forward in the months ahead and deal heavy blows to the Tories.
At the last Prime Minister’s Questions Jeremy demanded answers from May on grammar schools, and received very few in reply. We know that numerous Tory backbenchers are uneasy with this hard-right policy.
And this is not the only issue the Tories are vulnerable on. For patients and staff, the crisis in the NHS is becoming more apparent with each passing day, and the Tories have no answers.
In September I was honoured as shadow secretary of state for health to lead a debate where the Parliamentary Labour Party was united in confronting the latest Tory attack on the NHS.
The mechanisms of the attack are the technical-sounding sustainability and transformation plans (STPs).
In reality these are secret Tory plans to decimate the NHS, and Labour is determined to fight them.
This is only the beginning of this battle. Public anger about the closures of beds, units, departments and whole hospitals throughout the country will only rise.
A united Labour Party will stand up for them and stand against Tory plans to decimate the NHS.
Now let’s continue exposing Tory failures and set out a clear plan for how Labour would do things differently.
Please join us in building this movement for a radical, reforming Labour government the months and years ahead.