Dear Labour Party,
This is a difficult letter to write, but write it I must. It is important that I put down in words my misdeeds in the hope that others can learn from my mistakes.
I admit I strayed. Even now I am not sure exactly what it was. The debates helped for sure – he just looked so young, so fresh… a different politician for a different age. The lack of campaign from yourselves was a factor as well – why didn’t you remind me of the good times a little more? The schools, the hospitals, equality laws, sure-start, the national minimum wage? All I heard was a squabble about £6billion and all I saw were a lot of white, pasty middle-aged men.
Still this letter is not meant to be about you, but rather about me and my shortcomings. I admit I was seduced by Nick… I liked his casual style and I still think he has a point about creating a more liberal Britain. But I listened to John Prescott at the weekend and I realised just how misguided I have been. Creating a liberal Britain is important, of course it is, but the real prize is a socially just one. There is no point in a liberal state unless we also build a fair state alongside it. And we should be clear – there is no fairness in refusing to rebuild falling-down schools, depriving our children of learning in the best possible environments; there is no fairness in the closing of sure-start centres in some of the poorest communities; and there is no fairness in the shutting off of funding to schemes that boost employment and training of our young.
Fairness is innate within the Labour Party, it isn’t about sound-bite or a response to focus groups – the fight for fairness is what created the party and it still runs deep in the blood of the membership today. In fact, when it comes to fairness there is only one party in town. I have learnt that now and will never again have my head turned by others.
That is not to say we are without problems. Hopefully we can all learn to work and play together again after the divisive policies of ID Cards, Student Fees and, of course, Iraq. But looking forward also means creating a vision. Borrowing from Mr Prescott again, how do we define traditional Labour values in a modern setting? How do we regain the trust of the public? How do we excite and inspire in this age of austerity and gloom? The party needs to renew itself – not just in policy (though this is key) – but from it’s local parties upwards. We have to change the way we campaign, fighting passionately on local issues, but also linking them to a national agenda. We have to reach out to first time voters and engage with them on the issues they care about. Most of all however we need to make our local parties more inclusive again, for too long party meetings have been the exclusive domain of the political geek. By simplifying our structures and making meetings more focussed on genuine debate, local issues and the exchange of ideas we have an opportunity to create a wider, more representative membership than ever before.
So, if you’ll have me, I want to come back into the fold – but this time I am not going to stay quiet. I am going to fight hard for what I believe in – for making the party more open, improving the level of debate, giving new members a voice and, most of all, ensuring that fairness remains at the heart of who we are.