Dan Jarvis on how Labour can engage credibly with Brexit.
As the Labour party decamps from Liverpool, the message from the conference platform remains clear. We must be prepared for an election against a well-resourced and ruthless Tory machine, whenever it comes.
While these have been tough times for Labour, we should be honest that the root causes are long running. Labour achieved many great things in government to build a fairer Britain, but we failed to renew our party. Opportunities for members to contribute rarely went beyond a monthly meeting and a regular fundraising email. We allowed our party to become too focused on Westminster and distracted by its cliques.
Getting back into power remains a distant prospect at present. That is why we can’t go on as before.
A return to the 1980s or the electorally-successful New Labour years will not equip Labour for success in the 2020s. If we want to get back into power, we will need to be more radical than anything that went before.
This will require us to be a broad political church which embraces all parts of our movement. No matter how members and supporters cast their ballots, all must be welcome to join the fight for the better society we all want. Contributions from the broadest possible range of voices inside and outside of the party will be required.
Over many years and through two general election campaigns, the story our party has told has not resonated with enough traditional Labour voters’ own experiences. We must bridge that divide. To do that, we have to understand the changes that have transformed the nature of people’s lives at work, at home, and in the community in which they live.
We must regain the trust of the public by forging a confident, outward-looking and inspiring Labour story that reaches out across the country. One that speaks to the challenges working people are facing, and addresses the inequalities that exist in our society.
Last week I heard from Labour voters and party members on doorsteps across my Barnsley constituency. They say it as they see it, and I heard the same message loud and clear – the Labour party must stand up for them, today more urgently than ever.
To do this, we must provide credible and effective opposition to this Tory Government. When facing the challenge posed by Brexit, we must champion the interests of the communities we seek to represent. In doing so, we must speak for the concerns of those who feel underpaid, overworked and left behind.
We must recognise that change can be achieved through compromise, and that by doing so we aren’t compromising our values. To win again, we must persuade those who have lost confidence in us. So our Labour story must not only resonate with our heartlands, but reach well beyond them.
Building a new economy to achieve this will require that we are both pro-worker and pro-business. So we must secure the closest possible relationship with the EU single market which delivers greater controls on free movement.
In looking to the future, Labour must speak for people whose jobs and businesses have been transformed by the digital revolution and lead the debate on harnessing it to create secure employment. Changing patterns of work will require public services and our welfare state to be more responsive, requiring greater involvement of people in their design and delivery.
We must not let these tough times weaken our determination, rather it should strengthen our resolve to win again. Labour is worth fighting for, because millions of people around the country are depending on us. We must all play our part.
Dan Jarvis is the Labour MP for Barnsley Central