Congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn. That was an astounding victory. For a decade or more people have been forecasting the end of party politics, then Labour engages more than half a million, net of entryists, and conducts the largest ballot in party political memory. The result wasn't even close. Congratulations too to one of the finest campaigners of our generation, Tom Watson, who led a hugely talented field of candidates to become Deputy.
I make no bones about the fact that I didn't vote for Corbyn. I was and remain a huge admirer of the other candidates, in particular Liz Kendall who was spot on about some of the reasons we lost in the General Election, and Yvette Cooper who I ended up campaigning for, and who grows in stature every week as a leader and inspiration. A special shout too to Stella Creasy, whose innovative community-based approach and personal charisma, along with distinctive successes in campaigning against loan sharks and social media trolls from opposition, mark her out as a future leader.
However a quarter of a million people voted for Jeremy, and that many people are not wrong. His authenticity and strong principles have captivated a new generation. At the hustings in Oxford, an era ago (July), what was noticeable however was not that he stood out, but that he and the other candidates all argued from the same base of values: justice, freedom, democracy. Here are three reasons to unite behind Jeremy, and to continue to build support for a fairer society.
First, what unites us dwarfs what divides us. Values count for more than detailed policy prescriptions, and the latter are largely irrelevant in opposition (except in the run-up to power). We share a vision of a fairer society, in which we measure our success by the way we share power as much as how we wield it. Labour has always been the party of the people, and so we remain. Our values are strong and enduring: let's rediscover our mission under Jeremy, knowing that we succeed together when we realise progressive politics is something for everyone, not a privileged few. In that spirit of unity, there can be no return to the splits of the 1980s, so I trust Jeremy and Tom to eliminate the "red Tory" and "unelectable Trot" nonsense. Only desperate values-free movements like the raw nationalism of the SNP and Ukip resort to such abuse. There can be no return to the "true faith" and "traitor" mentality in the 21st Century.
Second, we need to focus on the future. The world is changing around us, with non-governmental threats from ISIS and Al Qaeda more immediate than those from nation states. Our unstable world is creating refugees and demagogues in a way we could not have imagined, even in the worst of the Troubles or the Cold War. Insecurity stalks the streets, stealing jobs and weakening families while governments can only watch. We need a new sort of politics to offer hope and security. We also need to speak to everyone, not to sectional interests. In the 2015 election it was clear we had too little to offer large sections of society, and from now on we need to broaden our thinking. 500,000 new supporters can help to do that, but we need to recruit many more.
Third, we need to turn our attention outward once again. While we have been looking inward at our party the world has not stood still. In the coming weeks the Government is challenging our right to organise at work through Unions, our ability to influence our economic and social future through the EU Referendum, our security as a country and people through both welfare reform and public service cuts at home, and influence in an unstable world abroad. Our focus needs to be on winning campaigns and debates in government and councils across Britain, and elections across the UK, rather than within our party (important as such elections are). For this we ALL need to work together.
Finally, we need to remember that for each person who took part in our record-breaking party election, there are 120 who didn't. If we continue to squabble about internal issues, Trots vs Tankies, using a vocabulary known only to the schooled socialist, we will turn off the people we hope to represent. In Witney, where I live and where I was privileged to serve as Parliamentary Candidate against Cameron in May, we organised a leadership party today. 20 people sat huddled in a lounge bar at the sports and social club, curtains drawn so we could follow proceedings on the telly. We emerged blinking into the sunshine where 500 adults and children of Tower Hill Football Club were enjoying themselves entirely oblivious of the momentous events. On the doorstep the enemy is not the Tories. That's why people say "You're all the same" - to most people we look just like the Tories because we speak a language of politics they find alienating and stupid. If we can gain one thing from the election of Jeremy Corbyn, let's hope it is that we, the half a million Labour supporters, start speaking the language of the 60 million people in Britain. Otherwise we are lost before we start.Suggest a correction