THE BLOG

Today's Election Is Labour's Chance For A Fresh Start

24/09/2016 08:03
ANDREW YATES via Getty Images

The leadership campaign may be over but for Labour the real work now begins.

Labour MPs had our say before the summer. Labour members had their say over the summer. Now it's time to give our full attention to the public.

The immediate imperative is to deal with the divisions of the campaign. A political Party that argues with itself is unable to take the argument to the wider electorate.

Our first duty to the public is to hold Conservative ministers hard to account in Parliament. We are constitutionally the country's "Official Opposition" but Labour's frontbenches are empty, as are some Shadow Cabinet posts. Some MPs have stayed or stepped into the breach for the short-term, and are at full-stretch. Things can't continue, as now.

So we need the basis for a fresh start for Labour's frontbench, to put behind us the stand-off between Labour MPs and Leader. The responsibility to do so lies with both.

It's not about sitting at the Shadow Cabinet table or bums on frontbench seats. The purpose of a strong frontbench in Parliament is to do much better for the millions of people who so badly need and want a Labour government. This means: opposing and exposing Tory ministers; developing alternatives to the Tory policies that are radical and credible; raising Labour's electoral standing; and winning back the public hearing, confidence and support we've lost in recent years

I believe an elected Leader earns the right to shape their top team in Parliament but they need the widest choice and commitment among MPs to draw on. And any Leader has to take people with them.

Shadow cabinet elections would help to establish a basis for this. Labour MPs have overwhelmingly declared a desire for elections - at least in part - but the decision is for the Leader and the NEC. It is the most obvious 'olive branch'.

If Jeremy Corbyn wins today, then making this part of his day one declaration of fresh leadership would demonstrate that he means what he says about unifying the Party and it would challenge Labour MPs to respond, respect his re-election and support the frontbench team.

Above all, it would be a powerful public declaration that Labour is coming together with new purpose.

This is both the foundation for a fresh start for Labour and the basis for us to do our job for the millions of people who need Labour to succeed.

John Healey is the Labour MP for Wentworth, and has served in both Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet

Comments

CONVERSATIONS