THE BLOG

A New Way, Daring the Outcome of Real Democracy - And About Time

04/09/2015 17:31 BST | Updated 04/09/2016 10:59 BST

The National Minimum Wage, Winter Fuel Payments, Working Family Tax Credits, Sure Start, free bus passes for pensioners, the biggest investment in schools and the NHS in history, a week's extra paid holiday for working people and oh yes peace in Northern Ireland.

I supported New Labour as the nation did because their policies made the man and woman in the street much better off. New Labour adopted left of centre, down to earth working class, positive, people policies.

I recall an incident when a guy in a pub put a pint down in front of me, shook my hand. He knew I worked for Labour and was saying thank you as best he could to a movement that had just made him and his wife £80 a week better off because of the minimum wage. They both worked forty hours a week and had a £1 an hour rise thanks to Labour's policy.

Why do I mention all this above, what is the point? Well it is to illustrate the perception that the right of Labour now is what New Labour was under Tony Blair is just that, a perception. Let's imagine that we did not have these policies now and Jeremy or any of the other candidates had suggested free bus passes and £80 quid a week rises for working class couples. I have no doubt what so ever that they would have faced a deluge of criticism from our right of centre about their fiscal recklessness. Indeed all that past menu of policies would have been condemned now by what is a new right of centre that has developed in the party.

I voted the last time for David Miliband because I knew he was a supporter of many of the policies I have highlighted that I believe gave Labour three election victories. Did he realise how the right of centre would shift is a question I ask myself.

It has been a shift to the right in thinking inside Labour that has led to a surrender of real argument to promote and defend our written principles with effective policies. It is also the seemingly glib attitude to defending our economic record and the almost automatic acceptance by the right of centre that those social policies adopted by Labour did indeed help cause the crisis.

Making statements that investing in children and the NHS and supporting our pensioners was not overspending have been rare. That attitude I know has mystified and frustrated many members. To me increasingly it felt like we were ashamed of being Labour, as if Labour aims had been proven to be just old hat and that the new thrusting sharp suited accountant world of bamboozling figures was the new politics, far above the member's heads.

The truth is far from that. Labour members know how the crisis we are in started. They also know how in the past, as in Britain after the Second World War and America after the great depression those countries came back from the brink by investment not by adopting austerity.

After the general election when we had been devastated in Scotland I expected the kind of reaction from our leading politicians that I and others instinctively felt. Labour had been abandoned by people who had been, in many cases, our very backbone. The reaction however seemed to be a casual shrug of the shoulders. The Party's attitude to the Scottish disaster convinced me we were missing a vital element in our make-up and change had to come.

The focus was exclusively about winning over Tory voters in the South (not wrong of course as part of the strategy) but it seems to me we buried our heads in the sand about the total disaster over the border which told us that we had to change tack and get back to campaigning on the principles we were founded on.

I feel upset that because I want a Labour Party that stands by what is written on its membership cards I am asking too much. I am alarmed that some of my colleagues in the Party feel that way. I am perturbed that ordinary members are thought by our right of centre not to understand the need for top class management of the economy just because they demand social justice. As already stated they do understand.

That's why it is time for change in our Party it's time for talking about real policy that works for the country. It's time to look at what is a failed version of unfettered capitalism that as Ed Miliband said (and the Pope by the way) needs reform, so it works for everyone. More of the same is not an option and that is the big, big challenge for Labour. If we have faith in our members and also importantly our supporters, really listen to what they want and decide if that is possible and explain to them why it is, or why it is not, we will be on the right track for a positive manifesto for Britain.

That to me this is what Jeremy Corbyn is offering. It seems dangerous and daring because we have been locked in a political cupboard for so long it seems. It will be liberating and can result in a new, new Labour with policies and direction that will win over all kinds of voters. If Jeremy wins I sincerely hope all the party can get behind him in the spirit of '45 and begin a new era for our country. In the end it is what all of us in the movement want.

Mick Hills is a lifelong Labour Party member and campaigner