Whatever Happens on Saturday - Labour Has Changed

08/09/2015 16:22 BST | Updated 08/09/2016 10:12 BST

For thousands of Labour Party members' who've spent the last three months attending hustings, receiving relentless emails, texts, phone calls and from direct mails from leadership and deputy leadership candidates like me, this weekend's election result can't come soon enough. Trust me, the members I've met while touring the country now want a result so we can get on and fight the real battle against this ideologically extreme Tory government.

But whatever the result on Saturday, the Labour Party has changed over the summer and we need to recognise it. All political parties need to renew and rebuild themselves. Our second general election defeat in a row was always going to trigger off a fundamental reappraisal. In fact it was long overdue. Going round the country and talking to longstanding party members as well as recent joiners it is clear that they wanted us to set out Labour's distinctive values and then fight for them. There was a sense that we had settled into a depressing tactical battle with the Tories stressing tiny policy differences at the margins when Labour members wanted us to set out a real alternative.

Whether you agree with Jeremy Corbyn or not, his intervention in the leadership contest has reinvigorated members and supporters who had felt that their views were simply not being represented in the Westminster political discourse. It has forced the other leadership contenders to think more deeply about the nature of their own programmes. It has also widened the scope of our debates which will now be more about the fundamental purpose of the Labour Party to shape the turbulent times we now live in and make certain that we do so in the interests of the many not the few.

His refusal to accept neo-liberal economic orthodoxies, his rejection of austerity and his willingness to talk about the big issues the party machine has preferred us not to talk about over the last twenty years has smashed taboos and reinserted the debate about ideas into the Party. A development which was long overdue.

Take renationalisation of the railways for example. Corbyn, and latterly Andy Burnham, introduced it into this campaign yet senior figures in the Party have been afraid to talk about it until now despite opinion polls indicating overwhelming public support for such a move. We had a mechanism in Labour's manifesto to take back franchises but it was expressed in such code that no-one noticed it and we never campaigned explicitly for it.

The response to introducing bold ideas into this election? Tens of thousands of members enthused, people who had long left us returning in their thousands and millions of people who have been disenfranchised by politics once again feeling hopeful once more.

Labour needed this reboot. It is up to us to use it effectively in the coming years.

People come into Labour politics to change the world. To make it a safer fairer and better place. They want to debate policy, discuss ideas and campaign for a better world but for too long Labour Party members have been tied up by a centralising straightjacket which has got in the way of creativity and ideas and blocked the collective wisdom of our members contributing to our organisation in any meaningful way.

The enthusiastic support we've seen for Corbyn, is, in part, a rejection of the command and control at the top of the Labour Party which was introduced in 1994. It has had its day.

As chair of the National Policy Forum, I opened up the policy making process to give grassroots members more influence I proudly led the most open and transparent process ever. But that should only be the beginning. What we've seen from this leadership election is that we have to do more of that. Members have an important voice and they need to be listened to with respect.

By loosening the straightjacket and having faith in our members and supporters, we can build a dynamic campaigning force who can help to reach out the millions of people who didn't vote in 2015 as well as those who voted for other parties who we need to win back.

Labour needs to be the vehicle of hope for the millions that are being failed by this ideologically extreme Tory government. Through the new found enthusiasm this leadership election has brought, and by debating and putting forward bold and radical policies, we have a chance of recruiting these people to walk with us on our a journey back to Government.