THE BLOG
03/09/2015 13:10 BST | Updated 03/09/2016 06:59 BST

The Most Important Thing I Have Written in 36 Years of Hard Labour: Vote Yvette

This feels like the most important message I have ever written about Labour in 36 years as a member of our beloved party. Until the last few days I have supported Liz for Leader because I admired her courage and recognised the truth of what she said about our need to change. However I now think we are in danger of a terminal split, and need a leader who will unite the party. Please vote for Yvette to be our leader.

In May I stood as Labour's candidate against David Cameron with an admirable team from Witney Labour. We received a record swing against a Tory PM, moving up to second, and if the same swing had been replicated across the country, Labour would have won. When the BBC published that exit poll, at our after-election party, my heart sank into my boots as I remembered how 18 years of Tory rule damaged lives and held our country back in the 1980s and 1990s.

How different we felt in May 1997, when Labour set about cutting poverty, introducing union rights and minimum wage, devolving power, and investing in health and education. That year, Yvette was elected for my home town of Pontefract, where I grew up believing in Labour as the natural party of Government. She was at the heart of a Labour Government that transformed lives for the better.

Yvette is best placed to counter the Tory government. It is well known that David Cameron has a "woman problem", and his replacement is likely to be another old Etonian like Boris who will be rattled by Yvette's forensic style. She is by far the most likely candidate to stand up in PMQs, week after week, and put the Tories on the spot. Close your eyes and imagine how the other candidates might fare. Imagine them too negotiating with Putin, Merkel or Obama - how would they do? Her experience in Parliament and the country is second to none of the other candidates. She can win for Labour. Our country needs someone who will win for Britain, not just someone who has given us a focus for our frustration this summer.

Some people say we can elect a temporary leader, to set us on the true path. That path is a dead end. There are no free hits in politics. Every day counts.

But there is another reason I have decided, like Witney CLP, to back Yvette. I remember the 1980s when the Labour Party fought itself to a standstill, and allowed Margaret Thatcher to destroy much of what we hold dear. In the 1980s the hard left, including some from Militant and other fringe groups outside the Labour family, sowed mistrust and hatred throughout our party. Ordinary hard-working party members were denounced as traitors. Constituencies spent endless evenings bickering over Trotskyite dogma, while the people we aim to represent suffered and the economy was held back.

My father was a lifelong socialist. In 1979 he won the seat of Leeds for Labour in the first ever European Parliament. Meanwhile Labour infighting, extreme positions and hard left stances saw us lose Labour heartlands such as Liverpool, Birmingham, North Wales, Fife, Lothians, Bristol and most of Manchester to the Tories. In the following years, rather than being backed to oppose Conservative cuts and destruction, he was harassed and eventually deselected by hard left anti-European extremists. Thankfully, he and other mainstream Labour people such as Neil Kinnock kept the faith, and our party was reborn as a government for all, but not until after my father's death in 1995, and too much suffering and waste under Tories, and long after extremists had wandered away from Labour to protest and champion their unpleasant ways elsewhere.

I don't want to die before I next see a Labour government. Yvette is the leader who can unite our party to win. We are at our best as a broad coalition, dedicated to reducing inequality and eradicating poverty, fighting for peace and justice, and providing a stable and supportive base for talent and economic growth. Yvette will bring the best out of our party and our country.

As a young man I spent several years as an aide to the great socialist Barbara Castle. She could have led Labour and transformed the country, but she was always opposed by conservative forces, including the tide of sexism still high in the country and in our party. I know we will not make the same mistake again, and will take the opportunity to elect our first woman as leader. Not only will Yvette provide contrast and insight, but she will be truly radical in the tradition Barbara established.

For half my life I have seen Labour, strong and united in government, trusted by the people to run our country. For the other half Labour has been divided, inward looking and unrealistic, while the country endured Tory governments. I'm voting for Yvette because I want her to be the next Prime Minister of our country. Please join me.