(A version of this article was published in the Independent 7/1/2020)
Labour needs a leader who will win 124 more seats in 2024 – twice the number we lost in 2019. It’ll be a challenge, but a doable one at that.
To ensure that we emerge victorious next time, we must follow some crucial steps, including: ensuring that the failure of Brexit is owned by the Tories; providing a credible economic growth plan rooted in green technologies; and winning seats across all our nations and regions.
Boris Johnson got the Brexit election he craved – he knew it would unite the Brexit vote and divide the Remain parties. The Euro Election results had proven that Labour voters who wanted Brexit would vote Tory and those who wanted Remain would splinter. In this election, 13.9 million voted for Johnson’s “oven-ready” Leave deal versus 16.5 million for public vote or Remain parties, yet Leave MPs now have a majority of 80 with 365 Tory seats.
So, 2019 was a vote for a Tory government but not a vote for Brexit. Labour MPs have no duty to accept Tory policies, less still the hard-right Brexit project. The simple truth is Brexit will make Britain fundamentally poorer, weaker and more divided and Labour should have been saying that since 2016. Instead, people have been left with the false belief that Britain after Brexit will be much the same, that the key issue is “to get Brexit done” and that this will be successfully completed this year. None of this is true.
No doubt everyone now wants to “move on from Brexit” but crucially Labour must ensure the Tories take ownership and responsibility for Brexit, including the economic slowdown, social division and international impotence it will bring. We must fight for the best deal with the EU and map out our place in the world outside the EU. But as 2024 approaches, we must be ready to make the case for members of the bloc where the majority of voters would like to live.
The electorate needs a credible Labour government who will manage the economy competently and provide a costed programme of green economic growth. Put simply, people want a credible Labour government to deliver a reliable NHS, decent schools, sustainable jobs and affordable homes.
Other than taxing corporations and the rich, we need credible sources of investment to turn our economy green. For instance, we could save £3bn a year through a clean air act, which in turn could provide revenue to pay for £100bn of green capital investment, or a tax on virgin plastic to invest in electric and hydrogen vehicle exports.
Labour must create wealth, not just redistribute it, and our hard-earned economic record of growing the economy by 40 per cent in 10 years to double investment in our NHS and education, must be retold to create confidence.
Brexit is creating the “Divided Kingdom”, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and the Welsh government and electorate hold the same position. The Tories will refuse another Scottish independence referendum and, in contravention of the Good Friday Agreement, will resist an Ireland reunification ballot. Labour must win back its seats in Scotland, Wales and England, fighting against the causes of the rise of separatism, which means a radical and believable programme that brings renewed alignment with the EU.
Our fundamental values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law will be under direct threat once the UK is outside the protection of the European Court of Justice. The civil service, the BBC and the judiciary are first in line for subjugation. Dominic Cummings is bringing the civil service to heel, the BBC’s political compliance means it has fewer friends, while the Supreme Court will have its wings clipped for upholding parliamentary democracy. As the institutions that uphold our values are undermined, Johnson is busy redrawing the constituency boundaries, introducing voter identification and abolishing the fixed term parliament act to consolidate his grip on power.
A Labour Party victory at the next election is now more important than ever. Only by winning can we provide opportunity in place of growing poverty. Only by winning can we protect our fundamental values and silence the drumbeat of right-wing authoritarianism that grows louder every day.
But Labour has now lost four general elections in a row and its decline in Scotland has spread into other heartlands. So, we need a leader who can win the country – across Wales, Scotland and England – and not just the party. We’ve ended up with 18 years of Tory rule in place of shaping a better future for all our communities. It’s time we had a reminder that power must not be sacrificed for ideological purity.