David Miliband, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, addressed a packed meeting of Brussels Labour this evening to make his pitch for the Labour Party leadership. David offered his vision of the future and of the road back to power for Labour – and outlined the values that would guide his leadership.
Before a group of around 60 Labour members and supporters, David began by thanking Labour members for their hard work in the general election. Without the resolve, drive, and hard work of ordinary members, Labour would have faced a ‘wipeout’ on the scale of the 1983 General Election defeat. The media and money were stacked in the Tories’ favour; however, conversations on the doorstep saved several seats for Labour, such as Birmingham Edgbaston, where Gisela Stuart was narrowly returned.
David said he took heart from the successful local campaign, and said it highlighted the need for Labour to engage again in the “politics of community organisation”. We won 400 council seats on 6 May; we have a base upon which to build. But we need to make sure that we don’t need to lose again – as in 1959 and 1992 – to win again.
To get back to winning ways, David Miliband outlined the need for Labour to do three things: be honest, be authentic, and to change the way we do politics.
We need to be honest about why we lost, he said. We had the second worst result since the 1930s. We had a ‘Southern Disaster’ that went beyond the ‘Southern Discomfort’ described by Giles Radice after the 1992 defeat. We polled only 16% in the South-East, and were almost wiped out. Although we lost a similar number of percentage points in some northern seats, we had a comfortable cushion, and held on. In the South, this was not the case. The leadership let down the membership, and we forced people to vote Tory – without forcing the Tories to win the argument.
We need to be authentic in what we believe, and how we say it. No more triangulation; instead, we need to find the authentic voice that Gordon Brown found in the last week of the General Election campaign. We need to show our passion about education, about tackling climate change, about devolving power not only to local councils, but to people, and about having a compassionate international policy – all points backed up with examples of action by David in his time in government. He argued that we need to reform, and not just invest in, our public services. And he defended the war in Afghanistan as a “war of necessity” to build a secure society in and future for that country.
We also need to change the way we work. Labour was a successful political machine in the 1990s, but it was a machine based on discipline. This worked when we were winning, but sowed the seeds of destruction that grew up when times got tough. We need to get back to community-based organisation, he said, invoking the success of Barack Obama. Labour has a tradition of ‘people before programmes’, and we need to re-discover it. He pledged that his party would be open – and cited a hustings that we went to in Coventry, where one-third of the 250 people present were not party members. By the end of the meeting, Labour had 50 new members. We need to involve our supporters, as well as our members, to grow the party and make it successful and appealing. Continue reading Honesty, authenticity and new politics – David Miliband makes his leadership pitch to Brussels Labour