Ed Balls’ letter to the PLP 20.5.10

Dear colleague,

The election for Labour leader is not just about the future of the Labour Party. It’s about the future of our country. This contest has to be about the public first.

That’s why yesterday I launched my campaign to lead our party at a public meeting in Gedling, a marginal seat we held against the odds. On the way, I visited a pre-school playgroup in Basildon with our former colleague Angela Smith – a seat we must win to get back in to government.

Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be meeting not just party members, but the public too, in town halls, community centres and homes right across the country. A debate which takes place only in Westminster – just in party meetings or think tank seminars so we can then present the public with what we have decided – cannot produce the ideas or forge the coalition needed to win power again.

Leadership is about being strong, about taking tough decisions, about taking people with you and building a consensus for change based on your values and what you stand for. But it must also be about genuinely listening and hearing first before you decide.

So we must start with what the country is telling us in marginal seats. It’s a tough message. I heard it myself in Morley and Outwood, where an Ashcroft-funded onslaught meant we had to listen more and work harder for every vote.

People knew we had done great things, but they felt we had stopped listening. Time and again people told me: “You’ve lost touch with us.” They just did not believe we were hearing their concerns on immigration, welfare, housing, tuition fees, crime and jobs.

A revitalised and renewed Labour Party must stand for responsibilities as well as rights, community fairness and a responsive state. It must show how we can build a fairer Britain where people know that if they work hard they will get the help they need – and a more prosperous greener Britain in which ordinary families get their fair share as the world economy grows again.

But we must use this leadership election to show what we stand for and communicate who we are. To show once again that our Labour values are those of the decent, hard-working majority of people in this country – ordinary people in ordinary towns, on middle and modest incomes who work hard, play by the rules and too often think they get a raw deal.

And we must hold this unprincipled Conservative-Liberal coalition to account – and be energetic and passionate in exposing the deeply unfair and damaging changes they are planning to rail-road through.

We must be a tough and effective opposition, but we must be a government in waiting too. And we must never forget the new Labour insight that whilst we forge a radical programme for change and fairness, we must be credible too. We need passion, but we must be hard-headed and reject any temptation towards romantic self-indulgence.

Just as Labour’s leadership election is not only about the future of the Labour Party, it certainly can’t be about our past either, so let’s put the old labels and factions behind us and never again try to define ourselves or characterise each other against our past. And let’s use the opportunity of this election to revitalise our party by bringing in new members and supporters so we can build a more diverse and representative party.

Our party should be proud that a good choice of candidates is coming forward and I am looking forward to a positive and comradely debate in which everyone has the chance to promote ideas and put their case. Whoever wins, I will back them 100 per cent.

I want to take this debate to communities around Britain and I very much hope I can come to your constituency and listen to party members, trade union members and the people you represent. Please let me know if you would like me to do that and don’t hesitate to contact me if there are questions you’d like me to answer or views you want to share.

Best wishes,


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