The Labour Party is nothing if it is not a moral crusade. So said Harold Wilson. I agree with that and I would add one caveat. We are little if we cannot turn our values into victories in Government – at a local and national level – for those we seek to represent.
I believe that David Miliband has good Labour values, can unite our party, and can lead us back to power at the next election. That is why I will be voting for him to be our next leader.
In our thirteen years in government, and before, I had the privilege of working closely with Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. I saw what it took to make the party electable again, to deliver that victory in 1997 and saw the strength needed to change this country in government. I believe that David can lead a united team to do that again.
Yes, we do need to ask and answer serious questions about how we lost some of that connection with the British public over the last decade and a half. But in that conversation, let’s not be distracted by the vanity of small differences. Let us instead re-build a united Labour team.
It is time for us to ditch the labels of Blairite and Brownite. Factionalism should have no part in Labour’s future. It is time to remember we are Labour and that every day, every hour, every minute that we are out of office, opportunities to change this country for the better are being lost.
Let’s rediscover the collective. Let’s remember that the success of one enhances us all and diminishes no one. Let’s remember who it is that we seek to serve and get on with serving them.
And the privilege and experience of that journey from opposition to government also encompasses our fall from power. We must study that and, yes, we must admit that our defeat was bad and could have been worse.
But I am proud that in the most difficult circumstances, the last campaign at least established a rock on which we can stand. With the right policies and the right leader in David Miliband, I believe we can undertake the hard work we need to win again at the next election.
My generation was lucky to learn from the generation that preceded us – from Gordon, Tony and so many others. In no small part we contributed too. But now is the time for our generation to grasp the leadership and the responsibility that goes with it.
I met Gordon Brown and started working for him in 1990. I had met David Miliband two years earlier and we became firm friends outside and inside politics.
In this contest, of course, it can be emotionally difficult to pick one friend over another. But I believe all have a part to play in re-building the Labour Party, in reconnecting it to the people and re-shaping our nation’s destiny.
In that collective endeavour all our talents must be used in the best way possible. I believe that David can win back the support of all sections of society. Speaking to five close friends, all defeated Labour MPs, over the last few weeks, each told me without hesitation that David was the man to lead us and give us the best chance of winning back their seats. On Newsnight in the days following the election we saw nine swing voters all pick him as the man to reconnect Labour with the British people.
It is time not to ditch the approach which brought us three election victories and set the agenda for our opponents, but to develop it and adapt it for the age we are now in.
We must admit that over the last few years since 2005 – and perhaps even earlier – we began to lose sight of people’s concerns over issues like immigration and welfare. We need approaches that reflect the values we share and to apply them to life in the second and third decades of the 21st century and beyond.
David has the intellect to grasp our problems, the judgment to recognise their solutions, the ability to connect with the party and voters to discuss them and the humility as a leader to embrace the whole party in leading us back to power.
We may have lost, but we are not beaten. We may grieve but we do not mourn
Because we have work to do. Work that is too important to allow us to squander our position and with it the hopes and opportunities for others as we did in the years after 1979.
We need to be true to our values. We need to face the truth and to be imaginative, innovative and honest as we do. And we need to win.
I believe with David Miliband’s leadership we can do all three.
Douglas Alexander MP is chair of David Miliband’s leadership campaign