Hillary Benn on leadership, and his decision to back Ed Miliband

For me, this election is about character, and that’s why I am backing Ed Miliband.

I can remember the moment when I decided that he was the person to lead us into the future. It was a speech he gave, without notes. He was fluent and thoughtful. He argued his case. But above all, he looked and sounded like a leader, and I was mightily impressed. Last Sunday, along with 300 other people at the leadership hustings in Leeds, I saw those same qualities on display again. And I was reminded that who wins this election really does matter.


Well, first, because we have to understand the past in order to get the future right. On Labour’s achievements in government, you only have to look at what’s now under threat to be reminded just how important they were. But we do have to face up to the fact that we lost. And the most important question is – why did we lose? Because we stopped listening. And until we start listening, we will not win again.

Second, because this government needs to be held to account. It’s moving with frightening speed – and a blatant re-writing of history – to do what it wanted to do all along; taking a huge gamble with our NHS, creating unregulated schools, cutting benefits, getting rid of bodies that hold the government to account on the environment, denying people a say over parliamentary boundaries, scrapping investment in our future and putting ideology above principle. How else can you explain the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board?  It’s nothing more than attack on the wages and conditions of our farm workers.

Third, because this election has to be about the future. Opposition without propositions may seem a comfortable place, but it won’t win us the next election. We have to show that we are thinking about that future.

Building a different kind of economy, less dependant on financial services and more reliant on manufacturing and small businesses which will create the new jobs we need.

Overcoming the gap between rich and poor. It’s why we need a living wage campaign and the high pay commission and why we should keep the new top rate of tax. Taking hard decisions, like support for a graduate tax, to make sure that we invest to bring out people’s skills and creativity for the benefit of the future economy.

Finally, because we have to be a party that is alongside people as they seek to change their own lives for the better.

Labour’s values and Britain’s democracy remain the best and only hope we have for the better world we seek to build. We have to make sure that members don’t feel left behind as we debate that future. We want to give the people the chance to vote on a different voting system and an elected second chamber precisely because these will help a thriving democracy. It’s not about an obsession of the few; it is about the encouragement of the many to get stuck in and use politics to change things.

Being the Leader of the Labour Party is a very difficult job, in part because as members we sometimes make it so. It requires ideas and ideals, strategy and steel, passion and patience, confidence and commitment – and, above all, leadership.

And that’s what many people will be thinking about as they decide how to cast their vote.  Head or heart?  Who will win for us ? Who would be the strongest leader?

For me, there is the right and the wrong kind of strength. Yes, we need someone who is determined, but we also need someone who listens. And in my experience, the best leaders are those who aren’t afraid to say what they think, who do indeed listen, who lead and – above all – who have the capacity to inspire others to make the journey with them.

I am backing Ed Miliband because I think he has both the capacity and the potential to do all of these things as our leader.

Working with him on climate change, I saw his determination to make things happen. I have watched his ability to listen to an audience and to respond in a way which connects and inspires. I admire his toughness. But above all, I am supporting him because he is the leader who can make that journey back into government. And I hope you will support him too.

Hilary Benn is shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply