Let’s stop fighting non-existent plots and let the leader lead

by John Woodcock

The past has its part to play in politics, but the future is the only thing that really matters. This is our chance to show we get that far more than the people who want Labour to fail.

Working for then welfare secretary, John Hutton, I was passionate about Tony Blair’s drive to change the UK’s welfare and pension systems at a time when reform was difficult to sell. I gave my all when Gordon Brown asked me to work for him in Number Ten. I was a vocal supporter of David Miliband in the leadership contest. And before all that I walked David Blunkett’s dog when he was leader of Sheffield City Council and I was the son of one of his more left wing Labour councillors.

All of that helps to inform what I think today. But it is all history. Like so many thousands who want to change the world around them, we remain proud of the myriad of past allegiances developed over the years campaigning for Labour. But we are not defined by them.

Now, we are all part of a party focussed in its determination to support Ed Miliband, renew Labour’s offer to the British people and stand up for those suffering at the sharp end of aConservative economic policy that is selling future generations down the river.

I may not have put Ed first on the ballot paper in the leadership contest, but I am sure of one thing: he won a mandate to lead, and he is going to lead us as a united party into the next election.

Without plotters, wind-up stories about plots will not succeed (so long as people on our side do not fall into the trap of fighting phantoms – mounting a counter-attack against threats that just aren’t there).

So let’s all take responsibility for doing better; as Jim Murphy said yesterday, let’s roll up our sleeves, listen to our changing country, and work harder to think up the new ideas that will re-earn Labour’s right to claim and shape the centre ground of British politics.

Ed has already rightly identified the people any Labour party worthy of the name needs to speak up for: families in the middle who work hard, want to get on, and don’t want to see others get a free ride at their expense – whether at the top or the bottom of the income scale.

His speech today on that subject is important. We should do everything we can to enable it to get the hearing it deserves and give our leader the support he needs to follow it through. That focus on the future is our best bet to ensure the ambitions people have for their own lives are reflected in the ambitions for Britain we put forward at the next election.

John Woodcock is Labour and Cooperative MP for Barrow and Furness and a shadow transport minister.

Tags: , ,

9 Responses to “Let’s stop fighting non-existent plots and let the leader lead”

  1. The Future says:

    @ John Woodcock

    This is an excellent article.

    The Labour party is desperate to avoid the nightmare of the dysfunctional relationship that was Gordon Brown and Tony Blair’s. We also have a huge responsibility not to form the circular firing squad that it has immediately after previous general election loses. I am also convinced that the wider membership will now never forgive anyone that puts “their fraction” above the party as a whole.

    This article is also good because it strikes a measured tone. Loyalty to a leader and to a party doesn’t mean being a sycophantic. It means being supportive but also being able to offer critical advice in a constructive manner when needed.

    No leader is ever going to get it 100% right and taking over after 16 years of TB & GB and after a massive electoral defeat was always going to be an extremely difficult task. So let’s congratulate Ed for stabilising the party, rebuilding our membership and taking us ahead in the polls.

    But let’s also help guide him through articles in the style of this. Not in the style of the past.

    I think your stock has probably risen after this article John. Let’s hope that others can follow.

  2. Not a Blairite says:

    I’m sorry but you’re in denial. It’s ok for you, John. You are an MP with a job, good salary and a pension. Because MPs like you want to back a loser normal (soon to be ex) Labour supporters like me will not have a job, good salary and a pension because, under Ed Miliband, Labour are not going to win the next election and the Tories will carry on destroying the country. Please try and actually understand how hard life currently is for people outside your Westminster bubble. Labour should be ruthless in discarding any leader who blatantly will not win us a general election. If Labour does not exist to get into power then I suggest you are a doomed and irrelevant party. There is no way I would join the Labour party at the moment watching its MPs behave so irresponsibly. Besides, unlike Labour MPs, I cannot afford the 36 pound membership fee!

  3. Chris says:

    @Not a Blairite

    Absolutely spot on.

  4. Merseymike says:

    It is a myth to think that there is a surefire way to win the next election. The Tories are doing what they said they would do and it should not be a surprise that those who favour that approach still support them. Changing the leader would be entirely pointless. What Labour have to do is win the argument for it’s policies

  5. william says:

    Interesting piece,Mr.Woodcock.The task in hand is to construct policies that appeal to 40 percent of those that vote.Outside the Westminster bubble,nobody cares about which brother leads.Is there a TEAM of potential government ministers?Is Labour prepared to admit that Brown’s tax and spend policies were idiotic?Is a future Labour government going to encourage the private sector,and reduce tax on the lower paid? Would a future Labour government try and avoid being a bunch of control freaks,roundly rejected across England?Would a future Labour government admit that centralised state control of health and education was blown apart, as a concept,when telecoms, water and gas were privatised ,with huge benefits to the consumer?We could fight the 1983 election again….

  6. AmberStar says:

    Families in the middle who work hard, want to get on, and don’t want to see others get a free ride at their expense – whether at the top or the bottom of the income scale.
    Most hard-working people are very generous & want those who are truly vulnerable to get a ‘free ride’ at their expense. We, as a Party, need to make it clear that we ‘get’ that too.

  7. Jim says:

    Never heard so much rubbish in my life, Labour posted Ed’s speech on twitter, 1 reply, says it all. The poor middle class is it, you mean without them Labour will never get back in, so the poor suffer, those on benefits are easy targets so the middle class can enjoy the lifestyle they have become accustomed to. Budget after Budget under Labour it was the middle class with their 2.5 children that saw real growth. Now we have a Labour leader talking about the undeserving poor, no job or voluntary work, no priority to council housing, try selling that on the door steps.

  8. Adam says:

    I don’t think Ed Miliband has the mandate to lead. I mean the whole voting system for the leadership contest wasn’t the best. Yes AV was used which perhaps is a good thing as it would been that a majority would have preference for a particular candidate. However when votes are weighted, such as the trade unions having a higher weight and if an individual was a member of a trade union and affiliated with one of the socialist groups, they were able to vote three times – I am pretty sure that was not a fair and just election.

    If Ed Miliband had won with a majorty vote where every individual alone held one vote then perhaps he would have a mandate. An yes I wanted David to be Labour Leader!

    On another side line, where is Labour there is no news on policies, no clear path for reform. I hold a centre-left political ideology and believe that if Labour are going to win over voters they need to have a clear plan.

  9. The thrust of Ed Milliband’s speech seemed to be that Labour are going to return to being the party that defends the ‘squeezed middle’, the people who pay their way and take nothing from the state.

    All well and good, however, is he going to do so by going for the hard or the soft option?

    The hard option is going for the people at the top of the economic food chain, bonus happy bankers and business tycoons who use clever accounting to avoid paying their fair share of tax. He could, and should, say that a Labour government would hit them in the pocket; but they will squeal loudly.

    The soft option is to aim for the so called ‘benefits scroungers’, the favourite folk devils of the tabloid press, they will squeal too; but nobody will listen, because on a sink estate nobody can hear you scream.

    It is right that Labour seeks to move people off benefits and into work, but it must do so in a way that empowers them, not by starving them into the first dead end job that comes along. The trouble is that costs money, more money than the current government is willing to spend and a better understanding of how to help people help themselves than the last one showed.

    The only way to raise the money is through taxing the richest people fairly, not until the pips squeak; just making sure they pay what they owe and that the funds raised are then used in a way that demonstrably benefits society.

    Only by having the courage to speak up for policies that are recognisably based in Labour’s tradition of redistributing wealth and empowering working people can Milliband hope to maintain his position.

Leave a Reply