For Labour to win again we need Tory switchers. Only Liz Kendall can reach them

by Cameron Beavan-King, Jake Pitt and Sam Foulder-Hughes

For those who spent time on the doorstep relentlessly trying to win voters round, it probably doesn’t need to be said that the 7th of May was a bit of a tough night. In Labour’s key seats, the results were mixed and often random; we failed to win North Warwickshire, which had a Tory majority of 54, whilst Wes Streeting managed to overturn an 8,000 majority in Ilford North. In some seats we even went backwards, notably in Morley and Outwood, but also in our southern strongholds in Southampton and Plymouth which went from red to blue.

Having campaigned in seats in the West Midlands, London and the South East, we know the great challenges that face the party in winning back trust on the economy, reaching out to voters aspirations and more broadly just seeming fit for government. It’s not an issue we seek to, or could, address wholly in one opinion piece, however the direction Labour needs to head in to win in 2020 is clear. Liz Kendall is the candidate who offers by far the best chance of returning to power in five years time.

Most elections in European democracies are still decided by the Bill Clinton rule, that “it’s the economy, stupid” and so the party with the most coherent and positive vision will almost always win. The party campaigned on a variety of important issues, such as abolishing the cruel bedroom tax. However we forgot the silent majority of British people who aren’t in dire poverty but aren’t rich either, who pays their tax and work hard. These are the ‘shy Tories’ we have to bring back in order to build a winning coalition once again like Tony Blair did in in three successive elections.

For many ‘aspiration’ is a political buzz word, but for families it is about reaching their potential and doing best by those who rely on them. It can’t be understated how important is for our party to embrace, with no ifs or buts, the working and middle class families who simply want to get on and do well for themselves. The last Labour government and the coalition relied on centrally run public services to achieve social change far too much, without realising how unaccountable they are to local people.

Aspiration is built on two cornerstones – the belief that you can achieve something and the support you need to achieve that. Both are equally challenging for a Labour government to achieve, particularly in respect to the general lack of faith in politics. The answer isn’t just to spend more money on schools but to challenge historical issues head on. This is why Liz Kendall’s pledge to ensure earlier year’s education is well funded is so important. We need to ensure everyone, no matter their background get the right support early on in life to get the chances and opportunities they deserve.

Earlier this year, Lisa Nandy and Liz Kendall argued in a paper for Compass that we must reform the state to give more power to individuals and to local communities; in an era where globalisation makes people feel like they have less control over their lives (which is partly responsible for the rise of Ukip), a Labour government championing this has huge value. This is the true spirit of free schools and academies; instead of being the play things of middle class parents, we should look to empower all parents to take active roles in their children’s education and to society at large to provide young people of all backgrounds the opportunities to explore their interests.

Only through embracing the power of community and organisations we truly make a difference to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and to those who simply don’t think they can succeed. That’s what Liz wants to offer the Labour party in her pitch.

A leader of the Labour party should never again refer to businesses as ‘predators’. We need to recognise that we can be on the side of renters, but not rail against landlords; support fair taxes but not embody the politics of envy; be on the side of workers but still look out for business and entrepreneurs. Because if we have strong businesses in a robust economy, the argument for paying the living wage grows in strength too.

Kendall’s speech to Reuters showed that she has not just a set of ideas but a plan on fixing the economy and making it fit for the 21st Century, by creating the skilled, high-paid jobs for the future, empower workers in their companies and effectively promoting the living wage. At the moment, the government spends more on servicing debts than educating it’s young people, but we should be that paying down the debt to free up resources to invest in people. Fiscal responsibility can be at the core of our values, not contrary to them.

By saying this, Liz has shown that she really is the ‘fresh start’ candidate, who can turn the page over for the party. Throughout the leadership campaign so far Liz Kendall has stood out as the candidate of fiscal responsibility and the champion of radical reform, rather than radical spending. Most importantly the candidate of Labour values.

To that extent, if Liz was to be elected leader we hope that she would listen to all corners of the party to create a winning formula for 2020 but also listening to ensure that we maintain unity in the party. For now though, we cannot afford to simply end this leadership election with a female or northern Ed Miliband, as John Woodcock put it. We wouldn’t be doing ourselves justice in idolising the leader who let the election slip out of our hands in the final moments.

A key failure in Miliband’s leadership team was the idea that since the financial crisis, the country had moved to the left. However the public are probably as sceptical of big government as they are of banks – essentially, Britain remains predominately in the centre-ground. The other issue is that some in the movement believe the reason we lost was because we were not left-wing enough, because eventually we will need to confront the stark reality that people didn’t go out and vote for David Cameron because they thought he was a better socialist than Ed Miliband.

The Labour party cannot prescribe the same solutions as it did in the 2015 general election and expect the general public to be any more positive towards it. Revisionist intellectual heavyweights such as Anthony Crosland and Anthony Giddens recognised that our movement is at it’s best when we apply our values to the challenges of the present and the future, and Liz understands this better than any other candidate.

Labour wins when it offers a radical vision that succinctly depicts exactly what Britain would look like if we were in government. Labour wins when it speaks to Middle England. Labour wins when it aspires for all the people of Britain. That’s why we believe Liz Kendall is best placed to deliver this and ensure Labour is returned to power in 2020.

Cameron is a Birmingham Labour Student and a Birmingham Young Labour committee member, Jake is a Kent Labour Students member and former Community Organiser and Sam is a Birmingham Labour student and LGBTQ campaigner

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5 Responses to “For Labour to win again we need Tory switchers. Only Liz Kendall can reach them”

  1. Robert says:

    It is interesting that Kendall wrote something for Compass, so maybe she is not a Blairite fanatic. Like David Miliband, her supporters are doing a good job of losing the election.

    It is also interesting that many Labour students are either Trots or Blairites. Their politics might be less simplistic when they are older.

  2. swatantra says:

    I agree with practically all that the 3 from Young Labour say.
    But its all very well Liz K and Lisa N coming up with a long term economic plan, but can anyone seriously see Liz as leading us into a Brave New World? Maybe Lisa N should have had a go.

  3. Blairite says:

    @Robert – That’s a bit patronising, Robert! The Compass thing was building bridges with the left when we she knew she was going to run for leader. Setting out an ideology.

  4. John P Reid says:

    Surely the point is that Lisa NAndy isnt backing Liz, and didn’t back David M, same as Liz Backers Gavin Shukar, Gloria De Piero, Stephen Timms, lord Glasman, backed Ed

  5. Tafia says:

    “For Labour to win again we need Tory switchers. Only Liz Kendall can reach them”

    Actually you need the White Working Class (you’re natural core) that you’ve alienated to come back. And until you put forward policies that they llike, they would rather pick their nose.

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