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Unite will not choose next Labour leader

Nor do we want to, says GS Len McCluskey
Len McCluskey, Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Labour’s election loss was not one defeat but several. Votes that should have been Labour’s went to the Tories , UKIP , the SNP and the Greens.


Not to mention the millions of natural Labour supporters who did not vote at all. That is the challenge at the centre of the leadership debate.


So let’s start by moving on from the Punch-and-Judy aspects of the last week. Ed Miliband was right to say we can disagree without being disagreeable. Not everyone got the memo it seems.


To be clear: Unite is not choosing the next Labour leader, nor do we want to. And I am not backing any move to break the ties between union and Party.


But I make no apology for speaking up on behalf of our tens of thousands of activists who worked flat out for a Labour victory on May 7. They were bitterly disappointed, and their voice must not go unheard. From carers to car workers, they are saying they need a Labour Party with progressive policies and a new sense of purpose.


Agenda for growth

Labour needs an agenda for growth. Redistribution is vital, but not enough. The challenge is that Labour’s old growth plan – leave it all to the City and ignore manufacturing – went bust in 2008.


To get the economy going and working for everyone requires a bigger role for the government, in infrastructure investment, the utilities and putting the national interest before the banks and hedge funds. The finance-first policy pushed us into crisis and has slowed our recovery.


Labour also needs an agenda for equality. Even Tony Blair has admitted that he got this issue wrong and it is one thing Ed Miliband certainly got right.


Action to boost wages at the bottom, and rebalance the tax system so the rich and business pay more is not a vote-loser. It is an essential step towards a better society. Investing in giving everyone an affordable home helps boost the economy and social justice.


We need an agenda for democracy. Labour erred in not backing a referendum on the European Union – we need to give people a say, and campaign to stay in Europe. A constitutional convention to meet the aspirations not only of the Scottish people, but all peoples in our nations so as to fix our political system and keep the country together is urgent. We won’t get that from the Tories.


And we need an agenda for workers. Labour was right to campaign against zero-hour contracts and other abuses in the workplace.


Attacks threats

The Tories are threatening new attacks on trade unions. Our Party should not be afraid to make the positive case for unions. Nor should it duck a debate on the “free movement of labour” which has hit millions of families in the pocket.


We also need to make certain that aspiration and ambition is not stolen by the Tories, it has always been part of Labour’s DNA.

These issues should be at the heart of the leadership race – getting the message right matters more than the messenger. The debate should be the start of Labour rising again, renewed by a fresh belief in what it stands for.


This article first appeared in the Mirror online, May 19



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