This is one of four articles by Young Fabian members outlining why they are voting for their chosen Labour leadership candidate. The views expressed below are those of the author only. The Young Fabians do not endorse any one candidate for the Labour leadership.
The Labour Party is a government-in-waiting. It is this which makes it distinctive among the chaotic rainbow of left wing groups in modern Britain. And in this leadership contest, Liz Kendall is the only one who has understood, and campaigned on, this fundamental truth.
We are not a “moral crusade,” as Harold Wilson famously quipped. To ‘crusade’ is to make a ‘concerted effort.’ Poverty-stricken Britons do not need our efforts, they need our actions. Nor is the party solely a social movement, as Jeremy Corbyn believes. A movement is a means to an end destination, not the destination itself. The hundreds of thousands of refugees trudging across Europe in search of a better life do not need a rudderless movement. They need the aid of a strong and compassionate Labour government.
Liz’s laser-focus on getting Labour into government has been pilloried by many, for all the wrong reasons. Her detractors believe she is willing to sacrifice every value the party holds dear for a shot at Downing Street. This could not be further from the truth. Liz shares the high principles and lofty goals of all those who call Labour home.
She wants to end inequality of opportunity. Not reduce it - end it, through improved early years education. She wants low-paid Britons to get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work by introducing a real living wage and restoring working tax credits. She wants to harness the potential of green technology in order to boost the economy today and preserve the environment for tomorrow. Most importantly, she wants a strong and effective welfare state built on solid economic foundations, and has been honest with the public in pointing out that this foundation depends on the support of both big and small businesses, as well as employees.
Where Liz differs from her opponents is that she recognises these ambitions will go unfulfilled without a Labour majority at the next election. She also recognises that the only viable route to such a majority is with the support of those who voted Conservative in 2010 and 2015. It is an unpalatable fact, but a fact nonetheless, that Labour cannot win without English seats currently shaded deepest blue on the electoral map.
In order to win these voters, we have to speak to their interests as well as to those of our own. This is not a betrayal of our beliefs, it is the realisation of them. The clue is in our very own clause IV: “The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party.” We believe the legitimate implementation of socialist principles can only be achieved with a clear electoral mandate. Labour should therefore seek to govern for the whole country, not a small subset of the population – and yes, that means middle-class homeowners and entrepreneurs as well as hospital workers and the unemployed.
Liz is the one to win these votes. I had a chance to meet her on the Labour doorstep in Milton Keynes in April last year, doing her bit for a tight campaign far from her own constituency. I heard her chatting away with a woman who had made it clear she wasn’t interested in politics – but Liz did not just turn away. She kept at it, explaining that even though she wasn’t the woman’s MP she wanted her to engage with the local candidate and the campaign. I thought to myself: here is someone who gets it, who will put in the hard yards and fly the flag for Labour wherever and whenever called on.
She has worked unrelentingly hard throughout the course of this leadership campaign – never dodging the tough fight and unashamedly speaking her mind. She has not gone chasing applause or appealing to simplistic identity politics. Nor has she crumbled in the face of horrendous personal abuse on social media. These are qualities we should all want in a leader – courage and resilience.
Liz Kendall is both the leader Labour deserves and the one it needs to win in 2020. All those who agree that the Labour party is a government-in-waiting should listen to her campaign and vote – with heart and head – for a Kendall victory.
Louie Woodall is a member of the Young Fabians Executive Committee