“Rebecca Long Bailey is the leader who can best ensure Labour is both a strong, effective opposition to the Tories and has a path to power.”Claudia Webbe MP
In recent years, Labour has become a firmly anti-austerity party committed to putting people and planet before private profit.
I believe that going forward — to rebuild Labour and to win the next election — we need to remain committed to not only opposing austerity, but also to further developing a radical “investment not cuts” agenda.
To me, this is the key issue in the current Labour leadership election and why I’m backing Rebecca Long Bailey, who has again and again showed she can walk the walk as well as talk the talk when it comes to fighting the Tories on this ground.
Returning to “austerity-lite” policies would not only hinder us in effectively challenging the Tories and their reactionary, divisive agenda but also lead to us losing more support.
In fact, policies such as a radical green new deal, scrapping universal credit, and extending public ownership are popular with both Labour members and the public, and should be maintained and developed.
We will not win by rolling back on this transformative agenda. Instead we must develop and popularise it — showing how real change is possible and that we can transform the lives of the majority for the better.
Take, for example, an issue which has been highlighted in the Labour leadership race itself — namely, whether we should continue to support public ownership of key services and utilities.
Public opinion on this matter is as follows.
For Royal Mail public ownership is supported by 69 per cent of the public. Railways by 64 per cent. Water companies by 63 per cent. And when it comes to bus companies, by 55 per cent.
So despite what some in the Tory-supporting parts of the media say, Labour’s public ownership policies were not unpopular or what lost the election.
In fact, their popularity shows they can be a vote-winner for Labour.
Public ownership is also essential to the strategic, sustained investment we need in our economy, including for the genuine industrial strategy that all our nations and regions so desperately need.
As a key architect of our Green New Deal and industrial strategy, Rebecca knows that we can’t protect our planet, and improve the living standards of the majority, without these core planks of our economic alternative.
Labour members mustn’t let anyone tell us that abandoning our opposition to austerity — or abandoning support for an “investment not cuts” agenda including through extending public ownership — will win us more support.
Indeed, every one of our sister parties in Europe that has embraced austerity and cuts have seen support fall to unprecedented levels.
That doesn’t of course mean that we mustn’t learn the lessons from our general election defeat and recognise how devastating that defeat is for millions of people across Britain who need an end to Tory rule.
But it does mean we need to learn the right lessons, and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Moving forward, as Long Bailey has said, “we must rebuild trust, not only in our party but in the idea that change really is possible. This means we cannot return to the politics of the past.
“Our transformative agenda is principled and popular, while triangulation and soft pedalling will only take us backwards.”
Linked to this, I also think that what Long Bailey is saying in terms of how we mustn’t wait until the next general election to change people’s lives for the better is vital.
Not only must we win Labour mayors and Labour councillors this year, we must also continue organising in communities now, strengthening Labour’s support across all the nations and regions.
With Boris Johnson governing on such a reactionary agenda, it is vital that we resist the Tories every step of the way, including by not compromising our anti-racist and internationalist principles.
Yes, we need to lead the resistance to the Tories in Parliament and in the council chamber.
But we also need to also do this by supporting trade unions in our workplaces and standing by communities, migrants and all those under attack from the Tories.
That’s why I was pleased to see Long Bailey commit to supporting workers in dispute and say that we will be on the picket line as well as in Parliament.
We must also protest on the streets against their reactionary policies, whether that be against the Tories supporting Donald Trump’s warmongering abroad or against their inhumane deportation flights, or against their insistence on carrying on with dehumanising universal credit here.
We must also give full support to all those young people and others who will continue to engage in direct action to highlight the need to tackle the climate emergency in the months ahead, while also building support for our Green New Deal and socialist solutions to climate chaos.
The fightback is starting against the Tories. Now we must organise in every community — and on every day of the year — building trust in the idea that we can change Britain for the better, empowering people and communities.
With these factors in mind, I believe Long Bailey is the leader who can best ensure Labour is both a strong, effective opposition to the Tories and has a path to power.
- This article originally appeared in the Morning Star.