Labour is struggling for attention. To cut through, we need a leader who will tackle our weaknesses and rebuild our appeal, writes Gareth Thomas MP
Labour needs a street fighter for Leader. Someone who recognises and accepts that the role is a protracted, hostile interview for the job of being Prime Minister, and who can take the highs and lows of Opposition in their stride, whilst focusing on tackling our weaknesses in organisation, narrative and unity. They must be relentless in understanding and then changing what might stop voters in marginal seats from opting for their Labour candidate.
All those who are standing for Leader are principled and I don’t doubt they’ll campaign brilliantly on issues I care about like the grotesque inequality in our country, the growing climate crisis or the homelessness that first motivated me to join the Labour Party.
But I want them above all else to rebuild our appeal in places like Grimsby, Glasgow and Sedgefield. Being even better defenders of the NHS and our other vital public services is fundamental to our values and purpose, but won’t be enough to win power next time. We need to actively listen to the concerns of individuals across the breadth of our society, whilst also intelligently utilising all forms of data to understand how we maximise our appeal across the country, without sacrificing our history and values.
The next Leader needs to avoid long shopping lists for the next manifesto and focus on a small number of very realistic pledges that embody our radical traditions and ambitions, but which are clearly sensible and affordable. So please, no Grey book of fully costed tax increases or Shadow Budgets which can be hung round our necks to damn us as spendthrift (never mind the numbers of economists offering to support such an approach again).