Lewis tells Progress: It’s time to move on from New Labour
BELOW IS A TRANSCIPT OF IVAN LEWIS’S SPEECH TO PROGRESS AT LABOUR CONFERENCE 2015:-
I want to begin by thanking John Woodcock, Richard Angell and his staff for their wonderful work on behalf of Progress. Work that is more important than ever before.
Friends, it’s been quite a year for us all. For me it’s been particularly interesting. 14 years on the frontbench ended by text, telling me my job was being offered to someone else.
Comrades, that’s no way for socialists to treat working people!
But seriously, as many people have said Jeremy won with an overwhelming mandate. This has to be respected and he must be supported as he sets out his vision for the direction of our party.
And let us send a clear message to Tim Farron today. Thanks, but no thanks. Not now, not ever. We were born Labour and we will die Labour. Sometimes that feels as though it has literal meaning!
For the moderates and modernisers this has to be a moment of truth and soul-searching. For years deriding the left for their no compromise with the electorates mantras. Yet, too often adopting exactly the same approach to many party members and supporters.
Where did it go so badly wrong?
• The spectre of Iraq.
• Being starry-eyed about the private sectors role in reforming Public Services.
• A lack of vision and fresh thinking about how in an age of Austerity, Social Democracy across Europe can offer people both responsibility and hope.
• Our approach to business and the market. On the one hand coming too late to the need for an active industrial strategy. On the other, refusing to embrace the need for serious dialogue with business about ethics as well as profits.
• A belated recognition that too many people have been left behind by globalisation and feel aggrieved by the impact of migration. A sense of insecurity, which fuels identity politics. Middle class politicians talking about the alienation of working class Labour supporters while showing little understanding of their daily realities.
• Insufficient concern and serious answers to widening inequality in the UK and across the world.
But there are other issues too:
• The intergenerational self-indulgent divide between “Blairites” and “Brownites.”
• The lecturing and hectoring of party members that only we know how to win.
• The belief that only those who belong to a small elite usually connected to Tony, Gordon or their courtiers, have a right to lead the Labour Party.
• The presentation of politics as either being a soap opera or career, not a vocation.
Friends, Labour can only win if the electorate trust us with their and the country’s money, develop respect for our leaders and feel there is synergy between our values and theirs. Labour will only win if we are able to rebuild a mainstream majority of working and middle class voters who trust us to govern.
These are eternal truths.
But we have to learn to match realities with a renewed passion and vision rooted in progressive values and new ideas.
New Labour was of its time. A time that has past. Let us be the generation, which built something new, the generation which freed itself from the shackles of the past. The generation, which earned Labour the right once again to take Britain from the managed decline of the Tories to great new frontiers rooted in prosperity and social justice for all.
That is a prize worth fighting for.