The snap general election called by the Prime Minister presents Labour with the opportunity to put our policies and our case clearly to the British people to let them decide what kind of nation and society we want to live in. I will be standing again to represent my home town and looking forward to campaigning on the things that matter to people in my constituency.
No doubt many people will have been caught on the hop. The prospect of a general election two years in to this parliament and hot on the heels of the EU Referendum is precisely what Teresa May told us would not happen.
The Prime Minister is quite adept at this, saying one thing and meaning another – a reputation that she and her government take into the forthcoming campaign. I’m sure voters will not forget that and all the other backtracking and u-turns there have been in this parliament so far.
Teresa May is also saying a lot about ‘strong and stable leadership’. I recall her predecessor David Cameron saying the exact same thing, yet the Tories have presided over the most chaotic few years in recent memory over Brexit, risking the break-up of the UK as well as causing the crisis in Health and Social Care, in Education, Social Security, housing and the economy. They haven’t so far and will not provide ‘strong and stable leadership’ because they aren’t a party who stands up for the majority of people in the UK.
What I believe she is really doing is concede the strength of the opposition – not in trying to stifle or obstruct the government but in holding the government to account. That is why there will be a vote in parliament on the final Brexit deal and why there were, for example, u-turns in self-employed NI’s, in PIP’s and cuts to tax credits in the budget.
Over the Easter period the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn have been setting out polices and the case for a fairer, more equal Britain and a Brexit deal that works for everyone. Meanwhile, too much is being made of the division within Labour with everything else being channelled through the prism of Brexit.
The general election is our opportunity to showcase what Labour stands for, and now for the PLP and Labour voters to unite around. This is our opportunity to end six years of austerity, to pull Britain back from being the bargain basement, tax haven economy the tories seem happy to accept. After Brexit, people in this country should not be worse off and Labour will see to it that they aren’t.
We also need to tone down the media obsession with personalities and opinion polls. What is wrong, for goodness sake, with a leader who is decent, consistent, honest and principled? It is all too easy to be cynical about politicians and their promises but in Jeremy Corbyn Labour has a leader who has a clear vision, the commitment and the stamina to make Britain a nation that works for everyone.
Opinion polls don’t win elections, by the way. If they did we would still be in Europe and Hilary Clinton would be President of the United States. It is voters who will decide the outcome of the general election at the ballot box on 8th June.
They will have the choice about the kind of nation, the kind of society, we want to be and live in. Labour has very strong messages on health, social care, pensions and welfare; on families, devolution, transport and infrastructure investment, public services, education as well on immigration, our national (and international) security and our environment. These are crafted from a quite different set of values to those held by the Tories and I’m confident Labour’s messages will prove to be a hit with voters as polling day approaches.
This election is not wholly about Brexit but Labour will be a strong voice for the UK and take a strong negotiating team to Brussels on behalf of British workers, their families and the businesses and industries that employ them as we establish our future relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. Labour is pro-worker, pro-business, pro a United Kingdom and absolutely for the best deal for our country and our economy as we exit the EU.
All this really matters in places like Middlesbrough and the Tees Valley which will become abundantly clear over the next six weeks or so. I believe Labour’s policies are already popular and, given a fair hearing, will be welcomed locally, regionally and by the majority of the British people.
It is not going to be easy to do that, but do that we must to give hope to millions of people struggling with the crippling and unnecessary austerity that is favouring just a privileged few at the top on the back of those least able to bear it.
So, as we now enter the pre-election period I say, bring it on!