Tonight I have announced to my local Party that I am joining the contest for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party. Labour can and must win the next election and I believe I can help us achieve that.
We can only do so if we are honest about how badly we lost and have an open and civilised debate about what we need to do win. There were different factors in different regions and even constituencies, but we did badly everywhere and in Wales and England outside London we went backwards against the Tories.
Against this backdrop, I almost trebled the Labour majority in Exeter. We also gained 3 council seats, have a record sized ruling Labour group and gender parity on it – the first, we think, in Britain. I and my local Party have a record of winning, against the tide, in exactly the sort of place we must win back to form a Government. Given events in Scotland, we need to be aiming for a good majority in England, as well as Wales. We’ve achieved this in Exeter with a combination of sensible, progressive centre-left politics, hard work and strong all-year-round campaigning. My Party and I also practice an open and pluralist politics which helps us broaden Labour’s appeal to people who would otherwise vote Lib Dem, Green, Tory and UKIP. It can be done and we need to relearn how to do it nationally.
Although others have attached labels to me, I have never attached them to myself, except Labour and loyalty. I have fully supported all of our leaders since I was elected – Tony, Gordon and Ed – and have been willing to go out fighting for them in the media at their most difficult moments. But I’ve also been prepared to deliver home truths to them privately when I’ve felt it justified. As deputy, I would be fully loyal to whomever we elect leader, but would also be prepared to tell them and pass on the views of others when I think they’re getting something wrong.
I know I face an uphill task getting enough nominations from fellow MPs to get on the ballot paper. That would be hard for anyone from a part of Britain with so few Labour colleagues. But it’s exactly because I believe it is vital that we listen to and hear the voices of those members, candidates and defeated MPs from areas that are underrepresented in Parliament and where we must win again that I have decided to have a go. We must offer a broad choice to members and ensure the voices of Labour people in those vast swathes of the country painted blue are heard in this debate.