Perspectives on the Leadership Contest

In this article, two young members from Stockport explain how they will be voting in the leadership contest.

James Gill and Daniel Oliver are young members in Stockport CLP. James has been a member of the Labour Party since May 2015. He’s also part of Momentum, Unite and the Socialist Health Association. Daniel has been a member of the Labour Party since November 2014. He is a trade union member, an active Party member and the current Youth Officer for Stockport CLP.

James: “Corbyn, still”

I didn’t join the Labour Party to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. But I watched Ed Miliband’s slow-mo car crash from a distance, and the general election result shook me out of my skin. I joined Labour the weekend after the result. I don’t think I had ever heard of Jeremy Corbyn.

I went to see Corbyn when he spoke at Bradford last year. He spoke directly about rent controls, the private right-to-buy, and free education, among other things. He made a real offer to my generation – I’d never heard a politician do that before.

He also talked about reforming the Labour Party, making it a mass membership organisation, bringing politics back into people’s homes and communities. It was clear then, and is clearer now, that small, tightly-run, centralised social democratic parties are failing all over Europe. The idea of a “million-member party” is the legacy of Miliband, but Corbyn’s ability to galvanise tens of thousands of new activists suddenly made it sound plausible.

One year on, no part of the party establishment seems to have a coherent plan to halt the decline. There doesn’t seem to be any equivalent to the intellectual groundwork that underpinned Blair’s success in the nineties.

Turning their knives inward after the referendum, at a time when facing outward could not have been more crucial, is just the latest manifestation of that lack of leadership and planning.

Corbyn’s leadership has been far from optimal over the course of the last year, despite notable mayoral and by-election victories. He needs to invest less time in rallies and more time in policy. He needs to build better bridges where that’s possible, and be more ruthless when it’s not. He needs to be explicit about the transformation the Labour Party must undergo for us to win again. He, and his team, must do better.

But having said all that, I will be voting Corbyn again this year. The alternative is fatal calcification of the party machinery, and the electoral strategy of Ed Miliband. We won’t win a general election like that.

Daniel: “Owen Smith, Delivering Labour Values”

As a proud socialist I want a left wing government that can represent our communities, to provide that representation we must have a strong social movement and an effective Parliamentary opposition.

I believe that Owen Smith can provide both of these as our Leader.

Here are just some of the reasons why I’m supporting Owen:

  1.    Throughout his Parliamentary career Owen has proven himself as a team player and as a leader. Most notably he led our Party’s fight against controversial welfare reforms, including strong performances at the despatch box.
  2.    From the outset of the leadership contest Owen’s focus was on presenting financially credible policies. His intention is to invest in our society and infrastructure, with that investment being backed up by sound reasoning and effective taxation policies.
  3.    Owen has the intention and the capability to deliver significant social change for our country. From re-writing Clause IV to focus on social inequality to the re-introduction of wage councils for some business sectors, Owen has displayed a commitment to helping those in most need.
  4.    It is more important than ever that we unify both as a Party and as a country, I believe that Owen can build that unity. Jeremy and his team have displayed a continuing inability to unify and to lead, from his recent comments on NATO to his lack of commitment during the Labour In For Britain campaign. In contrast Owen has looked to engage with all members of our Party, including his offer to attend and speak at Momentum-organised events.

Our Party’s rule book states that we should seek the trust of the people that we govern. From speaking to friends, colleagues and the wider public I am confident that Owen Smith can deliver that trust where recent Labour leaders have failed. I know that Owen can become our Leader and our next Prime Minister.

A note about unity

We’ve made our decisions for the upcoming leadership contest and given our reasons. Regardless of the outcome we all need to work effectively within our party, both as a social movement and in Parliament. Whether Jeremy or Owen is our leader after the contest, we will work towards electoral success and social change as a Labour movement. Stockport people, like so many other British people, need a Labour government.

James Gill
James Gill
Daniel Oliver