EXCL Richard Burgon vows to increase Labour membership to one million if he becomes deputy leader
Richard Burgon has vowed to increase the number of Labour Party members to one million if he becomes deputy leader.
Writing for PoliticsHome, he vowed to ensure the party was “rooted in every community” as it tries to recover from its general election defeat.
The most recent figures put Labour membership at more than 500,000, way up on when Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015.
But Mr Burgon said doubling that figure was achievable as he launched a furious attack on comments made earlier this week by Tony Blair.
The former Prime Minister said Labour members were "not an asset" because "they are always going to pull you to these unrealistic positions".
Hitting back, Shadow Justice Secretary Mr Burgon - a close ally of Mr Corbyn - said: "As on so much else, Blair couldn’t be more wrong. The membership surges over the last few years are a huge asset to the party.
"Many members will be quite rightly offended by these slurs, though many will have heard it all before - including when MPs tried to launch a coup against Jeremy Corbyn in 2016 in opposition to the membership’s wishes.
"The fact that the Labour Party is one of the biggest political parties in Europe is something to be celebrated and a key resource as we seek to rebuild. So as deputy leader I am committing not only to retaining and galvanising our 500,000 plus members - but to grow our membership to hit one million members.
"Some will scoff at this. I predict in advance it’s the very same people who never believed that we would get the huge surge to over 500,000 members under Jeremy.
"And those same cynics don’t know their own history. Labour has had more than one million members in its past, peaking in the aftermath of the great post-war reforming Attlee government.
"If every Labour member felt empowered and enthused to recruit one friend to the party, we would hit a million members. So, I will investing both in our CLPs (Constituency Labour Party's) and organising departments to make this happen."
Mr Burgon also said that he would give Labour members more power over candidate selection and the party's policies.
This would include open selections for parliamentary candidates, as well as "peace pledge" to ballot members on whether the party should back military action.
He said: "Members should not be treated as the unpaid postal workers of the Labour movement delivering leaflets but with no say on the policies which end up on them.
"Labour members are the lifeblood of our party and should be respected as such. Unlike the top-down control of the Blair years, my commitment is to open up the party even further to them."
The Leeds East MP added: "I have said I will be a campaigning deputy leader, in the mould of John Prescott, building a Labour Party rooted in every community.
"If we are serious about achieving that then we can be confident that we can double our membership to one million members."