Clive Lewis is the ‘political signpost’ that will lead the Labour Party back to power
In a new political era, we need a new kind of leadership. Clive Lewis will heal the pain of the last four years and reignite the hope that created a people powered party in 2015, writes Rachael Maskell MP.
We have a Parliamentary Labour Party bursting with talent, each MP with unique skills and experience.
Leadership is being able to unleash the potential of others, so everyone plays their full part – in Parliament, in the Party and in the Country. It demands a very special set of qualities, of which few will inhabit, and while many may aspire, we have to be confident that the result will lead to Labour transforming the lives of those we seek to represent, first in Opposition, and then to lead us into Government.
In a new political era, such that we have not experienced before, we need a new kind of leadership. The tests that I have set are best matched by Clive Lewis. He is someone able to apply critical analysis to the political context, and then to follow through on his conclusions. In jointly establishing ‘Love Socialism, Hate Brexit’ with Clive, we were able to be a consistent voice within the Party which sought to advance the majority views of Labour voters on the issue of Europe – a critical friend.
A leadership battle will always elicit a chorus of ‘wannabes’ with the self-declaring belief that they are simply the best; not so Clive, he is a ‘wannado’. In the midst of a domestic and climate crisis he has not just reached for the megaphone but for the evidence, to develop a programme of sustainable economics to challenge the neo-liberal industrial narrative and set a radically different course socially and economically.
In this Parliament, where successive Prime Ministers have ignored the burning injustices of our age, and indeed a burning planet, we need a national leader to secure radical action from Government whilst causing a nation to rise up to demand justice.
It cannot be business as usual.
Sloganistic populism which seeks to scapegoat others rather than take responsibility for a decade of failure now dominates Parliament. As we have just seen, it cut through where Labour didn’t and has attracted, even manipulated, millions to become believers, willing to sacrifice logic and decency. This dogma is dangerous, and has led to some very dark places elsewhere.
Clive’s focus on intersectional justice, calling out dog-whistle politics, will protect the most vulnerable. As Pastor Niemoller warned, that unless we speak out, there will be no-one left to defend, even if this is at personal cost. Clive will be that voice of conscience, unwilling to bend in his defence of those oppressed, the marginalised, or those that simply do not fit with the new order.
As the Prime Minister builds walls across our nation with his hard Brexit, Clive will build bridges to heal the pain of the last four years and draw us closer together as a Party with an energetic vision of a society that works for all.
He will build new local and national alliances between the political and the community, joining with trade unions, community and faith groups, environmental and justice movements as George Lansbury and Keir Hardy did in their day.
He is not seeking to take us back to a past era of politics but to a new space, reigniting the hope that created a people powered party in 2015. Clive is real, relevant and radical. He will redemocratise our Party, overseeing constitutional and electoral reform; returning power to those that need it most.
Leadership is ultimately about exercising sound judgement, being entrusted with making the right calls. Clive refused to vote for cuts to welfare, he did not trigger Article 50 and did not vote for the General Election. He did not shy away from the penalties and costs of being true and he did not place his position over his values; instead he set out to change the direction.
In his final diary notes, ‘A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine’, Tony Benn described two types of politician, a political signpost, or a weather-vane which merely spins in the direction of the prevailing political wind. Clive Lewis will be that signpost, getting us back on track, and leading us back to power.
Rachael Maskell is a Labour Member of Parliament for York Central.