Labour is on the precipice of extinction – this is our last chance to make our party relevant again
We cannot rehash the past, the next Labour leader needs a brand-new outlook, writes Louise Haigh MP
This election defeat was horrific. We all know that; there’s no need for me to trot out any more clichés about the scale of the disaster that was election night on 12 December. Being back in Parliament really brings it home when you are surrounded by empty seats on the Labour benches and the Tories can’t physically fit on their side of the chamber.
We’ve just trooped around the lobbies four times to be thrashed every time; no more edge-of-your-seat votes in this Parliament.
So as the leadership race kicks off we absolutely must keep in mind that this isn’t just a process of selecting our next leader, it is our last chance and opportunity to help rebuild our party, put new ideas on the table, challenge ourselves and each other, and move forward from the vicious, factional infighting of the last few years.
Because if we think we’ve hit rock bottom, we are mistaken. The number of colleagues back here with majorities of one or two thousand is frightening. We are on the precipice of extinction.
And it will require brand new ideas, energy and outlook from all the candidates because nothing we’ve ever done before will work in the politics of the 2020s.
I want to hear exciting innovations, new analyses and policies that will address the challenges of the next decade. We need to hear how each candidate will address the social care crisis, the manipulation of our democracy by fake news and propaganda, and most importantly the climate emergency.
It may well be hope over experience, but I really want this contest to end the negative briefing, the undermining of each other, and to be a positive debate about ideas, not individuals.
The Labour party has to change; there is no doubt about that. And so, we need to hear what that change looks like and how it will be achieved. How do we become relevant again to the lives of those who couldn’t put their trust in us this time around? How do we make sure that Labour is represented and in the lives of those who are no longer represented by a Labour MP? How do we demonstrate that people can trust us again when we are so firmly in opposition and they think we’re all the same?
I don’t believe any one individual has all the answers to these existential questions for the Labour party but that’s why I’m excited for the debate ahead; to test the limits of our party, to stretch our full potential and draw on the talent from across the movement.
And finally (sorry Keir and Clive) but I simply can’t back another man. In 100 years, we have never elected a female leader and I simply do not think we can lecture anyone else on equality and diversity if we don’t walk the walk ourselves.
Louise Haigh is Labour MP for Sheffield, Heeley and shadow policing minister