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Labour’s revival begins with a leader who can balance credibility with radicalism

3 min read

Ambitious policies for a truly green economy and a competitive stance based on creating world-class infrastructure can be vote winners, writes Jonathan Reynolds MP

At the recent general election the public told us they did not believe we were offering them a potential prime minister they could support or a programme they thought we could deliver. As MPs and activists, we might find this verdict brutal; unfortunately, politics often is. In my view we have one chance to acknowledge what our own supporters told us on doorstep after doorstep.

So a credible economic platform must be top of the list for a new leader. Crucially, this is not to say the path ahead must see us embrace the status quo or the agenda of the Conservative party. Credibility and hope are not opposite values – you can only inspire people if they trust you to deliver on what you say.

The past decade has been a lost one for the British economy. Growth has been well below the post-war trend. Productivity growth has been close to non-existent. For most people, wages are still not back to where they were before the financial crisis. Foodbanks and homelessness are now the norm.

Balancing this need for credibility with radicalism will determine whether the new leader succeeds or fails. I believe it can be done. An ambitious policy for a truly green economy, a competitive stance based on creating world-class skills and infrastructure, and an unapologetic desire to reduce inequality and deprivation can be vote winners.

There are many allies Labour can enlist in this goal. A growing movement of business leaders has rejected the old doctrine of shareholder primacy and instead embraced social purpose as their principal duty.

More and more asset managers want transparent and binding rules on climate disclosure. The public and businesses alike are tired of multinationals and the major tech companies not paying their fair share of tax. Labour should make common cause with these people.

Brexit will clearly continue to take up considerable Parliamentary and political bandwidth. As it develops, Labour’s consistent championing of the economy over other considerations could provide a considerable dividend.

As it stands, it appears the UK will not only lose market access to the EU for financial services but also choose to diverge in such a way that just-in-time supply chains in sectors like automotive manufacturing will no longer operate. There will be significant consequences from the UK going down this path.

At the same time, the Government will claim to have ended austerity. Labour and our new leader must hold their feet to the fire over this. There is clearly an indication of a change of approach from the Government – but at the same time, many MPs still go home at the end of the week to be told key local services in their constituencies face further cuts, especially in local government.

With a strong performance as the official opposition and an ambitious programme for the future, Labour’s revival will begin.

Jonathan Reynolds is Labour Co-op MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, and shadow economic secretary

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