The Labour party is in danger more mortal today than at any point in the over 100 years of its existence. I say this as someone who led the party for 13 years and has been a member for more than 40. The leadership electionhas turned into something far more significant than who is the next leader. It is now about whether Labour remains a party of government.
Governments can change a country. Protest movements simply agitate against those who govern. Labour in government changed this country. I don’t just mean the minimum wage, civil partnerships, massive investment in public services, lifting millions out of poverty, or peace in Northern Ireland. I mean we changed the nation’s zeitgeist. We forced change on the Tories. We gave a voice to those who previously had none. We led and shaped the public discourse. And, yes, governments do things people don’t like, and in time they lose power. That is the nature of democracy.
But in a thousand ways, small or large, which anyone in government can describe, being in power can make a difference to those we represent. The reality is that in the last three months the Labour party has been changed. Its membership has virtually doubled. Some will have joined in shock at the election result; many more are now joining specifically to support the Jeremy Corbyn campaign; some with heavy organisation behind them. These last two groups are not many in number, relative to the population. But, relative to the membership of a political party, they’re easily big enough to mount a partial takeover. The truth is they don’t really think it matters whether Labour wins an election or not. Some actually disdain government.
So this is directed to longstanding members and those who have joined but without an agenda. They’re still a majority and they have to exercise leadership now to save the party. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on the left, right or centre of the party, whether you used to support me or hate me. But please understand the danger we are in.