Open Labour Statement on the Labour Leadership: Learning the Lessons from 2015

Statement from the Open Labour Management Committee

Last week’s referendum result will change life in Britain and beyond – though how and to whose benefit remains extremely uncertain. It has become clear that the Labour Party has to act to prepare ourselves for the crucial role we need to play. The leadership election will need to create a new mandate to address the new challenges we face, and to ready the party for the almost inevitable early General Election.

Everyone in the labour movement, and particularly the Parliamentary Labour Party, must ensure that the leadership contest to come does not repeat the 2015 contest. Jeremy Corbyn won last year with a huge mandate from party members – and perceived establishment candidates also lost, resoundingly. Their messages were not distinct enough, and the membership was not convinced.  We believe there was no candidate that stood where the mainstream of the Party lies on the centre left, and that contributed to Corbyn’s victory.

Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign raised questions which need to be asked, on austerity, on the NHS, on the kind of society we want to be. Tens of thousands of members have joined our movement, inspired by the campaign’s message and purpose. The Labour Party must learn from the mistakes of the past and celebrate the huge success of finding a strong voice to question and criticise the status quo. That should be considered by any new candidate that stands in the forthcoming contest.

But it is also clear our message is not resonating enough with Labour voters outside urban centres. Corbyn’s leadership has not sought to reach beyond his core support base in terms of how it operates, or the ideas it puts forward. Much of its following operates in a way which is hostile to other traditions and does not accept that even the left of the party itself has diverse strands. Positioning over issues where ideals have had to confront modern realities has been difficult as best, not least over Europe. More deeply there seems to be little understanding of those whose support we seek.

The whole party has to reflect on the last year, the leadership election and Corbyn’s term of office – and the ways it has both strengthened and weakened our position as a party. In order to confront the huge challenges of the months and years ahead, we must now find a unity of purpose and the confidence to offer answers as well as asking the right questions. There is the question of how we shape a relationship with Europe which creates a tolerant society not riven by divisions around race and immigration, of how we protect and enhance workers’ rights in Brexit Britain and of how we heal the deep ruptures threatening to tear apart our communities and our country.

What we need going forward is a clear vision that can win an early election. We need a bridge between the aims and ideals of a membership motivated by a vision for a better society, and a public which is uncertain about again trusting Labour. Labour needs to choose a leadership which can unite with the PLP in the vital task of mobilising the ideals and values of our movement into a credible strategy to realise the aims we all hold dear, and which can transform that into not just success in the leadership contest, but success in an early general election.

You may also like

The two-child cap is a poor fit for Labour by Lauren Davison | 23.07.23 | In: Comment Labour members were blindsided by Keir Starmer's recent commitment to keep George Osborne’s two child-cap on benefits. Thanks to Tory austerity, 1 in 4... Read More
Review: Michael Chessum’s ‘This Is Only The Beginning’ by Barry Coppinger | 18.11.22 | In: Comment I joined the Labour Party in Autumn 1979, within 6 months of the economic and social carnage beginning under Thatcher. Tony Benn in the late 70’s and 80’s... Read More
Labour needs to Forge a New Consensus within the Party and Country by Andrew Ryder | 10.11.22 | In: Comment I am a Labour member living in Hungary but still able to participate in the party through Labour International, a constituency Labour Party set up for members... Read More
REVIEW: Patrick Diamond and Giles Radice, Labour’s Civil Wars (London: Haus Publishin... by Dr Lewis Young | 31.08.22 | In: Comment Open Labour member Lewis Young PhD looks at recent literary approaches to factionalism in the Labour Party and asks whether it's possible to ever tackle... Read More