As you will be aware, I did make a nomination for Leader of the Party. That was for Diane Abbott, because like other colleagues in the Parliamentary Party I wanted to see the widest possible debate and choice for Leader, not that I had made up my mind before the contest started who I thought was best for the Party.
The Leadership campaign has now been going for nearly three months. The five candidates have published their own manifestos, attended scores of hustings and other events around the country, and taken part in countless appearances on radio and television. If the contest has not dominated the headlines in the way that some leadership contests have in past (for all three parties), that is a tribute to the civilised way in which all five candidates have conducted themselves.
I have during this period been reflecting on who in my opinion is best placed to lead the party through the next nearly five years of this Conservative/LibDem government (and it will in my view be five years), and then lead us to victory at the 2015 General Election.
All the candidates have strengths. In my view, however, there is one outstanding candidate with the qualities necessary both to be Leader of the Opposition, and then Prime Minister. And don’t forget, the post of Opposition Leader is probably the most difficult and exposed of any in British politics. The Conservatives got through three Opposition Leaders before they elected one who could achieve even half a victory. Only three Labour leaders (Attlee, Wilson, Blair) in our post-war period have won elections.
In my judgement it is David Miliband who without doubt should be our next Leader. He will get my vote. Here’s why:
- He has the strength and the depth to stand up to David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions week after week, and he can stand up for the people who will be most badly hit in our communities by the policies of this Con/LibDem government.
- He an excellent communicator. Those of us who attended Blackburn CLP’s Sunday organisation meeting during the election had the privilege of seeing and hearing how well he came across. Indeed the Blackburn CLP has since endorsed David’s candidacy.
- He knows that we won’t get anywhere if we stand on our heads and start undermining what we achieved in government. Our record was overall a terrific one. Look at what we did. We can see it in Blackburn – with exam results at GCSE more than twice as good as they were in 1997; with a brand new hospital and dramatic improvements in health care; with the best record of any post-war government on crime and anti-social behaviour – balanced by the greatest advances in civil liberties of any post-war government, through the Human Rights Act, Freedom of Information Act, Equality Act, legislation to outlaw discrimination on grounds of race, religion, gender or sexuality; on overseas aid, and in many areas of foreign policy. And we can now see that the measures taken once the world financial crisis was upon us have worked to keep unemployment from rising anywhere near as much as predicted.
- At the same time as standing up for our achievements, David has not been afraid to learn from the mistakes which, inevitably, all governments do make – not least in the style of leadership that did not give sufficient prominence to the Party, or to Parliament.
- However, in my view David recognises more acutely than any the fact that elections are about change, the future. We have to defend what we did, of course. Without that, we will damage our own credibility. But we have to set out above all a clear vision and set of policies for the future. David has spoken passionately about the need to invest in industry to provide the sustainable jobs we need, in both the new green technologies, and in more traditional manufacturing; about strengthening our engineering base, of how we should close the gap in educational achievement.
- Yes David is very bright, and went to Oxford. But his secondary education was at a large inner London comprehensive, similar to the one my children attended.
- David is tough. He won’t pick fights – in my experience he always works very hard for a consensus. But sometimes as a Leader you have to tell folk – including within the Party – what they don’t want to hear. David won’t flinch from doing this if he thinks it is necessary.
Every party member and eligible member of an affiliated trade union will be able to vote in this election.
Ballots begin to drop on 1 September and new members can still join the Party and vote right up to the 8 September (so tell any Labour supporters you know who aren’t members to join by this date).
I hope very much you will carefully consider voting for David.