Watching the exit polls reported on the BBC at 10pm it was difficult to accept that they could possible be true. I was up at 5am on Thursday morning confident that by the end of the day we would have a Labour Government. To go from that to where we ended up is still difficult to accept 4 days later!
What the result means for me is nothing in comparison to what it means for too many of the Blakelaw Ward residents I am privileged to represent. Already I have taken worried phone calls from residents about the impact of the bedroom tax – a policy Labour pledged to abolish but one which the Tories are ideologically wedded to. It’s an example of what we can expect under a majority Tory Government led by a Prime Minister who needs the support of the right wing of his party if he is to achieve anything over the next 5 years. Make no mistake, David Cameron’s Britain will be less fair, more cruel and much more divisive than anything my generation has ever experienced.
David Cameron has appointed a Justice Secretary who wants to bring back hanging and scrap the Human Rights Act. His Work and Pensions Secretary, already responsible for inflicting pain and misery on millions in the last Government, is back on a mission to cut a further £12,000,000,000 (12 billion) from social security. His Education Secretary wants to expand free schools staffed by unqualified teachers, and his Chancellor, now promoted to be his deputy, is the principle architect of the austerity that we only partially experienced in the last 5 years but we will now feel the full force of without the muzzle of Coalition. That is the sort of Britain we can expect over the next 5 years and the Labour Party in Parliament, in Local Government and as a movement of social change needs to be the voice of fairness, inclusivity and hope in what will be desperate times for all but the most privileged few.
Watching the indignity of some of the prospective Labour Party Leaders taking to the newspapers and television over the weekend prompted me to think where did it all go wrong. They have their theories that we didn’t appeal to middle England, or we lost the centre ground or that we should have embraced, rather than abandon, New Labour. Rubbish… the principle reason Labour didn’t win the General Election last Thursday is that too many people just couldn’t see Ed Miliband as our Prime Minister. The great shame of that is Ed Miliband would have been a great Prime Minister and he would have led a Government committed to social justice, fairness and equality of opportunity for all. Sadly too many people are sold by what they read in the Labour hostile press in Britain. Regardless of what anyone says about his waining influence, Rupert Murdoch played a very big part in Labour’s defeat. That’s not sour grapes, it’s fact and it should worry everyone.
Moving forward we need a Party Leader who will take the fight for a fairer Britain to the Tories and who won’t abandon the principles of socialism from which the policies that our country desperately needs will be born. We need a Party Leader who recognises the importance of our trade unions and the fierce urgency of rebuilding a party for and of the working man and woman of Britain. We need a Party Leader who is committed abandoning New Labour and who isn’t afraid to challenge the misplaced Centrists within the Labour Party who call for the resurrection of this ugly apparition (yes Lord Mandelson, I mean you… if you don’t want to be in a Party linked to the Trade Unions then the answer is simple, join a different Party!!).
I think Andy Burnham has all the qualities needed to be the next Leader of the Labour Party and he has my full support. I hope our members won’t be duped into electing a leader more committed to the cut of his suit than the cause of socialism or worse still a Leader who will take us back to the unprincipled days of New Labour. We need someone with fight, with heart and with a burning desire to run this awful Tory Party out of Government at the earliest possible opportunity. We need Andy Burnham.