Labour Together launch aims to unify and renew party

Jeremy Corbyn Train

Labour needs to change to overcome a feeling it is not fit for purpose in the modern era, the shadow cabinet minister Lisa Nandy has said, as she launched a new group that aims to unify supporters.

Labour Together will draw in ideas from the Corbynite left to the Blairite right of the party, and will attempt to bridge the gap between grassroots activists and those involved in national and local government.

Chaired by Jon Cruddas, Ed Miliband’s former policy chief, it is backed by a range of shadow ministers and council leaders as they seek practical ways of preparing the party for government, with a major focus on redistributing power to the local level.

Ahead of the launch on Wednesday, the group revealed it would be setting up a “communities fund” financed by donations to support grassroots projects. It is also planning an academy to teach party members about campaigning, organising and leadership.

Speaking to the Guardian, Nandy, who is a vice-chair of the new organisation, said there was a sense that Labour needed radical renewal.

“We were founded over 100 years ago when people were more likely to be working in coal mines than in call centres. There is a growing feeling in the Labour party that a party that was formed in that era is not fit for purpose in this era.

“It is not just about how we talk to people, but about who we are speaking for. That challenge, about where the political party is in Britain that speaks for both the working class and the middle class, that can knit those interests together in a shared vision about the future, is a challenge that Labour has to take up.

“When you look at political debate as a whole, we have some huge changes coming down the road, whether it is climate change or the ageing population and all of the social and economic pressures that brings.

“When you look at the right in British politics, largely they are offering a return to a golden age that never existed and when you look at the radical left, there are some easy answers that won’t bring real lasting solutions.

“It puts Labour in a really critical position. We are the only party that is able and willing to confront those challenges. And to do that we need to draw on the best of our left and right traditions.”

Steve Reed, a shadow minister, another vice-chair of the group, said Labour Together had been in formation since before the last election, when some within the party felt that it had lost touch with the electorate.

“A lot of people have become very alarmed at just how polarised the debate in Labour has become,” he said. “Instead of coming back together, to work out where we went wrong and how we rebuild our own coalition, the energy has been sucked away to the extremes of the party and there is a tiny minority on both sides who are happy to conduct a civil war.

“About 90-95% of the party standing there in the middle are aghast at this.”

Both Nandy and Reed said the group would complement the work the wider party was doing under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, rather than replicate or replace it.

“It’s the job of the whole party to [regenerate] with the leader,” Reed said. What we’re not trying to build here is another faction. We are not trying to develop a set of policies and a line that people must pursue.

“We are trying to bring together groupings from across the party to talk respectfully and debate how we shape an agenda that meets the challenges that Lisa has laid down.

“We are an industrial-age organisation that is failing to adapt to a post-industrial era. We need to rethink how we focus our values on the problems of today and tomorrow whereas the debate in the party at the moment feels like a debate about different versions of our own history.”

Labour Together originally grew out of thinking by Cruddas, who was frustrated at the last election that the party was not offering voters more radical options. His inquiry into why Labour lost the general election raised concerns that the party had lost touch with voters’ concerns.

It is one of a number of new groups that have sprung up within Labour over the past year that aim to renew the party’s thinking on policies.

Earlier this year, campaigners involved in other movements across the Labour spectrum including Momentum, Progress and the Fabian Society founded a group called Consensus.

It is also backed by a number of high-profile MPs including Seema Malhotra, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury; Stephen Kinnock, a new MP and the son of the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock; and Cruddas.

Another group, Labour for the Common Good, run by Tristram Hunt, Chuka Umunna and others has the party’s intellectual renewal as its aim.

Powered by article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for The Guardian on Tuesday 31st May 2016 22.30 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010