The 2010s was not a particularly happy ten years for the Labour Party. We entered the decade in government and left it with the smallest number of seats since before the war. Under three different leaders, we lost four general elections along with various by-elections, European elections and seats on local councils along the way.
This is not to say that there haven’t been positives. In recent years, we have become the largest political party in Europe with thousands of new members reinvigorating our party and our politics. But at the same time, however, the same period was marked by infighting and factionalism. Instead of talking to the country, too much of our time was taken up arguing with each other and only speaking with and to ourselves.
I very much hope election of Keir Starmer as our new leader brings this to an end. Throughout this campaign, Keir showed how he could bring together people from right across the party. Rather than focusing on the battles of the past, he’s set out a vision for an exciting new future for both our party and our country. Importantly, he acknowledged the strengths and achievements of both the more recent Labour governments as well as adopt much of the anti-austerity messaging developed in recent years.
It is, of course, an unusual and difficult time to take over the leadership of the opposition party. The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is arguably the biggest peacetime crisis in well over a century and requires the Government and Opposition to work together constructively where possible. But Keir has already shown leadership on this and it is clear that the whole country will benefit from his skill and expertise at this difficult time.
Once this crisis is over and we all emerge from our self-isolation, the country will look very different from how it looked just a few short weeks ago. Our communities, families and businesses will face daunting challenges and there won’t be any easy solutions. It will require someone with a vision for how our country could work differently. I believe Keir has already shown that he has that kind of vision.
As I step back from the frontline, I also think the Shadow Cabinet Keir has put together over the past few days showcases the breadth and depth of talent across the Parliamentary Labour Party and I am very excited to see what new ideas will emerge from this team. Keir and his Shadow Cabinet will have the opportunity to make a fresh impression on the British public, to show that Labour is both a radical and a realistic party of government, with a vision for Britain that stretches to the 2030s and beyond.
Whilst I am optimistic about the future of the Labour Party under Keir Starmer, I certainly don’t underestimate the size of the task ahead of us, and I know that Keir doesn’t either. Getting back to winning ways is a real challenge after ten years of electoral difficulties, but Keir – with the help and support of everyone from across our movement – can, and I believe, will, meet that challenge.