I want to talk about three challenges facing our party, and what we must do to respond.
The biggest challenge for Labour is to be relevant – to have ‘skin in the game’ on the key issues facing Britain.
The continuing risks and weakness in the global economy, and our own.
The appalling civil war and humanitarian crisis in Syria, the threat to our security and way of life posed by Daesh, and the migration crisis engulfing Europe.
In particular on the EU referendum – the most important question facing our country in a generation – it is essential that we make the positive, pro-European Labour case.
We cannot prevaricate on this issue. ‘Maybe’ is not on the ballot paper.
The entire leadership of our party must make a stronger and more passionate argument in favour of Remain, alongside the excellent ‘Labour IN’ campaign led by Alan Johnson.
Those of us who go out and knock on doors – who know politics is about more than armchair activism and preaching to the choir – have an especially important role to play in making sure Labour remains relevant in modern Britain.
But moderates must also recognise our offer hasn’t kept hasn’t kept pace with the way our economy and society has changed.
People, jobs and finance move round the world faster than ever before.
Wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few.
Our population is ageing and technology is transforming how we live, work and socialise.
We are modernisers. We must live up to our name and not end up sounding like a nineties or noughties tribute band.
And we must have the courage to be radical, not for its own sake but because Britain needs a step change in thinking and action to face the future with confidence, not fear.
Second, Labour must be credible – especially on the crucial issues of leadership and economic competence.
Because without this, we won’t earn the right to be heard on anything else.
The general election review commissioned by Harriet Harman is crystal clear about the causes of our defeat.
Voters didn’t trust us to manage the economy and they didn’t see Ed Miliband as ‘prime ministerial’.
If you look at every election since the 1970s, the party that has the leader with the best ratings is the party that wins general elections.
There is no exception to this rule.
Leadership on the economy means not only arguing for long-term investment in the things that will help Britain get ahead, but for different and better decisions about how public money is spent.
So – as I’ve argued before – instead of the Tories £1bn inheritance tax cut for the wealthy few, Labour should put this money into the early years to give every child the best start in life.
Instead of wasting billions of pounds on delayed discharges from hospital, we should champion a single NHS and care budget and reformed services to help elderly people stay at home.
And let me say this on leadership and national security.
The first priority of any prime minister and government, and any party that seeks to govern, is the security of the British people.
So there must be zero tolerance in the Labour party of any individuals or organisations who are apologists for terrorists and extremists.
Labour must also be optimistic – about the country’s future, and the future of the people we are in politics to represent.
Everyone in the Labour party knows there is much that’s wrong in Tory Britain.
Cuts to public services and welfare that hit the poorest hardest.
Growing inequalities and ordinary families struggling to make ends meet.
Bright, talented young people denied chances and choices in life simply because of where they’re born and what their parents did.
Anger about inequality and unfairness is a powerful motivator.
It’s what we all came into politics to change.
But the public want answers, not just anger.
They want hope their lives will be better, not just a mirror of their anxieties and frustrations.
And they deserve a Labour party that seeks to govern and transform the country, not just lead the latest protest.
That’s what all our great prime ministers have done, and what many of our local councils are doing now too.
In the face of huge challenges they are rethinking their role, doing things differently and providing a credible and optimistic alternative to the Tories.
They’re working in partnership with local businesses and universities to regenerate local areas.
Protecting and reforming early years’ services so children start school ready to learn, and making sure young people have the skills they need to get good jobs that pay a decent wage.
And they’re giving local residents direct control over everything from energy supply to community services so they have a say and a stake in the things that matter most.
National government has a vital role in building a better future for Britain, particularly investing in infrastructure and science and tackling the short-termism that has plagued our economy for too long.
But I believe the major progressive gains of this century will be made at the local level.
Labour must lead the debate on devolving more power and control not just to councils and combined authorities, but down to local communities and individuals too.
The elections in May are a critical test of whether we are making progress in all these areas.
We must win in London, retain control in the Welsh Assembly and start the turn-around in Scotland.
And we must gain 400 local council seats in England – the average midterm gain for an opposition party in a non-general election year since 1974.
Some people criticise this figure, saying it’s ‘too ambitious’ because in 2012, when these seats were last up for grabs, was an ‘all-time high’.
They’re wrong. Our all-time high was 1996, when we had over 10,900 councillors.
Today we have 6,875.
That’s around the same level we were after seven years of government and the impact of the Iraq war, and before the furore over the 10p tax rate, the expenses scandal, banking collapse and recession took us to our lowest point of 4,430 councillors in 2009.
Ed Miliband began the process of turning things around but we are nowhere near our peak.
So 400 additional council seats is the minimum we must gain to have even a shot of winning in 2020.
We must be under no illusion about the scale of the task ahead.
We must be relevant, credible and optimistic.
It’s up to every one of us in this great party of ours to play our part and meet this challenge head on.
Liz Kendall MP is a former candidate for the leadership of the Labour party. She tweets @LeicesterLiz
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