A reminder that Labour is a progressive movement for change

Like some in the Labour party I have recently found myself asking, ‘Is this still the party for me?’

My first memory of politics – like most people my age – is from 1997 and waking up to news that Labour, and some guy called Tony Blair, was now in government.

As a 10-year-old kid more interested in who Man Utd was playing at the weekend I had no idea what this meant.

I had no comprehension that the first decade of my life had been under a Tory government, and that my parents had spent the past 18 years of their lives under a regime that seemed to find it easier to ignore towns like mine.

I had no idea of any of this history, or understanding of what it meant for the future.

For me, back then, it was just the way it was.

But what I do remember from that May morning is how happy everybody was.

How suddenly optimistic people had got overnight.

It was like the whole country had won the lottery.

The next few years saw improvements in the equipment and facilities we had at school, the local hospital received funding and started its journey to becoming what is now one of the best hospitals in the country, and for the first time I heard whispers of a thing called university – and the possibility it was something I could go to.

It seemed crazy to me that things had not always been like this, and I took it for granted that this is what the Labour party was, and would always be.

Which is why finding myself asking if the Labour party is still the place for me is so hard.

And why the fight to keep the party’s spirit, as I remember it, alive, is so important.

At the Progress political weekend I was reminded why Labour’s victory nearly 20 years ago brought with it so much optimism, and why myself, and other members like me, have to stay the course and not abandon ship.

Liz Kendall is right that we are the modernising party of the United Kingdom, and we have a responsibility to live up to that title and meet the challenges it brings.

John Woodcock summed it up for me when he said our loyalty was with the people who desperately need a Labour government.

And it is those people, struggling with cuts while working hard, those people with dreams and aspirations, and those people who remember the consequences of a time when Labour was more interested in talking to itself than helping them that we need to stand with now.

Vernon Coaker was right to say that eventually we have to stop telling the public why they were wrong not to elect us in 2015 and admit they did not want us because we were wrong.

2015 was winnable, there is no doubt of that.

But we did not have a message the public wanted to hear and no matter how many conversations we had, that was the most important thing.

We cannot let this happen again in 2020.

At its heart Labour is a progressive movement for change and a champion of radical ideas, with a belief that all opportunities should be equally available.

For most of us, the Labour party is not a convenient ‘tactic’, or a vehicle to promote our own ideas that can be easily disposed of when we no longer need it.

For most of us, the Labour party is a vehicle for change best driven in government, where decisions are made, where social equality can really be achieved and where aspirations can be met by combining principle with power.

I want to thank those who attended Progress political weekend for reminding me of that.

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Michael Davies is a member of Progress. He tweets @mjdavies1

Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.

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Comments: 4...

  1. On March 14, 2016 at 6:48 pm Verity responded with... #

    Surely radicalism is more than just arguing obout the distributions of wealth to those who have it but challenging the structure of power than ensures the future inequality whatever liberal appeals we make to the powerful.

    A Party that courts the power of the banks and relies upon their goodwill to invest after creating money without assets, rather than intervening by state led investment can never be classified as radical but couriers of the powerful.

    • On March 15, 2016 at 10:56 am Krystal Robbins responded with... #

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  2. On March 16, 2016 at 4:37 pm Gary Bradshaw responded with... #

    Mr Davies, you mention that a few years into the Blair administration, you began to hear whispers of something called ‘university’ and the possibility that you might be able to go there. Well, about the time your age group was preparing for A Levels, the government introduced university tuition fees, but only in England, rather than the entire kingdom, because education is a devolved area of legislation. Indeed, the Bill was only passed because Labour MPs from Scotland and Wales were whipped through the lobbies and voted in the full knowledge that their constituents would never suffer. So much for unity and solidarity. If a mere 326 out 650 MPs had done the right thing and voted against the Bill, it would have defeated, but that’s neither here nor there now. I just hope your parents had enough money to put you through university, because if you didn’t come from a wealthy background, you would have been denied an opportunity your talents might have merited (I don’t know where you were brought up, but it was probably in England as that’s where more than 80% of the people in this kingdom live.)

    • On March 17, 2016 at 1:36 pm Michael Davies responded with... #

      No Gary, my parents didn’t put me through university. I took a couple of years out to work full time and earn some money first then went to university with a student loan and a part-time job to top it up. To be honest I’m a bit tired of people telling me I should be annoyed I had to “suffer” getting a student loan and then pay it back once I’d started work. I don’t know how old you are but there a few people who seem to think we should be getting everything provided for us, fully paid for, I’m not one of them and to say I’m benefiting from taking out a student loan and going to university would be an understatement

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