Whoever ends up leading the Labour party into the next general election must accept the brutal truth that as a movement we under-polled our full support in 2005. In 2009 we will need to mobilise every single Labour sympathiser and this, surely, will place a new imperative on internal party reform. If one takes a seat-by-seat analysis of the 2005 election result it shows just how much local campaigns made a difference. For example in seats where MPs were being replaced by new candidates the overall performance of the defending party was demonstrably and significantly worse than average. Therefore one might argue that as important as the election of a future leader undoubtedly is, the issue of how we renew and rebuild the Labour Party itself is just as vital.
However we need to accept that we will never communicate the full measure of our radical, progressive ambition – epitomised by our commitment to end child poverty or to build an international consensus about debt relief – through a media that is distorted by cynicism, and twisted in its search for bad news. Just as, nationally, Labour must hold the radical centre, so must local parties become centres of radicalism in their communities, often becoming the first port of call for those who are ambitious to change where they live, and a network through which we engage progressives in every corner of these islands in our national – and international – campaign for social justice.
It is clear, surely, that a sharp swing to the left will NOT bring us electoral success. Nor, as Liam Byrne MP pointed out in his Fabian pamphlet last year, will binning the reform manifesto on which we successfully stood in 2001 and in 2005. Yet it’s equally true that in 2005 we didn’t poll our full support.
Radical party reform is vital if we want to mobilise every single Labour sympathiser in 2009.