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Williamson SP: Deputy Leadership Campaign Launch

Ruth Murphy

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Jack Williamson, Labour MP for Bootle and former Secretary of State for International Development, launched his campaign in his constituency with Labour members and the press invited. He made the following remarks:

Thank you for coming, friends,

I launch my campaign from the community in which I was born and in which I grew up, and the town in which my parents grew up. Despite only being one generation apart and raised in the same town, our stories are markedly different. My father was born into devastating poverty. A docker down at Seaforth docks, he knew of the horror of having to save money for medical appointments. He knew of the devastation unemployment in the 1930s brought upon Bootle. He knew what it was like to live in a house with no indoor plumbing or no electricity.

But he had people to fight for him. His unions fought for him at the workplace and Labour took that fight into Westminster. Where his union bought him holidays, higher wages and secure employment, Labour ensured that Westminster provided the NHS, family benefits and a rebuild nation in which dignity was promised for all. That gave a new promise to the next generation: that poverty and injustice would not be tolerated and that all would be able to enjoy this nation's wealth. I was able to benefit from that promise, go to University, find good work and then represent the constituency I love.

The world changed massively since my father was child - since I was - but even in a world with the internet, mobile phones and mass media Labour's principles stayed firm. Workers across Bootle felt that in the introduction of the minimum wage. Parents in Bootle felt that in the introduction of working tax credits and child tax credits. And pensioners knew that from the introduction of the Winter Fuel Payment. Labour ensured that it stood for the interests of working people and upheld the promise it made to my father and to me: that the next generation would be free to enjoy better lives than their parents and that Britain and communities such as Bootle could strive to be better. 

With the Conservatives, we know that promise hangs in the balance. The Big Society is a sham. Warm words for a cold and cruel plan: to gut the state and put the responsibility on those already struggling to fill in the gaps. Whatever the Tories say, we know there is no NHS in the big society, there are no schools in the big society and there is no welfare state in the Big Society. We cannot expect any big society in a party which in living memory made clear there is no such thing as society. 

But we must be clear, our job in opposition isn't just to propose radical solutions.

It's to ensure the people of Britain believes in our solutions and puts us into government to enact them, just as they did in 1945, 1964 and 1997. 

I will support the elected Labour leader to do just that.

But I'll also ensure we create a party that is fighting fit to do just that.

I am offering the party five simple reforms which I believe would create a stronger and fairer Labour Party and movement:

  • One of the great mistakes we didn't just make in the last Labour government but across our history is to have a party mired by factionalism, personal vendettas and big personalities. While it is inevitable in politics, we can no longer allow this to consume Labour's commitment to unity and to professionalism. I want to implement tough new rules and a code of conduct that staffers across Labour HQ must follow, among them a commitment to impartiality within the party. Labour Party staff should not be used as tools in a factional arsenal but should act like inter party civil servants, their sole aims being to advance Labour's values and its path to government.
  • While demographics have shifted and we will never return to the situation where Labour MPs had a significant cohort of coal miners in their ranks, it is still a fact that Labour has lost touch with the working class within its ranks. We are predominantly now middle class with graduate degrees, and while the Labour Party should be a voice for everyone as long as that remains the case we could lose touch with our working class voters and base. Labour needs more cleaners, carers and call centre staff in their ranks. That's why I want to implement more programmes that will allow those from working class backgrounds and without degrees to have the opportunity to thrive in this party and represent their communities whether that's as a Labour staffer, councillor or Member of Parliament. 
  • As well as losing its working class base, we currently have a complicated electoral college system that threatens to lose Labour's touch with its grassroots too. We have long known the electoral college is complicated, bureaucratic and arbitrary. It is time we fight and finally achieve a simple but crucial principle: in elections we will ensure one member has one vote.
  • I will fight to ensure we will increase the representation of Trade Unions in the Labour Party. The electoral college has not given Trade Unions a voice, it has often stifled that voice through bureaucratic processes. I will ensure we respect the Trade Union voice in Labour, increase the representation of Unions on the NEC and give Unions veto powers at conference. That way we can put the voices of workers first.
  • Finally, but most crucially, I will ensure a Policy Review would be implemented upon becoming Deputy Leader. We need to speak to Labour voters, former Labour voters and even those who have never voted Labour up and down the country and get back in touch with them after a humiliating election defeat. It has been decades since we last had a policy review and got in touch with the British electorate. It is time we get back to basics in our quest to do that again. Until we learn what voters want, what they are worried about and where they feel Labour can help them in government, we do not have a path for government. A policy review is the first and most crucial step we can take.

Without the Labour Party, I would not be where I am today: addressing my community as its Member of Parliament and fighting for it against a Tory government that I know will be callous and cruel, no matter how much flowery and focus grouped rhetoric it chooses to employ. I owe the Labour Party for giving me and my family the opportunity for a better life. That is why I want to pay it back and create a stronger, fairer Labour Party that is fighting fit for government and able to lift up people across Britain. But I need Labour members to join me in that fight. That is why I am here today asking the Labour Party to help me create a fairer Labour Party and then a fairer Britain.

Thank you. 


Ruth Murphy.

Labour Member of Parliament for Liverpool Walton (1974-).

Opposition Whip (1982-).

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