The Labour party has long been seen as a broad church political movement attracting and absorbing political ideologies from across the left with the unified belief that only Labour could deliver the social change needed to build a fairer and more equal society.
This belief still holds true, Labour is still the home of strands of leftwing thought. However recent months have seen a narrowing of views and at times an intolerance of divergent opinions that dare talk about Labour’s electability and how we appeal to the wider public who are not card carrying members of the Labour Party.
I was recently engaged in a conversation with two passionate party members who were both enthusiastic and staunchly in support of the current leadership. The conversation, although good natured, did take a unexpected turn when I stated that Labour is a broad church and opposing views should be accepted. This was immediately met with some derision and comments that those opposed should leave.
However much sections of our party may disagree with differing sometimes dissenting opinions our party is stronger for having such views from the moderate wings of the party. If we want to offer the public a real alternative to the Conservatives we have to be open to dialogue and occasional criticism from within the party about what policies are working and the direction we are heading in. If we are behind in the polls, as we are now, we should not be unwilling to address our faults and, yes, make a u-turn in our positioning towards policies that will appeal to the electorate.
Labour’s ability to win three consecutive elections and remain in government for 13 years was its understanding that to obtain electoral success we had to reach out beyond the membership. We spoke to the electorate about what they cared about, we offered them opportunity for themselves and their families and we promised we would address what was wrong with our communities, public services and the economy. But most importantly people trusted us to deliver on our promises.
Labour councillors are often drawn from all sections of the community and can represent a broad range of political views which do stretch the breadth of our Labour movement. However, what local Labour administrations show the rest of the party is hard headed and pragmatic decision making in action.
There are of course financial pressures but where Labour has control of councils we are making differences to the daily lives of residents up and down the country and getting things done. Council Labour groups can be tough and opinionated places but what unites us is our understanding that only a Labour led administration can deliver for the people that need us most with policies and actions that change lives for the better.
Labour can be a force to be reckoned with, not only on our familiar territory of the doorsteps, but also among the press and wider media. I want the electorate to see Labour, not the Conservatives as the natural party of government. To do that we must be a party able to speak to the hopes and aspirations of all sections of our country. We may differ in our views but we will only win when we are united.
James Beckles is a candidate in the councillors’ section in the Progress strategy board elections. He tweets at @james_beckles