John wrote an article today in The Times on Labour’s electoral challenge:
The biggest political event for Labour last year was not Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the leadership election but our party’s defeat at the general election.
That dreadful defeat deprived millions of people across the country of any respite from the consequences of Conservative government – increasingly unaffordable housing, a struggling NHS and unbalanced austerity economics.
So the No 1 question to Labour’s leadership contenders this summer must be: can you show how you will get to grips with Labour’s electoral deficit and put a Labour government back in power?
No part of Labour has a monopoly on the answer. But in a democracy politics is about persuasion. And for Labour our democratic socialism requires us to win a hearing and then support for our politics from millions of people who did not back us in last year’s general election.
Many party members have been hugely frustrated this year and many supporters have been dismayed to see more focus on internal politicking than on figuring out what went wrong at the last election and starting to fix it before the next one, which is potentially only weeks away. This leadership contest must be different.
There is one overriding challenge: to win the next general election. Whether it is this autumn, next May or later, Labour will need to win about 100 seats. Without a strong recovery in Scotland and with only a handful of Lib Dems left to beat, this means winning almost all of these constituencies from the Conservatives.
It means an average swing of around 10 per cent to Labour from the Tories, winning seats from Carlisle to the Vale of Clwyd and from Peterborough to Portsmouth South. It may require winning in some places where we have not won for two decades.
And after the referendum, the brute fact for a party that campaigned to stay in the EU is that 80 per cent of the seats we need to win are areas in which a majority of people voted to leave. So a new Labour leader has to show how he can reach beyond core Labour supporters and pro-European cities to win over those who had different views on this most divisive vote.
This leadership contest is different. The job description has changed. Last year at the start of a five-year parliament people wanted a shake-up and a new definition of what Labour stood for. Since June 23 the demands are bigger and more urgent.
This is the case I put directly to Jeremy Corbyn and reiterated in my letter of resignation as housing minister afterwards.
This time the leadership contest is about capability and electability, not differences in ideology. And most people are more interested in impact than ideology: can I see this leader steering our nation in a way that makes things better for my family, my community and my country?
There is a great opportunity for Labour if we can show this sort of leadership and take advantage of a politics still in flux after the referendum vote. Unlike last year’s contest, however, the single central test for Labour members must be who is most able to win back the millions of people who currently have no confidence in our party – and give us a fighting chance of beating the Tories to win a Labour government.
This article was originally published in The Times: