Labour members have handed Keir Starmer a significant mandate to take the party forward, following a difficult five years in which Labour lost two elections and moved backwards in every possible sense. This support will prove essential as he takes tough decisions to reshape and reform the party, turning it back into an election-winning force.
Like so many, I feel genuinely optimistic about the Labour party once again. Stamer has had a good start. His media performances have been assured and effective, striking the right tone at a time of profound national crisis. He has demonstrated he has the will and, most importantly, a plan to tackle anti-semitism within the party— and crucially, he is working with leaders from the Jewish community. He has appointed an incredibly strong shadow team, freshening up the front bench by promoting a number of Labour’s 2015 and 2017 intake, while bringing back the likes of Ed Miliband, Rachel Reeves and David Lammy.
The past five years proved a profound challenge for progressives. When Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader, despite my concerns and reservations, I remained in the party I joined as a 17-year-old, to fight for progressive centre-left values and to encourage others to do the same. I continued to campaign for Labour candidates and MPs, including at the 2017 general election. But the worsening reality of Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as leader, with the moral failure to address anti-semitism and the party’s ambivalence on Brexit, made this impossible. Many Labour moderates did, of course, decide to stay to fight, and I commend them for doing so. For me, the damage Jeremy Corbyn was doing was too much. I made the agonising choice to leave the Labour party, concluding that it had ceased to be the vehicle for progressive, moderate change that the country so desperately needed.
Now, however, in Keir Starmer Labour has a leader that all progressives, including those who left, can get behind.
Although the road to recovery after such a dire election defeat will be long, it is one best walked together, as a united force. I hope those who, like me, left the party will now feel they can return. As we concede that the reasons we left stemmed from the failings of the previous leadership, it follows that a change in leader is a new starting point for those of us who want to see the Labour party transformed into a competent force for change once again.
We also know Labour has always been a board church. This is not just a reality, something we need to accept, but a strength, of which we should be proud. Whether in 1945 or 1997, when Labour won, it won as a coalition of policy makers and voters, united in the single common aim of expanding opportunity and changing lives for the better.
It is critical Labour moves beyond the infighting and factionalism of the past five years and instead turns to speak to the country, providing a progressive, radical alternative to the Tories.
An emphasis on unity, one of the great successes of Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign, derived from his ability to build a broad coalition of support from multiple wings of the party. We must now get behind him as he takes forward this inclusive approach as leader. That is the only way we will kick out the Tories and ensure Labour wins again.
Ollie Middleton is a Public Affairs Consultant at Newington Communications, a mentor with Reach Out and a former parliamentary candidate. He tweets at @Ollie_Middleton