Election night was one of very mixed emotions for our team in Cardiff Central. There was pure elation at our result – a 4 500 Lib Dem majority turned into a 5 000 Labour majority, taking the scalp of a two term incumbent who’d been a Coalition Government Minister.
But Cardiff Central was the only Labour gain in the whole of Wales that night. We didn’t win any of our other target seats, we lost two seats to the Tories and as the results across the UK flooded in, the reality of five more years of opposition began to hit home.
The worst thing about the loss was that it meant we were not going to be able to serve the people we came in to politics to help. People who wanted to see the end of the Bedroom Tax; the end of exploitation at work; and fairness in our banking and tax system. We’ve already seen how the Tories are using their new majority: giving up on counting child poverty – let alone trying to tackle it; about to unveil yet more cuts to social security, hitting ordinary families hardest; and attempting to ram through the reckless and incomprehensible ‘English Votes for English Laws’ that threatens the future of the Union.
These three examples alone show why the decision we make as Labour members and supporters about who we choose as our next leader is such a critical one.
It’s vital that we pick someone who is able not just to lead our party, but also win in 2020. For me, that person is Andy Burnham. I know Andy understands of the scale of the defeat we suffered in May, but more importantly, he understands what we need to do to win next time. He understands that we have to prove to millions of people across the country that they can trust us and that we’ll stand up for them.
That’s why I’m backing his plans to take Labour out of the Westminster bubble and reconnect with people in every part of the country. Andy wants to see gender, generational and geographical diversity across our front bench team. He will bring his experience, resilience but most of all, his authenticity to the role of leader. He’s also a straight talker and understands the difficult issues facing our Party; rebuilding our economic credibility and reconnecting with people in every region and nation.
Andy is absolutely right to say that to win in 2020 we must not abandon our Labour values, but we must also show we’ve got the strength and competence to explain those values clearly and how we will put them into practice. I’m pleased that Andy has got concrete plans to show how he would improve the partnership working between UK and Welsh Labour. Having the Leaders of Welsh Labour and Scottish Labour on the National Executive Committee is long overdue. He will make that happen.
If Andy wins he will also ask Carwyn Jones to co-chair a Labour ‘Constitutional Convention’ to look at how we maximise devolution, local control and accountability, whilst at the same time strengthening the Union. I’m clear that Andy understands both the challenges and the opportunities that devolution provides for the country.
Choosing a new leader of our Party is always a big decision. But it’s a decision that I’m absolutely clear about. I’m backing Andy and I hope you will too.