Voices: Labour gains at the local elections are a turning point for our party
When Keir was elected leader, we knew we had to do three things: earn back the right to be heard, after crises like the controversy over antisemitism had cost us the trust and support of many of the British people; begin to rebuild our Labour base in every nation and region of the UK, to show the difference Labour makes in power; and set out a vision for Britain, backed by concrete plans that people trust us to deliver.
In short, to be an alternative, not just an opposition.
The Labour gains on Thursday are a turning point for our party. Put simply, a Labour party that can win in Worthing, Wandsworth and Cumberland is one that can unite this country and help us move forwards after a decade of darkness and division. Of course, there is more to do. But Britain needs a government that is as ambitious for our communities and our country as its people are.
Boris Johnson won the last election on a promise to move forwards – but everything he’s done since has taken us backwards. He said he would raise living standards, but then he raised taxes instead. He said he would put people’s priorities first, but at the first opportunity backed big oil and gas producers’ profits over families facing sky-high energy bills.
He said every part of Britain would feel the benefits of recovery, but then cancelled Northern Powerhouse Rail and slashed the Bus Back Better fund in half. It’s been boom time for fraudsters and those with ministers on speed dial; for everyone else, it’s a case of wondering what the point of this government is.
When Johnson said he would “rewrite the rule book”, we didn’t think he meant creating one rule for him and his friends and another for the rest of us. No wonder, after his long-awaited levelling up plan amounted to a 300-page history lesson on the rise and fall of the Roman empire, the Tories quietly dropped their flagship election promise.
For Labour, this is the end of one chapter and the start of another. We can be proud of what we have done to rebuild and renew, restoring trust and laying the foundations for the next general election. The Tories won’t deliver on Britain’s promise, so we must. There is huge potential in every part of this country. Imagine what could be achieved with a government – a Labour government – that believes in Britain and has a plan to match the ambition of our people.
This will be our defining mission: to go out and fight for the country we can be. Labour will show that we are the party that is laser-focused on helping working people with the short-term and long-term challenges facing the country. We’ll set out plans to bring good jobs back to our coastal and industrial towns, and to connect up our villages, towns and cities through the decent transport systems that have long been denied – reconnecting people with their friends, families, jobs and schools.
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We will back our young people, investing in their generation so that they can power us through the next century like their parents and grandparents powered us through the last; and we will close the gaps between our towns, cities and regions, so that every part of this country contributes to and shares in Britain’s success.
We have done it before. Devolving power to Scotland and Wales, rebuilding our great northern cities after the decay and decline of successive Tory governments, showing global leadership on climate change, and lifting a million children out of poverty to end the great, tragic waste of human potential. This is how we know we can do it again.
Labour is on the way back. Now we are determined to put the pedal to the metal and ensure that Britain is, too.
Lisa Nandy is shadow secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, and MP for Wigan