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Labour Deputy Leadership Election 1992
Speech - 2 hours (4 hours remaining)

[Image: Sybrand%20Buma.jpg]

James Mercer kicked off his campaign for the Deputy Leadership with a speech.

Quote:Comrades, friends,

It is an absolute privilege to be part of a three-man race for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party. The fact that not only do we have two excellent candidates to be our next leader and Prime Minister, but also three candidates to be number two, is a sign that the Labour Party is alive and kicking as a party as well as back in government. I genuinely believe that thanks to Neil Kinnock - his passing is a loss to our Movement - and Roy Hattersley, we are now a stronger party than we were when we were last in government. We've come back together, we've reclaimed important Labour values and we have pushed into government with a modern, forward-looking agenda for the 1990s.

Understandably, all eyes are on the race between Michael Nash and Agnes Hamstead. It is the choice between these two candidates that will determine the future priorities of our party in government in the most immediate way. This race is different. As Deputy Leader, you do not get to steer the ship directly. But you are a key part of a larger team, assisting the leader who does. I am not going to give you a list of policy priorities for government today, because our manifesto and our Policy Review for the 1990s have hit the nail on the head and it's our leader's job to build on those solid foundations. Instead, what I offer you is a vision on our values, a vision on our party and our movement, that can contribute to any leader's leadership of the party.

I think that while our priorities are and must be set by our manifesto and the leadership, we need a Deputy Leader with a vision to take our party forward ideologically and politically. I have made it my life's work to help those who wish to better themselves through adult education. When I moved from lecturing at Durham to tutoring at the Open University, it was precisely for this reason: that everyone deserves the proper equipment to make something of their life, to learn the necessary skills or to change direction if they feel the need. It is that theme of aspiration, of opportunity and freedom to realise one's potential that is one of the most enduring parts of our movement. Weren't we founded to represent Labour? To fight for the working man and improve his or her life? To contribute to opportunities for ordinary people, fight for a country in which not the bank account of your parents but determination and hard work determine what you can or cannot do?

Throughout the 1980s, the Conservatives have backed us into a corner and stolen this theme from us. They turned aspiration into the watchword of those who had everything in their favour to succeed already. But no longer! With our Policy Review for the 1990s, we have reclaimed that theme, and I was privileged to be on the 'People at Work' group that put skills front and centre.

What I mean to say is this. We have reclaimed themes that should be ours at the polls, themes we lost the trust of the public on because of the destructive conflicts we have lost the trust of the public on. We must never again lose hold of these solid Labour values. We must keep the course now and let people see that there is but one political home for aspiration, liberty and patriottism for all in Britain, and that is the Labour Party. This return to government gives us a golden opportunity to do so. If we look back for but one minute instead of forward to the 1990s, we risk losing it. Those who are only now returning to vote Labour and whose trust we need to regain are waiting for us to prove that we meant what we said about building an Opportunity Britain, about combining social justice and economic efficiency, about being there both for those who are working hard to improve their lifes and those who are not at liberty to do so for want of resources and support.

I do not see any leadership candidate who will disagree. And I will work tirelessly to help them prove that to our voters, our core supporters, the ordinary working people of Britain who are looking to us to rise to the occasion, effect positive change and be re-elected to five more years.

But more importantly, I believe that while a Deputy Leader can support the leader in the policy area, there's an even bigger job in being there for the party. Especially with our leader in Downing Street, making the decisions alongside the Cabinet, our party needs a Deputy Leader who can pay attention to building our party into an even stronger, more united and more purposeful force in the long run. There is work to be done that isn't flashy, that isn't immediately obvious to the eye, but which is crucial if we want Labour to regain and remain the broad force for ordinary working people that we've always been.

I am talking, first and foremost, about our members, the lifeblood of our movement. Kinnock and Hattersley did an excellent job of extending their influence, but there is yet work to be done. It is now almost a decade ago that the push for One Member One Vote began. Conference has endorsed it time and time again; we've had a consultation and two commissions. Now is the time to push forward and make it a reality. Because why shouldn't we take the next step in accountability to our constituency parties and the Labour Movement as a whole and extend that accountability to the broadest possible franchise? Why shouldn't members and affiliates together determine our next leader? Why shouldn't all members in a constituency get to vote on who we are running as their Member of Parliament?

You can have any amount of meetings with our MP, but that is not what the link between MPs and the party should be about. Our members are our ambassadors in society and the ambassadors of society in the party. They are often on the workfloor, every day, facing the everyday concerns of ordinary people and talking about them. Even when they cannot attend the selection meeting or get onto the relevant committees, they deserve voice, because it is them who keep us honest, who keep us in touch. As your Deputy Leader, I will work with our leader to push on and make OMOV a reality, implementing the proposals of the Trade Union Links Review Group by empowering our trade union affiliates to register to vote directly in the trade union section. This will solve the one remaining issue with OMOV as it stood, which is the valid concern for the breadth of the Labour movement.

It's also a matter of opportunity. I want to give every member of this movement the opportunity to get involved. I want to lower barriers towards participation, because I firmly believe that once members have that vote, some of them will move on to become more active and involved in our movement, both as part of what we do and among their friends and family, spreading the word.

That participation is also what made the Policy Review such a success. The large-scale listening exercise we conducted before the Policy Review Groups went to work was an absolutely crucial factor in the success of the review. And I think it's a model for the future which we have to stick to. We need to speak the language and push the priorities of the people in Britain that rely on us in addition to the common sense of our movement expressed at conference. That is why, as Deputy Leader, I want to be at the front of a continued listening exercise, taking time off from Westminster to go into the country and, where our leader cannot accompany me, relay the concerns of ordinary people to the PLP, the Cabinet and to Downing Street. We should use this continued Labour Listens campaign as a way to inform our policy-making in a way similar to the Policy Review, founding a National Policy Forum in addition to conference to continue to update Labour's agenda for the 1990s and beyond.

Comrades, people around the country are relying on us. They have given us their trust again because we have set aside the rivalries and preoccupations of the past and formed a common narrative of optimism, aspiration and liberty. We owe it to them, as well as to the memory of Neil Kinnock, to soldier on. To keep listening to them, to keep speaking their language, to keep empowering those in the country who are the life of our movement. I may not be running for leader. I may not be the one in Downing Street setting the policy agenda. But as your Deputy Leader, you can be sure I will help us keep that course, and reclaim Labour's values and mission every day.

Thank you.
The Right Honourable James Mercer MP | Labour
MP for Sedgefield (1983-present)
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1992-present)
Shadow Secretary of State for Education (1988-1992)

"And getting our politics right means that in the attacks we make on Toryism, in the policies we put to the people, in the way we conduct ourselves as a Party inside and outside Parliament, we have to have a constant, unremitting, unswerving dedication to defeating the Tories. From time to time I have heard that view described as 'electoralism'. I plead guilty."
- Neil Kinnock to the PLP

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