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Towards an inclusive Labour Party

The valid nomination of five candidates including Diane Abbott for the Leadership of the Labour Party should herald a new era for the Labour Party, of diversity and inclusivity.

Whilst Labour has been far more diverse than other parties in terms of the number of women and black and minority ethnic people at senior levels, and in its class composition, we need to do better still and, in the recent past, the position has deteriorated. The last Labour Cabinet and the Labour election campaign presented images almost exclusively of white male politicians, and the parliamentary party has become increasingly middle class. That must change but the willingness of people who do not support Diane politically to ensure that she is on the ballot paper bodes well.

But inclusivity is not only about diversity: it is also about politics. The last 15 years and more has seen the complete exclusion of the Left and of the trade unions from any real role in the party, which has severed the party leadership from its roots and its conscience. It also alienated many of the party’s core voters, although we were lucky that so many returned to us in the last election in the face of a possible Tory victory.

Whoever wins the leadership, the Left must be included, the trade unions welcomed back to policy debates. Party democracy must be restored. Reports that Ed Miliband has called for all candidates to serve under the next Leader, presumably in the Shadow Cabinet and future Cabinet, are especially welcome. That should also apply to John McDonnell and Jon Cruddas.  If that happens, the Left must respond by abandoning its oppositionalism of recent years. There is a long way to go, but this could be a beginning.

A word about John McDonnell: it is great credit to him that he withdrew to make this possible. He had more nominations than Diane at that point and could have argued that she should do so. John’s support in the wider movement is greatly understated by the number of MPs who were willing to nominate him. He has in the trade unions, in particular, a very significant following as was clear in the response to his presence at the conferences of both Unite and the GMB. He has that following because has has been an assiduous and effective advocate for their political aspirations.  He is a superb campaigner – and his ultimate victory over the Heathrow third runway is testament to that. And he is perfectly capable of working with the whole spectrum of Labour, as he did in his local government career before becoming an MP.  His talent should not be wasted.

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