Dave Anderson: Siren voices in my party urge us to focus on aspiration

Labour MP Dave Anderson says his party must beware of promoting individual self-interest above collective wellbeing

Dave Anderson MP
Dave Anderson MP

As the smoke clears on the most poorly forecasted election in history many of us are licking our wounds and asking what went wrong and, crucially, how do we get it right next time.

Three leaders went in an hour, then one came back and even he may still be on the way out. My own party has also been playing political Hokey Cokey as contenders for the leadership throw their hats into the ring only for one to withdraw it before we even get to the starting post. How true that a week really is a long time in politics.

The Liberal Democrats are back where they were before the Gang of Four walked out on Labour and joined them in the early 80s. Ukip has seen the hard side of the first past the post electoral system and the SNP has ridden the crest of a tsunami to all but wipe out my comrades north of the border.

Labour faces the dilemma of rebuilding the faith in us by people who have a long and proud history of solidarity and community whilst winning votes in so-called Middle England which can move left or right.

Not an easy task as nationalism north and south of Hadrian’s Wall joins forces with a Tory government committed to rolling back the welfare state, devolving budgets to regional czars and in holding referenda on the UK and European Unions either of which could change our country forever.

And all we are getting from the sirens of the past in my party are cries that we have to focus on aspiration. Strange, I thought that was the whole purpose of the Labour Party.

Aspiring to get out of poverty, giving your bairns a good start in life or being able to get health care when you need it are the basis on which my party was built and the results of over a century on delivering on those aspirations are something to be proud of.

No, those crying out in frustration about aspiration are really saying we should be promoting individual self interest above collective wellbeing. I believe that we will only win when we weld the two together.

There is nothing wrong with someone wanting to have a good, well paid and secure job and Labour should be at the forefront of delivering that.

MP Dave Anderson visits postal workers in Blaydon

But why, at the same time, can’t we be arguing that case for all workers? Jobs, apprenticeships and education are all vital for our young people. And we should back small businesses which create most of the jobs that people need.

Likewise, we should help people to become home owners but we should also be proud to build new, high quality, affordable homes for the huge number of people who either have no home or who are living in expensive squalor.

And, of course, we should ensure that when people are ill they should get the proper health care that they need but that should apply to everyone not just those with the money to jump the queue.

As the leadership election rumbles on over the summer months those of us who were fortunate to be elected to serve as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition have to understand and analyse what went wrong and immediately get back to the job of holding this government to account.

Three-quarters of the UK population refused to back the Tory agenda but our electoral system has given the Conservatives the right to govern as they see fit.

And that right may well include attacks on civil liberties and free speech and will certainly see further privatisation of essential public services.

We will also see a renewed attack on trade unions that will leave us with the most restrictive employment laws in the civilised world and Tory pet projects like elected mayors and even the return of fox hunting.

These are retrograde steps and I for one will be challenging them as will hundreds of other MPs across the House of Commons.

The people have spoken but they didn’t all say the same thing and it is the responsibility of people like me to amplify that voice.

Dave Anderson is the Labour MP for Blaydon.


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