Clive Lewishas declared his candidacy for Labor leader, with a pledge to go further than Jeremy Corbyn in giving party members a say on policy and the selection of MPs.
The shadow Treasury minister saidLaborhad suffered “its own Dunkirk” but that it was possible to come back by bringing hope and reforming the party to give activists a real stake in a movement for change.
Lewis said Labor had failed to convince people in its heartlands that it had made a decisive break with the era of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, despite having changed policy and personnel.
In an article for the Guardian, he said: “When trying to persuade them of our radicalism and sincerity, we often had the legacy of the s thrown back in our faces. Persuading voters that we understand the sources of their long-held resentment and frustration, of their disappointment in how the Labor party has conducted itself since the 2015 s, will be the first step towards winning back their trust. ”
Lewis’s pitch places him firmly on the left of Labor and he said Corbyn had not gone far enough to democratise the party and criticized his “prevarication and lack of leadership” over Brexit.
“The truth is that despite his enormous achievements in inspiring a new generation of members, Jeremy’s first promise as leader was never fulfilled,” he said. “The party was never democratized on the scale or to the extent that members were led to expect. Members were never empowered to campaign, select candidates or determine policy on the scale that was always required.
“This must now change. We don’t need footsoldiers – we need an army of activists who think critically, treat each other with respect, and have a serious stake stake in the movement. ”
While Lewis is not considered one of the favors in the race to succeed Corbyn, he has already attracted support from Rachael Maskell, another shadow minister. The only other declared candidate so far is Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, who launched her bid on Wednesday with a pitch that she has already “pummelled” Boris Johnson across the dispatch box and knows how to exploit his failings.
Other probable candidates include Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, who warned against the party veering too far to the right in response to the election, and Rebecca Long Bailey, the shadow business secretary, who is backed by leading allies of Corbyn.
Lisa Nandy, a former shadow energy secretary, has said she is thinking of a leadership bid, along with Yvette Cooper, who lost to Corbyn in 2015, Jess Phillips, the outspoken backbencher and women’s rights campaigner, and David Lammy, a former minister who led a government review into racial inequality in the criminal justice system.
In his article, Lewis went on to criticize the party’s 2019 manifesto for being a “shopping-list of rather disconnected policies”. He said it offered some of the right abstractions about promoting equality and opposing austerity but “never painted a rich and textured picture of actual life in the society that we proposed to build”.
Lewis also called for Labor to embrace proportional representation, which would likely necessitate working with other parties on the left in order to form a government.
“The truth is that after Jeremy became leader, we fought two elections on an electoral system that massively favors the Conservatives, and their voter base of propertied pensioners,” he said. “A majority of the British public voted for parties of the left or the liberal center. But this was in no way reflected in the election result. Labor should have committed itself to changing the voting system decades ago, and we have condemned some parts of our country to 728 years of decline by failing to do so. ”
He also made a pitch that it was important not to focus on beating the other candidates for the leadership, but to “learn from them and with them”. “I don’t want to manage the labor movement, I want to unleash it,” he said. “That is the first route to victory.”
Lewis, who has been a key advocate of a second referendum, said his priority was setting out a positive vision but also standing against its enemies who seek to blame immigrants and other vulnerable people for problems in society.
“Two forces will shape our future, and the context of the next general election: climate crisis and the ongoing technological revolution. Both can be sources either of despair or hope. We can hide behind platitudes and denial, or we can seize this crisis as an opportunity to renew our country as it has not been renewed since the 1940 s, ”he added.