WHEN I launched my campaign to become Labour Party leader with the Wigan Observer, my local paper, the response was mixed.
There were those that thought we’d ‘missed an opportunity’ – but for me it was important. Not only because I wanted the people of Wigan to know first, but because I know how important local and regional media is to communities like mine.
National media can often struggle to speak to towns like Wigan. Journalists often ‘need’ to be based in London or other big cities – either because that’s where the jobs are, or it’s where the institutions and organisations that influence national stories are based.
But it’s often local and regional journalists, embedded in and part of our communities, who are really able tell the stories of our lives.
The Yorkshire Post is a glowing example of that.
After the devastating election result for Labour, many of us were heartbroken that places like Dewsbury, Don Valley, Rother Valley and Grimsby had been lost.
These were all places with a long and proud tradition of supporting Labour – but too many lifelong voters felt they simply couldn’t at this election. As one person said to me on the doorstep before the election: “I haven’t left Labour. Labour’s left me.”
Too often people told me they simply didn’t trust Labour to deliver on our election pledges, or worse that we didn’t understand the challenges facing their communities.
We had some fantastic policies in our manifesto – an integrated and locally-directed bus network being one I know would make a huge difference to towns like Wigan and others across the North – but we didn’t communicate them well enough and people simply didn’t trust us to deliver them.
In local government, Labour councils in town halls right across the country are showing the difference we can make to people’s lives.
But if voters are going to trust us to govern in Westminster, it starts by rebuilding trust in the communities we’ve lost.
Labour needs to rediscover the ability to speak for communities from Harrogate to Harrow – to find the common values and shared principles that have helped us unite our country and form a majority Labour government just three times in the last 100 years.
That’s why I’m standing to be the next leader of the Labour Party.
Not just to rebuild that ‘red wall’ of Labour seats in the North, but to rebuild the ‘red bridge’ that can bring together voters in communities from Lewisham to Leeds.
I believe that begins by taking power away from Westminster and Whitehall, and putting decision-making power closer to people’s lives.
‘Take back control’ was the most powerful political slogan of my lifetime.
It resonated with people in places that felt they no longer had the power to protect the things that mattered to them – crumbling public transport links, dying local high streets and too many young people forced to move away for jobs, education or training opportunities.
It has been happening for decades – and we have to start listening.
If I’m elected to lead the Labour Party on April 4, we will listen.
We will put power back in the hands of people to protect and rebuild their communities.
To seize the opportunities that they understand best, and to tackle the challenges they know how to overcome.
It is a different kind of leadership, and it means a different kind of leader.
I don’t look or sound like any leader of the Labour Party we’ve had before and electing me will be a brave choice for Labour members to make.
But I believe that, together, we can rebuild that trust and create a country that reflects our potential.
Lisa Nandy is a Labour leadership contender. She is the MP for Wigan.