THE loss of brilliant Labour MPs across Yorkshire at last month’s general election was a bitter blow for the party. But it wasn’t just that we lost great champions for Yorkshire, it’s that so many voters in places that had always been Labour lost hope in us.
People are desperate for change, but they are also despairing. After a decade when politics has done so little for them, they lost hope that things could be better.
We tried to make people believe. But it seemed that Labour was promising enormous change every day.
The result was that voters didn’t see the detail; they were left with an overall sense that we were promising things we could not deliver.
The most urgent challenge – as Labour elects a new leader – is to give people hope again and rebuild trust. To do that we have to tell the truth.
For the last few years the biggest debate has been about Brexit. But Labour’s position was confused. This wasn’t an accident.
We tried to say just enough to Leave voters to make them think we agreed with them and just enough to reassure Remain voters that we were on their side of the argument, too.
This had catastrophic consequences for too many brilliant Labour MPs in Yorkshire. The confused message that came from the top allowed voters to lose faith in the Labour Party.
A mistake we must never make again.
By trying to please everyone we lost people and now the consequences are huge. Boris Johnson has a majority. We’re going to leave the EU. The argument to remain is for the past.
What we have to do now is hold the Government to account and look to the future. How the Government handles the upcoming EU negotiations will dictate whether or not manufacturing supply chains continue to operate smoothly and, as a result, whether or not people keep their jobs.
We must protect jobs across Yorkshire that are dependent on being able to do business easily with customers in Europe.
I represent a constituency in Birmingham where most people voted Leave, but I didn’t pretend that I thought leaving the EU was a good idea.
Even though many people disagreed with me, they still respected me because I was honest and upfront with them.
If people know you care, if they hear you talking about the problems they and their families face every day, they will give you the benefit of the doubt.
They know their priorities are your priorities. To give people hope again, Labour needs leadership who speak clearly in a language that voters recognise.
In elections all around the world we see that it isn’t enough to offer big promises. You need a big personality. You need leadership people can believe in.
That’s why I decided to stand to be Labour’s next leader. Up against Boris Johnson, who will be more powerful than ever with the numbers he has in Parliament, we need someone who can stand up to him, cut through his buffoon act, and get back to talking about what really matters to people.
I’m outraged by the impact of Conservative Party policy on so many people in this country, but, while they have a majority, I will work with the Government on issues like social care if it means we can provide a better solution for the country.
Over the course of the leadership election I will be setting out several priorities that I think need urgent attention including a proper plan for social care, universally free childcare and an agenda that will protect and enhance our climate from local air pollution to reducing global carbon emissions.
But the reality is that we can only take forward these types of priorities if people trust us.
With a backdrop of Conservative austerity and public service cuts, the last decade has seen a significant erosion in people’s belief that politicians and Government can play a positive role in transforming society and people’s livelihoods. I’m determined to change this.
To win again Labour needs to show we get it. The good news is that if you believe it’s time for something and someone different, you can add your voice to mine.
Everyone who joins Labour before January 20 will get a vote on who leads the party, and where our country goes from here. Together we can do it.
Jess Phillips is a Labour MP and one of the candidates for the party leadership.