The Labour Party was founded with a clear purpose. To gain power for working people and to be the voice of their priorities, their needs and their hopes. A party of government to change our country for the better.
Against that critical marker – and despite our best efforts – Labour has failed for a decade. Four election defeats in a row, under a variety of leaders. Each one ensuring further years of Conservative rule, cuts and division, damaging the communities our party was founded to represent.
In that decade, public services have suffered like never before. So have those providing them, and those relying on them. Wages and living standards have plummeted and care workers, nurses, teaching assistants and other public servants are forced to do far more, with far less.
And yet exactly a month ago, the party to blame for all this won a landslide majority. This is truly a time for deep, honest and profound reflection, if this cycle of painful decline is to be reversed.
Books will be written on the reasons for Labour’s decline. But the painful truth is that those who need Labour – the party I’ve been a proud member of all my life – rejected us.
They no longer trust in Labour, nor the party’s ability to change their lives for the better. In successive elections, the laudable plans presented to voters didn’t have widespread appeal. Or they were ignored altogether because the party was seen by too many as simply irrelevant.
We need someone who can unite our party, our communities and our country, and win working people back to Labour
Britain’s party of the left is the only realistic alternative to permanent Tory rule. But it stands at a crossroads. The choices the party makes in the days and weeks ahead are critical.
While the challenges Labour faces run deeper than any one leader, manifesto or election – choosing the right person is critical if it’s to take the fastest route back to power. We need someone who can unite our party, our communities and our country, and win working people back to Labour.
For UNISON, the best person to do this is Keir Starmer.
Keir’s story is one of hard work and determination. His values are rooted in socialist principles. When this son of a toolmaker and a nurse – the first person in his family to go to university – became a barrister, he could have used his skills and talents purely for his own benefit.
Yet time and time again, Keir has put them at the service of working people, standing shoulder to shoulder with those fighting injustice. He fought the infamous McLibel case and brought successful legal challenges against the death penalty in the Caribbean.
Victories on behalf of those who most needed his advocacy like Doreen and Neville Lawrence were a critical factor in his rise to becoming director of public prosecutions.
I don’t worry about Keir Starmer abandoning our values, because he has proved time and time again they are clearly his values too.
This article was first published on The Guardian website on Saturday 11 January 2020