Caroline Flint

Standing up for Don Valley.

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David Blunkett: Why Caroline Flint will put spark back into a party of the people

IF you took notice of speculation in some of our news media you would believe that the leadership, and deputy leadership campaign for the Labour Party, was all but over.

Of course, there has been no reliable polling of party members, and nor could there be, given that none of the candidates as far as I am aware, has anything like the money required to undertake a poll, and those outside the party do not have the evidence of party membership.

But in the increasing fervour about the leadership contest itself, the importance of who becomes deputy is in danger of getting lost.

It matters not only to party members but to voters because the leadership team – as opposed to just the “leader” of the party – really does make a difference.

That is why the interesting campaign for deputy is important. Interesting because the candidates running have genuinely been making a valued contribution to debate, albeit one that does not receive the publicity it deserves.

It is not simply that a deputy “deputises” or that they will want to have their say in shaping the future, but significantly it is about the kind of party we want, informing a future government.

Too often in the past those immediately around the leader, or the aspirant leader of the party, were interested in, to put it bluntly, stitching up their opponents. Organisation in winning elections matters, but organisation inside the Labour Party has always bedevilled the creation of a party which is open, welcoming and practises what it preaches.

That is why I am backing Caroline Flint, the Don Valley MP.

For Caroline not only has the experience of front line politics but also represents a former mining area in Yorkshire where people speak their mind, say what they really think, and mean what they really say.

She has fought her corner for progressive politics for as long as I have known her, and that included a spell when she was an excellent Minister in the Home Office team in some very difficult and challenging circumstances. Caroline is not someone who seeks to use political power simply to stop others, to oppose, to put down opponents.

She is in favour of positive programmes of change for the better, for making a difference to people’s lives, and above all giving men and women a say in how those changes come about. In other words, a style of politics which seeks to engage the public at every level. To build from involvement in saving and reshaping public services within the neighbourhood. To involve those at work in delivering better provision to those who need it, but to do so with those people receiving services and not just doing it “unto them”.

And why you may ask is this so important in relation to the job of deputy leader of a political party?

Well, to begin with, someone has to take on the task of shaping the way in which the Labour Party relates to those they seek to serve. To not only reorganise how we campaign, but more fundamentally, how we do our politics.

To be a voice which is genuinely in tune with the people whose votes we seek. Also, to act inside our party on what we present to the public as the face of those who not only care, but whose genuine belief in the best of human nature is reinforced by how government at every level empower and liberate the talent of men and women.

By 2020, public services as we have known them, and what became known as the post-war welfare settlement, will be all but at an end. The level of cuts to those services supported and provided by local government is such that everything that we know will need to be revisited and re-engineered for the future.

We will literally be going back to base one in rebuilding a new era of mutuality, reciprocity and a sense that in a civilised world, we acknowledge and reinforce our interdependence.

So, whether it is in rebuilding a Labour Party capable of winning elections and taking office, or in presenting to the public the face of that Labour Party which is outward-looking and engaging with the real world, Caroline is the person to support.

I sincerely hope therefore that those who do not remember the 1980s, and those who do but with some form of misplaced nostalgia for the battle to save local democracy, and the future of the mining industry – where we went down to glorious defeat – a glimpse of history might ensure they vote for the future and not the past.

For Labour Party members do not simply owe it to themselves. They owe it to the British people for whom they hold in sacred trust the legacy of a Labour Party which over the last century has delivered so much in making our country a better place to live.

• David Blunkett was a senior member of Tony Blair’s government and stood down as Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP at the last election. He was made a life peer last week.

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