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Gisela Stuart: The Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston is standing down


Elections are the moment when the views of voters crystallise. Just what makes them decide where to put the cross on the ballot paper is a complex process. It embraces everything from hardnosed self-interest to irrational prejudice, ideological commitment or just habit. I doubt there are many out there who have read even one party manifesto, never mind all of them. But we have confidence in the outcome.

Democracy is about giving shape to the will of the people. On one extreme of the spectrum is mob rule, the voice of the people unmediated by structures and checks and balances. On the other side is bureaucratic tyranny, once best described to me by a pupil visiting the House of Commons who asked, “Why do you keep talking about things, why don’t you just make decisions?”

And then there are people who share interests and values and come together to form groups. Some of them pursue just a single issue; others grow and become political parties. Their relative strength and support is measured by the election process. They meet in buildings like the Palace of Westminster. They follow rules by which decisions are made and at regular intervals the voters get a chance to say whether they’ve done a good or a bad job.

Come election time, if you are the opposition, you try to get the people who voted for you in the past to do so again and to persuade people who voted for another party or just stayed at home to vote for you. That’s what happened in a big way in 1997 and produced a landslide victory for Tony Blair. Labour lost support in subsequent elections and by 2010 we were out of government.

It sometimes seems as if the Labour Party has forgotten all of these simple but fundamental principles of democracy. No political party has a preordained right to exist. Its purpose is to reflect the values and principles which gave rise to its formation and adapt them to an ever-changing world. And when it fails to do that, it will no longer be part of the national conversation which shapes events.
In 2017 Labour faces the third election in opposition where it’s not just the policies which make it difficult to reach out to new voters, but where the leader is cited as a reason for voters abandoning the party.

It is tempting to conclude all would be well if only we changed the leader, but it would be a profoundly inadequate analysis. The choice of leader is a symptom, not the cause, of our problems.

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Daniel Sutton
May 24th, 2017
1:05 PM
Its a good thing that you are standing down. The solutions of 1997 are not what we need in 2017. The means testing treatments that were prescribed in Blair's UK have been adopted by the Conservatives. The solution for the future should centre around universalism and entitlement needs to be the buzz word tagged to every policy. The direction of travel is moving left but the PLP are yet to understand this

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