Ruth's statement on the Labour leadership contest
As the UK’s official opposition party, aiming to be in Government Labour needs a leadership that is not only about values and beliefs, but actively brings people together. It’s about compromise and about winning. Labour was founded from a coalition of disparate organisations with a single aim – representation for working people and their families in Parliament and local government. The party leader therefore needs to command the support of their MPs in the Parliament as well as party members, and it is deeply regrettable that Jeremy hasn’t been able to build that support among his colleagues and I supported the vote of no-confidence in Jeremy Corbyn held immediately following the EU referendum.
I was elected as the Labour MP in Brentford and Isleworth in May 2015, defeating by a small margin the sitting Conservative MP, a result that was contrary to the national trend. I have worked hard to represent the whole community, but what defines my politics and values are the core aims of the Labour Party. These are to to seek the trust of the people to govern in Parliament, working for a dynamic economy, a just society, and open democracy and a healthy environment. After six years of a Conservative Government under David Cameron, the need for a change in the country for the benefit of people here, for our economy and the environment has never been more urgent. My task as an elected MP is to do what I can in my constituency to make a difference.
Last September, Jeremy Corbyn was elected as our party leader with a large majority of Labour Party members, having been a persistent party rebel for decades. His election was a response to perceived failures to offer a clear alternative message to the Conservative Government. As a new MP I acknowledged those concerns and accepted Jeremy’s election as party leader last year, having supported Yvette Cooper in the leadership contest. As many people know he and I share the same stance on issues such as opposing Trident renewal and Heathrow expansion. I supported him and have done consistently, along with the excellent team he put in place following his election. We have all worked together to hold the Government to account and challenge them in Parliament. Conservative policies impact so badly on working people and their families; those in housing need especially in London, those who depend on the NHS, Council services and the public and third sector, on which a fair society and thriving economy depend. I welcomed Jeremy’s attempts to calm the atmosphere at Prime Minister’s Questions.
Nevertheless, immediately following the EU referendum a no-confidence vote was called among Labour MPs. We can debate the timing but I had to take a view based on my direct experience. I reached my view after hearing from many Labour Party members and constituents. 171 other MPs from all sections of the party, elected by over 9 million Labour voters, felt we no longer have confidence in Jeremy as leader. The group included the overwhelming majority of the front bench he appointed and worked with. For most of us this dissatisfaction isn’t about policy, but his ability to lead Labour in the country and in Parliament, and whether he is a Prime Minister in waiting. There has been no concrete project that he has led on to capture the hopes and dreams of all those new members from last year. In the EU referendum, the most important vote in a generation, where there was clear Labour party policy to remain in the EU and reform it – the party leader appeared ambivalent or absent. He cut pro-EU sections of his speeches and focussed only on the problems in the EU. None of his team ever attended Alan Johnson’s weekly Labour IN campaign meetings. Many Labour voters we spoke to on the doorstep had not been aware of the Labour party policy until we told them. There was a vacuum to be filled among Labour voters and too often UKIP and ethnic minority Brexit campaigns filled that vacuum. I don’t know if, with better leadership, Remain would have won the referendum, but I do feel very strongly, as do many members and supporters, that a campaign led from the top would have made a significant difference.
I took Brentford & Isleworth from the Tories, against the national trend, in May 2015. I want to ensure this seat remains Labour, but I feel our party needs a Leader who is committed to doing what needs doing to win elections for the benefit of the millions of people who so desperately need a Labour Government. The Conservatives in Government have already reversed so many of the gains we achieved in 17 years of Labour which included cutting child poverty, and investing in education, the NHS and public services on which so many people depend. The UK steel industry in on the brink of collapse and our international standing following the Brexit vote has plummeted. In my view Cameron has been more devastating than Thatcher, in opposition to whom, I joined the Labour Party in the first place.
We now enter a leadership contest in the Labour Party, which will divert us from challenging the Tory Government especially if there is a General Election. My priority will be continuing to represent and work for the benefit of the people of Brentford & Isleworth constituency.