Green, high-quality jobs are vital for the future
After the historic and unexpected general election result we must reflect on what brought us success and where we can improve to deliver a Labour majority at the next election.
The result came as a shock to many within the media and polling industries. However, to those of us campaigning on the ground, knocking on doors and talking to people from all walks of life, it became obvious that the Conservative message wasn’t resonating. Labour had an offer and a direction of travel which were much more popular than the polling or media output suggested. Every day we saw more and more people either discovering or returning to Labour. This was largely driven from the national level. Our manifesto went down very well. However, another major factor, especially here in my constituency, was the hard work and dedication of the hundreds of volunteers who came out doorknocking and leafleting. The energy was palpable, most obviously when Jeremy Corbyn came to the constituency and around 5000 people came out to see him. The ground campaign was coupled with a social media campaign which highlighted the issues in which local people would be interested – whether school cuts for parents or tuition fees for students. Perhaps most importantly, the volunteers were able to engage many unregistered and disengaged residents of the constituency and encourage them both to register and then to vote. This led to us having the biggest increase in the number of people registered to vote in the country, and pushed up overall turnout on the day.
But while we were able to win in Leeds North West, gain 30 other constituencies and increase our share of both seats and overall votes, we still have work to do and issues to address in order to form a government.
Labour needs a transformative programme – one which brings real change to the communities which have lost out in the last 30 years due to post-industrial decline. Our industrial strategy, launched during the campaign, recognises this. Many communities across our country have been forgotten and the people there are rightly angry and disillusioned with politics and politicians. Our post-industrial society is weighted towards the service sector over manufacturing and towards industries which are less labour-intensive with a lower skills base and poorer pay than the jobs they replaced. This loss of skilled jobs and loss of organised workplaces has led to a fragmentation of communities and a disconnect with other parts of the UK as well as the EU. All of this needs to be addressed.
We need an overall target for industrial growth, combined with rebalancing targets focused on employment, research and development, high-tech skill training, quality of workplace rights and reduction of carbon emissions – taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by the green agenda for new, high-quality jobs. Our commitment to ensuring that 60 per cent of the UK’s energy will come from low carbon or renewable sources is crucial here. We should see manufacturing as a key element of growth, with a manufacturing revival fit for the 21st century – one which maintains sustainability and the preservation of our environment as central goals and which works towards decarbonising industry entirely and producing a greener generation of workers.
As our industrial strategy says, the green and sustainable energy sector should be a major element of any manufacturing initiative Labour puts forward. We should aim to create an ‘energy revolution’ by taking steps such as reforming ownership of the grid – including common, state and innovative forms of ownership – which will open the energy market to smaller companies and create a more competitive market. Fossil fuel penalties would support the use of renewables across the manufacturing, business and domestic energy sectors. The UK has the potential to be a world leader in the building, development and manufacturing of green and renewable technology.
I am so proud of what we have achieved as a party over the last few months, but there is still more to do. We ran a great election campaign, produced a great manifesto setting out a fairer, more equal society and have been rewarded with our new seats, such as mine in Leeds North West. We need to use these victories as a springboard to help our manufacturing and renewable industries and the left behind communities of Great Britain. Labour must build a new industrial revolution that puts the environment and the workers of our country at its heart.