18 February 2017

Speech by Brendan Howlin to the Central Council of the Labour Party. 

Last September, I spoke in the Mansion House about how the Labour Rebuild was underway.

That night, I said that:

“Through hard work;

Through progressive, principled policies;

Through parliamentary procedure, allied with grassroots campaigning;

We can, and we will rebuild this historic party of ours.”

That night, five months ago, I said there were a few things we needed to do to make that a reality.

I said that we needed to attract new people.

I said that we needed to focus once more on being a campaigning party.

I said that our politics would be allied to the need of our people – for progress.

Today, I believe, will be looked back upon as one of the days that the rebuild started to become a reality.

Because we have done much of what I said needed to be done last September.

We have recruited new people – well over 1,000 of them in the last few months.

Our doors are open. And they will stay open.

We have reinvigorated our campaigning.

We have 30 new local area reps.

We have held public meetings on childcare, and on Brexit.

General election selection campaigns are getting underway.

We have published legislation – on workers’ rights, on womens’ and LGBT rights, on supporting small businesses, and on housing.

And we have plenty more in the pipeline:

On social progress; on local Government, and we have more to do to protect the rights of workers.

Today, we once more begin to reinvigorate our policy programme.

Last October, our alternative budget began the work of signalling some new Labour policy.

A focus on housing, on healthcare, and on investment in education was what we wanted the Budget to be about.

Sadly, the Government disagreed, instead prioritising a tax cut worth the price of a cup of coffee each week.

Today, we look at more radical options.

Universal basic income.

Putting an end to oil and gas exploration.

Reinvigorating workplace democracy.

Treating people as energy citizens – not just consumers.

We are talking about policies that will do what Labour should always do – look to the future with optimism once more.

Because we are the party of pragmatic idealism.

We believe that the world can, and must be a better place.

And we turn our minds and our efforts to making it so.

Today is not just about policy.

Today, we will debate a new constitution for our party.

It will see an expansion of democracy in our party.

Where every member is valued the same as every other.

It will see new units focussed on campaigns, and on policy.

And a genuine reinvigoration of our relationship with the trade union movement that founded us.

It will also deliver something I have prioritised since my election as leader – an inclusive culture and an inclusive leadership.

I want a party that thrives at all times, and so the General Secretary will be given greater autonomy from the leader;

So that the party is run in a sustainable manner;

And so that campaigns and policies develop at all times.

I want a party that once more recognises the primacy of democracy.

That sees party conferences debate substantial policy documents.

And makes sure that every body is elected from the broadest possible mandate.

The biggest change is a change that no other party has made.

Many years ago, we gave our members an equal vote in electing a leader.

Some time later, we extended the same principle to selection of candidates.

And now we make the next logical step – every member of the Labour Party will be entitled to attend and vote at Party Conference.

For a party that has long cherished democracy as a core value, we have a responsibility to model that value.

And the proposals we are talking about today would do exactly that.

We want to run our party in the same inclusive way that we believe society should be run.

And I want every member of the party to share in leading our rebuild.

And tonight, we have a sold-out Rose Ball.

Our first since 2011.

An opportunity for us to get together.

An opportunity for us to have some fun.

And a chance for us to start another something new – the victory fund.

Every cent we raise tonight will go towards funding our next generation of Labour candidates.

Because that will be the proof of the Labour Rebuild – elected reps in constituencies all across this country.

Today is the real start of that work.

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