Peter Hain – 2011 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Peter Hain to the Labour Party conference on 25th September 2011.

Conference, we’ve heard today from Margaret Hodge about the magnificent campaign in Barking where she kicked out Nick Griffin and the BNP.

A great victory for us, and a great victory for democracy.

We’ve also heard today about the fantastic wins in Birmingham Edgbaston and Oxford East. Seats the pundits had written off, seats we should have lost.

Suppose we had replicated their success right across all of our 100 most marginal seats.

What would have happened?

We could still have been in power.

Maybe not with a majority.

But at least as the biggest party.

Able to protect the country from the dogma inflicted by this right wing Tory-led Government.

Because, although on paper each of those constituencies should have been lost, they defied the massive national swing against Labour.

They won against the tide because – through years of patient work in the community – they mobilised hundreds of supporters, and not just members, to campaign for Labour.

They were at the heart of their communities and so people who would never have joined the Party delivered leaflets, persuaded neighbours, friends and relatives.

They were Labour’s invisible army in these constituencies.

They went under the radar of ferocious attacks on our Party, and Labour won.

This is what Refounding Labour is about, and this is why it’s so important.

It’s not just about creating a party fit for the digital era, and rooted in community organising, linked like an umbilical cord to voters.

It is also about winning.

Those and another dozen constituencies demonstrated what can be achieved by being in tune with the new politics.

They denied David Cameron his majority.

If – and only if – voters trust local Labour parties, trust our MPs, trust our candidates, and trust our councillors, they don’t necessarily go with national trends in the way they used to.

In an age of 24-hour news and the internet, politics may have become more global and national.

But it has also become more local.

And that is where our opportunity lies.

To build a vibrant movement capable of winning the next General Election, Labour also needs to transform our policy making, because that is essential to rebuilding trust and support from members, trade unionists and voters. We want to open up our process of making policy, both to give party members a greater say and to enable supporters and voters to feed in their ideas, so that the party leadership keeps in much closer touch with them.

Revitalising our policy-making in this way will help ensure that lessons learned on the doorstep, in meetings with community groups and through discussion with our supporters, can genuinely and easily make their way from local party activists to the National Policy Forum and Annual Conference – and from there into manifestos which reflect the needs of the squeezed middle who are finding life tougher and tougher right across Britain.

As the NEC Statement says, in the next few months we will consult on the detail.

On how exactly we make a reformed policy making system more accessible and responsive to members, on how exactly we make a freshly empowered Annual Conference more democratic.

We will also make it easier for members to be involved in the party.

We will introduce clear lines of accountability to the membership and the wider public for all Labour candidates and elected representatives – from local councillors to Shadow Cabinet members.

We will insist that every Labour candidate and elected representative signs a contract committing to probity, active service to the public and leadership in party campaigning.

This is what we mean by Refounding Labour.

And we will reach out to potentially hundreds of thousands of Labour supporters – people who wouldn’t join, but who could be registered as supporters.

That’s what Barack Obama did to win in 2008 – created a peoples’ movement amongst those who never saw themselves as party animals but were with him and were vital to his victory.

That’s what Ken is doing in London.

This is what we mean by Refounding Labour.

Registering thousands of new supporters is a huge opportunity, not a threat.  Members, not supporters, will still choose our MPs and councillors, still choose delegates to Conference, still make policy. Members and trade unionists will still have a much, much bigger say than supporters in leadership elections.

But we want to open up our Party to those who won’t join but will support.

We have to build a peoples’ movement for Labour; in our neighbourhoods, in our workplaces.

This is what we mean by Refounding Labour.

And let me say this to Nick Clegg who last week attacked our Party’s link with 3 million trade unionists just as his Tory master David Cameron will do next week.

Ten days ago who was there at the very start for the trapped Welsh miners?

The South Wales National Union of Mineworkers.

Who is now looking after their traumatised families?

The NUM.

Trade unionism is vital in any society and we are proud of our union link.

Whatever attacks come from Tories, Liberals, or next month the independent Standards Committee, we say from this conference: we will not weaken, but strengthen our links with individual trade unionists.

But agreement on these reforms is only the beginning.

We have to implement them so that we genuinely do ‘Refound Labour’.

And this cannot be achieved from above, even with an Annual Conference mandate.

It can only be delivered from below, at the grassroots of our movement, in every constituency party.

That is the challenge for each and every one of us: to build a quite different type of party in tune with the new politics rather than remaining with the old. If we achieve this – and last year’s General Election successes in constituencies like Barking, Edgbaston and Oxford East demonstrate that we can – then we will have leapfrogged the other major parties, and left them stuck behind.

Now let’s go out and together get on with the job of Refounding Labour to win.