A speech not delivered at the Labour Special Conference on party reform

The Labour Party overwhelmingly backed reform today (1st March), and it was a pleasure and a privilege to be there with friends and colleagues. Myself, I had a little speech written to come up and deliver but was unfortunately (for me at least) not called. This is what I had to say:

Hello everyone, my name is Ben Cobley and I am from Wimbledon CLP.

It’s great to be here, and I’d like to say thank you to all the people who have been involved in preparing for this event, and for managing this process of reform.

Our thanks must go especially to Ray Collins, who has done a fantastic job with his report. I think it gives a very honest appraisal of where we are as a party and how we need to change as a party to be more engaged with people out there in the country.

The specific proposals I think are all sensible and will help involve more people in what the Labour Party does – from trade unions, but also from those who are not union members.

Being from London, the proposal for a closed primary election of Labour’s next Mayoral candidate is of particular interest. I know many members are afraid of letting non-members participate in this selection. But I say let’s welcome others joining us and participating in selecting our candidate, as long as they signing up as Labour supporters.

Politics is quite distanced from many people, and they are generally not that impressed with political parties. Let’s make it easier for them to join us and share some of the responsibility for making it better.

I want to address briefly here the way in which supporters from both unions and outside will be able to take part in a London primary and leadership elections, which is by signing up to ‘Labour values’.

Now I am wondering how many people in here know what Labour’s values are.  They are on the website but I’d be surprised if hardly anyone can remember what they are. And the people in here are among the most committed and involved in Labour Party affairs.

In other words, our values have very little meaning to us.

Look them up and you will see one reason why. One of these values is in fact ‘strong values’.  It doesn’t really tell us much.

Now I think values matter.

  •       They guide us in what we do.
  •       They show how we care.
  •       They offer a standard for us to live up to, and by which others can measure us
  •       And they need to be demonstrated to mean anything.

Especially if we are asking outsiders to sign up to our values, it’d be a good idea for us to work out what they are, and make an effort to stick by them.

So if Labour was to put together a statement of values, what might it look like?

I would suggest:

  • Fundamental Equality;  
  • Democracy;  
  • Respect for others;  
  • Freedom for people to do what they want as long as they do not harm others;  
  • Responsibility to others; 
  • Honesty and Integrity;  
  • Accountability; and   
  • Respect for all forms of life.

With so many institutions losing trust, including political parties, it is time for Labour to start winning it back. And the best way we can win it back is by making a commitment to how we are going to do things – and then sticking to that commitment.

Thank You.

My fuller thoughts on the Collins Review on Labour Party Reform - '(Almost) All Good' - are here.


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