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Last Updated: Friday, 23 March 2007, 12:37 GMT
Johnson: opportunity for renewal

The Labour Party is more comfortable in government than at any time during my 33 years of membership

Alan Johnson
It is important to develop international solutions on issues such as climate change and world trade and development by engaging fully with the European Union and the international community
Alan Johnson

This is partly because we have a clear vision of the society we want to create; where barriers to opportunity are removed; where social progress is harnessed to economic stability and where investment in education, science and innovation provides our country with the means to succeed in the 21st Century.

But also because ten continuous years in government, far longer than we have ever served before has demonstrated how much more can be achieved through disciplined and concerted effort in power rather than futile protest in opposition.

Renewal, not reversal

The transition to a new leadership in the middle of a third term is an opportunity for renewal not an excuse for reversal.

We have a fine record and many achievements to be proud of.

However, the next general election will be focussed on the future not the past.

There are three important areas that I want to cover.

The first is in relation to policy.

The choice for any developed country in a world where globalisation, the environment and demographic change present a whole new set of challenges is whether to withdraw into protectionism and denial; or to help people to adjust successfully, ensuring that everyone in society is aware of, and engaged with, change.

That's why it is important to develop international solutions on issues such as climate change and world trade and development by engaging fully with the European Union and the international community.

Social mobility

The second concerns social mobility.

The transformation in our society over the last 10 years has been remarkable.

Thousands of children have been lifted out of poverty, educational attainment has increased dramatically (and in deprived areas more than less deprived areas).

Sure Start centres are concentrating on the vital early years, income levels have improved across the board.

Higher Education has expanded and over two and a half million more people are now in work.

We need to go further.

Through personalised learning in education, by recognising that job retention and upskilling are as important as job creation, and in resolving the mismatch between supply and demand in housing which constrains labour market mobility.

But the most important objective is also the most intangible and elusive.

It is aspiration. We must understand much better and focus our policies more effectively on raising aspirations as a core feature in our continuing drive to improve social mobility.

Lifeblood of the party

The third relates to our Party.

Being in government makes additional demands on Labour Party members and can leave them feeling distant from the Party they have sustained through bad times and helped to elect.

We need a re-think about how the Party connects at the grass roots level.

Our members are the life blood of our organisation so structures such as the National Policy Forum, Party conference and the NEC need to best reflect and represent our diverse membership.

I am keen, for example, to attract more people from ethnic minority communities into the party and to remove barriers to them taking up representative roles.

We need closer links with Labour local councillors, a more coordinated way of discussing policy across the UK involving members in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and we need to look again at local structures to ensure we learn from the many vibrant and growing constituency parties across the country.

I am standing for the Deputy Leadership because I believe I can play a prominent role in the process of renewal; I can enhance the leadership team and I can help us remain the party of government.

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