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It’s time for Labour to once again be the party of aspiration

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We have the Tories on the ropes. A Prime Minister devoid of integrity, partying in Downing Street, while we made sacrifices in sticking to the rules. A Chancellor whose concern as families face a cost-of-living crisis and are plunged into poverty, is escaping to his Californian holiday home for Easter. A Home Secretary absent of sympathy and compassion, who has repeatedly faltered in letting down people needing our help.

Our public services have been stripped to the bone – NHS waiting lists at 6 million, the highest level since records began, and 25,000 people waiting over two years for treatment. It always falls on Labour to clear up the mess left by the Tories, and as we hit the campaign trail for the local elections, we’ve never more desperately felt the need for a Labour government.

Over the last six months we have nailed the Tories’ deceit, and held them to account for their record in office. We have busted their myths – they aren’t the party of low tax, they aren’t the party of law and order, and they aren’t the party of business. This is all now firm Labour territory, and is reflected in favourable poll ratings.

But our job isn’t just to prosecute the Tories for their many failings, we need to set out a positive offer from a Labour Government in waiting. We need to unite the nation: leave and remain; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; young and old, all behind our vision and values. And those values that unite us all are both British values and Labour values: fairness, compassion, hard work, determination, aspiration.

Yet aspiration is something we have shied away from in recent years, and it has felt we had little to say. We treated too many people like victims needing protection, rather creating opportunities to help them succeed. We talk too much of safety nets, and not enough about springboards. We became embarrassed of success.

What also unites all of us is that whoever we are, whatever our starting point, we want the best for ourselves, for our children, and for our families. Labour needs a stronger story to tell about that.

As a party we win when we build deep roots with not just our core vote, but with everyone. When we win, Labour has a story to tell that marries our vision with their ambition for themselves.

At the time of the next election, we need to have developed policies that match the scale of the moment facing us. Post-pandemic, post-Brexit, post-the cost-of-living crisis. Policies that can deliver a society in which people and communities aren’t left behind but where they are pushed forward.

A high-wage, high-skilled, high-standards economy in which we are at the vanguard of developing industries for green jobs; building gigafactories to power the future automotive and domestic energy sectors; where our heritage in life sciences, aerospace, and infrastructure are underpinned by industrial policy that attracts talent, investment and a sustainable future. Where we power success in our university research sector, our businesses and our public sector through collaboration to help generate a sustainable tomorrow.

We need to be a party that offers an education system that understands the skills needed for tomorrow’s jobs. Training in coding, design, AI, cloud-based tech, and blockchain should be available to all in schools, colleges, and online. We need to rethink what we value in education, and build a system where critical thinking, financial management, communication and responsible leadership are as central to schools as sport, drama and dance. We need to be a party that offers quality and affordable childcare and social care for those who need it. A party that can build a public sector that is fostering innovation, not stifling talent, and where we train nurses, doctors and other workers properly and reward them for their work. We need a vision for a society in which people live richer lives, full of opportunity, discovery and pride. A society in which once again, our children do better than the generation that came before them. That vision can only happen with a Labour Party that has aspiration as its watchword.

A time of crisis always requires imagination, and that imagination needs us to re-discover that thirst for success and ambition for everyone. Labour must once again be the party that bends history in a better direction for everyone. We must offer hope and opportunity to a whole generation that’s been let down by Tory failures.

In a phrase, aspiration is about being the best version of yourself. We can once again be the best version of Labour, offering the vision, ideas and policies to help people and society to reach that goal.

To understand the long and contested of aspiration in the Labour party, see Aspirations to Power? by Dr Jeremy Nuttall.