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Nick Forbes: Labour councillors are serving the public, unlike many of our MPs

Nick Forbes
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Many of my local government colleagues despair of the state of our party nationally.

Many in parliament have lost sight of the role of elected politicians, which is to serve the public. The divide at the top must not be allowed to distract us from getting on with the job voters expect of us. We are or seek to be in office in town halls across our country because we can deliver on those expectations of job creation and dependable public services.

It would be easy for us to say the leadership comes first and we have to find answers there before we know what comes next but there is no pause in demand. As a result of austerity there has never been a more pressing need for Labour values in office.

When the next general election arrives, we will need to call on our track record of investing in growth and defending services to show that even in the face of government cuts, we stood by our communities in local government.

The Local Government Innovation Task Force report, produced in 2014 by figures such as Sir Richard Leese and Sharon Taylor, collated the achievements of Labour in office at the local level. Whatever the outcome of the leadership election, highlighting the track record this report demonstrated will be essential if we are to win votes. Voters want to know if we are committed and competent enough to deliver on the promises we make. Councillors who have been getting on with this, while others fight for their vision of the party, want to see Labour united in a common aim sooner rather than later.

We face the threat of Labour existing only as a party of the north. While Labour is rightly proud of support from voters in Newcastle, Manchester and Leeds, it must show it can achieve more.

There are people who talk about the potential of a split. I do not think this will happen. I see another divide: that between our actions on the ground, where councillors are fighting to protect people against austerity, and the existential debate that obsesses some in our party and the media. If the latter does not lead to Labour in power, it is ultimately futile.

We must show a united front. Voters will not reward a divided party; there is no path to power for a party at war with itself.

I want a Labour party in Downing Street that can deliver nationally what we deliver locally. We will come no closer to that goal by arguing among ourselves. The party nationally has to offer more than just protest and if it doesn’t, the beneficiaries will be the Tories, creating the potential for another decade of pain for our communities.

Nick Forbes (Lab), leader, Newcastle City Council

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