Text of speech given by Yvette Cooper, 13 August 2015
“Tomorrow the ballots go out. Tomorrow we start to choose.
If the polls are right – and it’s a big if – there’s a battle on for the soul of our party It’s not about personalities. It’s about the future of our country.
And I will not duck that fight. Because there is too much at stake.
I’m here because I can’t walk away from this party.
I can’t walk away from the people Labour was built to serve.
Too often in this race people have suggested that only one candidate has principles. – Rubbish.
I’m the granddaughter of a miner, the daughter of a trade unionist, a comprehensive girl who was brought up to believe in the strength and solidarity of family, trade unions and the coalfield communities.
The belief that we are stronger if we stand together than if we leave each other to sink or swim alone, that you have an obligation to work hard, to get on, to look out for your neighbour and to make sure no one is left behind.
And because I know I’ve had more chances in life than my mum and grandma thanks to the Labour campaign for women’s equality, I’ve long been part of that radical equality tradition in our party – drawn from the emancipation and liberation movements. It’s why I believe in the deep equality of equal respect for every human being, why one of the first campaigns I joined was against Section 28 and why I was proud to lead Labour’s campaign for equal marriage.
It’s why I hate what the Tories are doing to Britain.
Why I believe it is so unjust that half the world’s wealth sits in the hands of the top 1%. Why I hate the fact that prejudice and poverty still hold too many people back.
Like most of us, I didn’t join the Labour party because I like stuffing envelopes, leafleting in the rain.
I joined the party I love a quarter of a century ago because I believe in something.
That the world needn’t be this way.
That the gap between rich and poor is too big.
That markets should serve humanity not humanity serve markets.
That diplomacy is better than war, but sometimes you have to be ready to fight for justice.
That Labour must always give voice to the voiceless, strength to the weak.
That the Tories don’t have a right to rule.
That a woman can lead the Labour party.
But our party is facing a crisis in our identity – and it hasn’t come from nowhere.
Of course we are bruised by two defeats. But it’s more than that. Across Europe, social democratic and long standing left of centre parties have found themselves under pressure in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
In just the last 12 months we have seen the Danish social democrats lose – with a centre right coalition in power, and an anti-immigrant party now the second largest party.
In the European Parliament elections last year parties of the far right made spectacular gains – including victory for Front National in France amid accusations of betrayal levelled at the French socialists.
In Greece the social democrats have gone from governing just six years ago to just a handful of seats. Meanwhile Syriza captured huge populist momentum but are now struggling with the realities of political compromise.
The Spanish socialists lost power to the centre right in 2011 and the insurgent party Podemos now has the second largest membership of any political party – despite only being founded a year ago. Here at home Labour went down to a disappointing defeat losing votes to the Tories, UKIP, the SNP and the Greens.
European social democracy is fracturing, losing or turning to a more uncompromising politics that divides the electorate. Too often the winners have been the right.
We shouldn’t forget the sheer scale of the global financial crisis we went through – and how close we came to losing our savings, our pensions, our hopes and dreams as markets failed and global banks crashed.
The only reason we didn’t was because all of us, society, taxpayers, governments across the globe stood together and used our common strength to stop entire markets and entire economies crashing down around our ears.
It was a Labour response, and a Labour Prime Minister and Chancellor who led the debate across the world to stop the global economy crashing.
Yet politics changed in the aftermath. The right seized their chance across Europe, and both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats in Britain argued that far from being a private sector crisis, it was actually the public sector to blame.
The left had a tougher case to make – to explain both why the deficit didn’t cause the crisis and why it still had to come back down. And it was harder to offer optimism and hope when budgets were so tight.
And as parties steeped in the principles of solidarity and internationalism – we’ve not yet set out a clear enough response to the politics of rising nationalism, fragmentation and blame.
At the same time the old industrial workplaces from which our party was forged are largely gone. Most working people aren’t members of trade unions any more. More people self-employed, more people setting up their own businesses. But also more people working for agencies, in and out of temporary work. More people trapped in low paid jobs. Working lives more insecure. Families more stretched.
The world is changing fast with more travel and trade, more migration changing communities, faster technology providing great opportunities but leaving more behind.
At the election we didn’t offer enough optimism for those with strong aspirations for their future.
But also enough reassurance and support for those who felt left behind at the end of the line.
Our party started in the workplace solidarity of the industrial revolution.
Now we have to build a new argument for social solidarity in a post industrial age.
But when times are tough, and the old answers, and the old parties don’t seem to be working, people cast around for something else.
Something different. Something subversive. Something to kick out at the system, to express anger, frustration and the demand for change.
In different ways that’s fuelled support for the SNP and for UKIP.
And so now in the Labour party, in the yearning for answers and for Britain to change, I can see why many people have bought into what Jeremy is offering.
I’m not going to dismiss the values and the intentions of Jeremy and those who are supporting him. I’m not going to claim they don’t believe in social justice or the ideals of the Labour party because I don’t think that’s right.
But nor am I going to pander or pretend I agree with them on the answers, and claim I’m just a more electable version of what they stand for.
Because the truth is that Jeremy is offering old solutions to old problems, not new answers to the problems of today.
We have to look the 21st century in the eye, face up to the future.
That’s where we will find the new radicalism, the answers in the modern fight for social justice, equality and solidarity Not the old answers of the past.
I understand Jeremy has strong support.
But i feel really strongly – not just as a leadership candidate but as a Labour Party member that desperately wants an effective Labour Government – that his are the wrong answers for the future.
That they aren’t radical.
And they aren’t credible.
That they won’t change the world, they will keep us out of power and stop us changing the world.
That’s what I want to set out this morning.
Saying this rather than pretending I agree with the person who is currently the most popular candidate in the race may lose me votes. But it needs to be said.
Our party, the values we stand for, and the country we want to fight for are too important not to be honest about what is at stake.
And I want to show today that there is an alternative that is both radical and credible, true to our values, but serious enough to win.
And we have to fight for it before it is too late.
Consider the future economic challenges we face.
Our economy is polarising, too reliant on cheap labour. Britain isn’t creating high quality new jobs. Economic power and wealth are stuck in the hands of the few not the many. From the Governor of the Bank of England to the Head of the OECD, global economic leaders are warning that the short termism of markets and widening inequality are undermining growth and prosperity.
Gone now are so many of the factories and mills even of thirty years ago. This is an interdependent, networked world which invests more in IT knowledge than in bricks, mortar and machines. The fight for social justice has to start from today, not the world we remember it to be.
As Hilary Clinton has warned we still have a quarterly capitalism based on short term cashing instead of investing in the future of long term growth. The Tories can’t solve this – they just believe in laissez faire, in shrinking the state and pulling back.
The radical approach of the future is to reform capitalism so it serves people, not to try to destroy it with nothing to put in its place. To reform markets so power isn’t concentrated, so they encourage the talents and ideas of all, invest in the long term, not return to clause IV as Jeremy has suggested.
To work with business to double our investment in science and the future, so we can create 2 million more good quality high tech manufacturing jobs not return to British Leyland.
To deliver the vocational revolution we need, end the old British snobbery between academic and vocational skills that is holding us back. And we should be devolving education and skills out of Whitehall and into local councils and communities not the centralising policies either of Michael Gove, or Jeremy’s plan for a National Education Service.
The radical plan is to put power in the hands of the many not the few. Not to concentrate power in Whitehall, or in the central state, but to hand it back to communities across the country to give people control over their lives.
And we need what is bluntly a much more feminist approach to our economy and society. Put family at the centre of our economy. As any parent will tell you, that would be really radical and it would transform families lives. Stop families being stretched and stained to fit round work, and change work to fit round family life. Universal free childcare should be as much the infrastructure of the modern economy as trains, planes and boys toys.
And we need a radical vision to end child poverty in a generation – to stop poverty and prejudice holding people back. That’s why one of the simplest and most radical policies we have is Sure Start.
As one of the Ministers who started it I think it doesn’t go far enough. We should extend it, not just for the under-fives but for older families too.
There in the heart of the family is the power to give every child the love, the hope, the opportunity they need. Yet poverty, trauma, lack of opportunity or abuse can destroy lives for generations.
I talked to one Mum about what Sure Start meant to her. She had hit rock bottom, the council had tried to take her children away because she couldn’t cope. Then she went to Sure Start. She told me without it she wouldn’t have been sitting there living and breathing in front of me. She got her kids back and her confidence and strength back too. Got some training. Part time work. And she joined – and then she led – the local labour party campaign to keep it open when it was threatened with closure. They put her on the council, and this autumn she starts her university degree. All because of sure start. That’s the vision I want.
And people say they want radical politics.
So tell me what you think is more radical.
Bringing back clause IV: spending billions of pounds we haven’t got switching control of some power stations from a group of white middle aged men in an energy company to a group of white middle aged men in Whitehall. Or extending Sure Start; giving mothers the power and confidence to transform their own lives and transform their children’s lives for years to come.
What is more radical? False promises to the South Wales mining communities you will re-open the now capped and flooded pits or investing in the green technology including clean coal technology of the future.
Britain’s last deep mined pit Kellingley pit is still open in my constituency. I’ve fought hard to keep it open – with little support from many on the Corbyn campaign – promoting clean coal technology and calling for state aid. I’m a coalfield MP proud to have the nomination of the NUM. But I’m not going to make people false promises ion the coalfield communities that we can turn the clock back to the middle of the 20 century instead.
And at a time when we are dealing with a global climate change threat, when international borders have ebbed, when extremism doesn’t recognise nations, and when we need to work together more than ever, is it really radical to quit NATO, to prevaricate over membership of the EU, or trash our reputation as an internationalist party.
I say no.
We should stay in the EU, stay in the European Court of Human Rights, stay in NATO – sorry, Jeremy, internationalism is a core Labour principle and I will always fight for it.
And what is more radical?
A Labour party after a century of championing equality and diversity which turns the clock back to be lead again by a leader and deputy leader, both white men.
Or to smash our own glass ceiling to get Labour’s first elected woman leader and woman Prime Minister too. Who’s the real radical? Jeremy or me?
Yes there are areas where Jeremy and I agree.
We both feel passionately about human rights, about ending homelessness, about building more homes.
We agree that we need an alternative to George Osborne’s austerity ideology.
I’ve argued from the start we shouldn’t swallow the Tories myths about Labour’s public spending. It wasn’t too many teachers, nurses or doctors that caused global banks to go bust. And I don’t think Andy was right to apologise for Labour’s public spending record.
The debt and deficit need to come down. But we should never sign up to George Osborne’s 40% cuts – that’s way beyond what is needed to bring borrowing down.
It’s not prudence its punishment – driven by right wing ideology that wants to shrink the state.
It’s not common sense economics – its deliberate dismantling of our public services.
We have to have a radical alternative.
But it also has to be credible. And Jeremy’s approach isn’t.
Quantitative easing to pay for infrastructure now that the economy is growing is really bad economics.
Quantitative easing was a special measure when the economy collapsed, liquidity dried up, interest rates fell as low as they could go.
But printing money year after year to pay for things you can’t afford doesn’t work – and no good Keynesian would ever call for it.
History shows it hits your currency, hits investment, pushes up inflation, and makes it harder not easier to get the sustainable growth in a global economy we need to tackle poverty and support our public services.
So it’s not radical. It won’t stand up to scrutiny. And it won’t get us elected.
And that matters. Because otherwise we let people down.
Jeremy and I agree we need an alternative – but I want one that’s radical and credible so we can pull people behind it and make it happen.
We are a broad church in the Labour party – and we have to be. Some people may want to divide our party and to pull us apart – from left or from right.
I will never believe that is the right thing to do. I believe in the solidarity of our party just as I believe in the solidarity of communities or of families holding together through thick and thin.
I believe our party has to stand together to change the country.
When we were founded back in 1900 the whole idea was to be an alliance of workers and intellectuals, of Fabians and socialists, of women and men, of trades unionists and Christian socialists, of radicals and moderates. We even did a deal with the liberals.
And there was good reason for that broad alliance. Because people were sick of losing battles in Parliament and in the courts and they wanted to change the world.
I don’t believe that Jeremy can hold the party together – and I can’t bear to see us pulled apart when I believe Britain needs a Labour party more than ever.
As for this idea that power doesn’t matter so long as our principles remain intact.
I dare you to tell that to the woman in tears because she can’t afford her bedroom tax arrears.
Tell that to the working parents on tax credits about to lose thousands of pounds who can’t afford new school shoes for the autumn term.
Tell that to the family struggling with care costs, forced to sell their family home.
Tell that to the student, scraping to make ends meet to get through university, about to lose their maintenance grant Tell that to all those people who are being hit by Tory Government.
All those people with no one else to stand up for them than the Labour party.
Than us. That’s our job. We can’t walk away.
We can’t just luxuriate in our own righteousness out on the side lines. That’s not a luxury the most vulnerable in Britain can afford.
It’s not enough to be angry at the world. We’re the labour party, we have a responsibility to change the world or what’s the point of us at all.
Because in the end Britain needs a strong Labour party now more than ever.
Power is in the hands of a narrow Tory elite.
Concentrating wealth, widening inequality, fragmenting Britain, letting people down Already they broke their promises.
Already they are turning the clock back.
They only have a majority of 12. We can beat them.
They are still only Tories. Now is not the time to give in.
We cannot condemn today’s five year olds to spend all their childhood under a Tory Government.
We’re fighting for a fairer country for our children to grow up in.
So this is the choice.
Between a Labour Party back on its feet, fighting the Tories, fighting for our principles, fighting for our future. And a Tory Britain while Labour walks away.
This is about the 2020 election.
I’m in it to win it.
The Labour Party must be too.”