Today’s columnist: Angela Smith: Let’s put women at the helm

Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall visited Sheffield for a q&a evening at Sheffield Hallam University.
Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall visited Sheffield for a q&a evening at Sheffield Hallam University.
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By the second week in September, the Labour Party will have elected a new leader and deputy leader.

Not only that, these individuals will also become the leadership of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, which means of course that they will be responsible for ensuring that the Government is held properly and effectively to account for its actions.

This also means, of course, that Labour Party members bear an enormous responsibility to make sensible choices.

It is, after all, an important part of our democratic culture that we have a strong Opposition in Parliament.

In fact, I would go further and say that our democracy is strengthened when we see the major Opposition party not only holding the Government to its promises and scrutinising its decisions, but also shaping responses to policy challenges because it is truly reflecting the public interest in its contributions to national political debate.

Labour members know this. They know the choice they have to make is not a game, but a serious matter worthy of deep consideration.

That’s why so many of them are turning out to meet the candidates and to hear what they have to say.

For me, the choice is clear.

We need leaders who understand the scale of Labour’s General Election defeat and what our response to that catastrophe needs to be.

We need leaders who understand that we have to position ourselves to win the next General Election, not for the sake of winning but because we have to deliver for all those people who needed a Labour government and didn’t get one on May 7.

That means choosing candidates capable of reaching out to voters, all voters, in order to build the coalition of support necessary to win.

It also means that the Labour Party has to do the same; to look outwards rather than in at itself, building relationships and dialogue with the communities it wants to represent.

That’s why I’m supporting Liz Kendall for leader. She is the only candidate for this post who understands the scale of the challenge and what needs to be done to get Labour back on track.

Liz would put the country first.

It’s also why I’m supporting our own local MP, Caroline Flint, for Deputy Leader. Caroline is a hard-hitting, straight-talking politician who is capable of building a strong, honest relationship with the new leader, whoever that may be.

In Caroline, we would have a Deputy with a tireless enthusiasm for the job in hand and a fearless campaigner.

This is a personal set of choices and members will make their own decisions, of course.

For me, however, it is a wonderful thought that Labour could make history on September 12 by putting two strong, capable women at the helm, two women who I know could transform Labour and make it once again a real force for progressive change.

* Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge