Labour’s Clive Lewis is campaigning to be party leader. And while he may not be the highest profile candidate on the left of the party, there are three key reasons why Labour MPs should give him a place in the leadership race.
Lewis claims to be “a socialist from the same broad tradition of the party” as current leader Jeremy Corbyn, but is unique in putting certain issues at the forefront of his campaign. For example, he insists on:
- Reforming Britain’s democracy, in part via a change to its disproportional voting system.
- Reforming party democracy.
- Media reform.
He would also continue a number of Corbyn-era policies like the green industrial revolution, public investment, and internationalism.
1) Reforming democracy
Labour should have committed itself to changing the voting system decades ago
Britain’s current voting system (‘First Past the Post’) saw the Conservatives get around 43% of votes but about 56% of all MPs in December’s election. Labour (and other parties), meanwhile, would have won more seats in a more proportional system. A recent poll showed that 76% of Labour Party members now believe the party should back calls for a more proportional electoral system. And Lewis has been at the forefront in demanding change for some time.
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"We must come out in favour of Proportional Representation – not only because it is the fairest way to elect a parliament, but also because it will put into practice our fundamental belief in the value of collaboration and cooperation."
— Make Votes Matter (@MakeVotesMatter) January 10, 2020
He has also spoken out about the House of Lords and the monarchy, calling for public consultation:
On Sunday I’ll unveil my manifesto, including a policy for a Constitutional Convention. This will give the British people an opportunity to discuss a written constitution, PR, the House of Lords & the Royal Family. I want the public to be more involved in our democracy, not less.
— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) January 10, 2020
— Mirror Politics (@MirrorPolitics) January 10, 2020
2) Reforming the Labour Party
Lewis is seeking to reform Labour’s internal democratic structures, and its relationship with progressive forces outside the party too.
Regarding the former, he has insisted that:
Corbyn’s first promise as leader was never fulfilled. The party was never democratised on the scale or to the extent that members were led to expect – they were never empowered to campaign, select candidates or determine policy on the scale that was required. This must now change.
He has spoken specifically about Labour’s decline in Scotland, saying:
It is not for me as an English MP to dictate to Scotland what that form of government should be, Labour should not oppose a second referendum if there is a mandate to hold one. https://t.co/3lB8GCv0mi
— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) January 9, 2020
Clive Lewis: :”Nor should any English party dictate to the Scottish. Scottish Labour, like Welsh Labour, should have full autonomy from the English – free to decide their views on fundamental questions like support for independence.” https://t.co/qHr2o9lyEB
— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) January 9, 2020
For years, I’ve championed the need to build progressive alliances both inside and outside the Labour Party, to construct the broadest coalition of people to work together on issues we can agree on. The global rise of the far right is facilitated in part through their exceptional organisation. Progressive forces in the UK need to modernise and do the same.
And he’s promised:
I would prioritise building these alliances and putting aside our futile tribalism.
He says Labour must “modernise or die”, adding:
I’m standing because I see a party in crisis and democracy in crisis
3) Media revolution
The establishment media played a key role in defeating Corbyn. And Lewis is fully aware of the need to reform the media, having worked as a journalist himself in the past. He has reserved particular criticism for the BBC. In 2018, he said:
Over the last three decades I believe that the BBC’s independence has slowly been diminished, its programme making increasingly commercialised, and its editorial culture [has become] increasingly conservative.
Labour must give Lewis a platform
Lewis is also an army veteran, although he’s “sceptical about Trident renewal” and committed to tackling the “root causes” of conflicts (i.e. injustice and capitalism). As Boait stressed, meanwhile, he would actively tackle the right’s scapegoating of immigrants and all-too-common reliance on racist dog whistles. And he has been strong on the climate emergency:
We are in the midst of a climate emergency, and yet the Government acts as if it's business as usual. Our very future is at risk. We must act now. A #GreenNewDeal must be at the very heart of any campaign to become leader of the Labour Party ✊🏾🌎 pic.twitter.com/waa7vAvxHt
— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) January 7, 2020
Lewis currently lacks enough support from Labour MPs to participate in the leadership contest. And there are a couple of past controversies which have long been resolved but may put them off. But if Labour wants to remain relevant as a political force, it desperately needs to tackle the issues of democracy in the country, the party, and the media. So putting Lewis in the race is an absolute must.
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