The Labour leadership contest has generated a lively debate over the direction of our party and our role in Britain’s future.
There are now 300,000 Labour Party members, the highest level in 15 years, and a further 300,000 registered and affiliated supporters. In Bristol West we have over 3,000 members and supporters, a threefold increase since the start of the year. Increased membership makes our party stronger, bringing forth new energy, ideas and insights. With a committed and active base we can make a real difference in pushing back against the Tory government’s reckless and damaging policies.
I am particularly pleased that so much of the increase in membership is due to younger people engaging in politics, many for the first time in their lives. The graph below shows the number of new members and supporters in Bristol West by age:
47 percent of the total are under 35. The rate of turnout in elections among younger people has, in the past, been worryingly low. If the Labour Party is inspiring a large number of young people to get involved in politics then that will be of huge benefit to our democratic process.
In Bristol West we have been actively campaigning all over the constituency since the election in May. We have changed our approach – no longer just asking people to vote for us but seeking their feedback on political issues, their thoughts on anything happening in their local area, and their views on what Labour’s priorities should be. We’ve had members new and old take part in these sessions and the response from people on the doorstep has been brilliant. The potential is there for Labour to be a powerful campaigning force going into next year’s local elections and beyond, and that’s a hugely exciting prospect.
As a stronger campaigning party we’re better placed to inspire hope for a better future: a future where there are enough affordable homes; where those in work do not have to live in poverty; where young people have opportunities to fulfil their aspirations; and where public services and infrastructure are adequately funded to provide for the needs of all.
But to do this, we need to be united, whatever the outcome of the leadership election. All of us in the movement stand for the same thing: a society in which collective endeavour ensures that a person’s prospects do not depend on luck or privilege. The next few years present major challenges but also unique opportunities that we should not lose sight of. Disunity and intrigue have cost Labour dearly in the past: we need to stay focused on our duty to those who are suffering at the hands of this government.