Why we should support Richard Burgon for Deputy Leader

A Campaigning Deputy Leader fighting back for local communities, the members and the Labour Party Movement.

By Pascale Mitchell

Bermondsey and Old Southwark Labour Party and Southwark Momentum Steering Committee

In 2015, many members became active in the Labour Party. We didn’t win the election that year, and a leadership election was called. Jeremy Corbyn was the Socialist Campaign Group candidate who struggled to fill his required nominations. Our membership rallied behind him and his campaign because he offered a real hope and a transformative socialist agenda. We need to do the same for Richard Burgon as Deputy Leader in this election.

I campaigned for Jeremy because he wanted to represent my working class community and supported a local rooted campaign, I was involved in, in Bermondsey to save two children’s centres. We all have a similar story to tell share as to why we campaigned for Jeremy. Richard and Jeremy share a passion for supporting international politics, social justice and human rights issues, local and national campaigns and also have a strong commitment to the struggles of those who are oppressed.

Sunday 26th June 2016, Momentum called me as a key contact for Southwark Momentum they wanted to mobilise as many Labour members as they could to meet in Parliament Square, the next day. Ten thousand members of the Labour Party came together in Parliament Square to stand in solidarity and support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Richard Burgon, elected in 2015 to represent the constituency for Leeds East, came out and spoke passionately in defense of the leadership and members. It was a speech that I still talk about and remember today. We need Richard as deputy leader because he really cares about the movement we have been a part of creating and the communities that we want to reach out to.

We have built a strong left movement over the past 4 years. Activists across the country have organised in their communities and amongst one another in their local left groups. We have built the biggest political party in Europe. As we enter the leadership contest we have to elect a strong and committed socialist team. Supporting Richard Burgon for Deputy Leader will ensure that the project of a new kind of politics is continued in the Labour Party.

Our Deputy leader should be one that will:

  • Continue the progressive politics of Jeremy Corbyn’s 2017 and 2019 manifesto.
  • Regain the trust of the voters we lost in the 2019 election.
  • Building a Labour party rooted in communities who have been left behind by 40 years of neo-liberalism, through community organising.
  • Make sure our party is democratised, accountable, transparent and led by the membership.

When we enter politics we have generally been active in our local community, maybe in a Tenants and Residents Association or in a local campaign against cuts to services. Labour is a movement that developed from groups of workers, unions and other groups that felt disenfranchised and needed something that unified them. This same disenfranchisement has been felt during the general election campaign of 2019. In his campaign statement Richard Burgon states “I’d build a campaigning Labour Party rooted in every community”. A campaigning deputy leader will unite the activist base of our Labour movement with the unions. Campaigning against the Tory austerity cuts that affect the poorest people in our country but also the working poor, the young renters, families on zero hour contracts, carers and the disabled.

When our local Southwark Momentum group was formed in 2015 it was originally going to be Southwark and Lambeth Momentum. We met in The Ivy House in Dulwich one evening. It was an inspiring meeting with activists from across a range of local left groups and community based organisations. We had socialist speakers from across our movement. We them spent some time in breakouts discussing local issues and the effects of austerity on local communities. It really was people powered. We shared community organising ideas using post it notes on walls. The group of activists that came was so large we seperated into Southwark Momentum and Lambeth Momentum within a few months. As socialists we collectively contribute to change in society so it is really important that we engage in community organising. Reaching out, listening to what we can do to help our local communities is what we need to focus on. In my community many are facing losing their home, their businesses due to developers building more housing for investment, many of us in our local Labour Party have created a relationship and a trust that we are on their side and want to help their campaigns.

Richard is keen to develop organising and campaigning and engaging active Labour members in these campaigns. This will be key to connecting to the heartlands we have lost and the non voters who have become so disheartened by politics.

The first candidate to come out in support of open selection was Richard Burgon. This shows his commitment to ensuring we continue to democratise our party and he will hold the next leader to account to do this.

British politics were changed forever when Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party. Let’s continue the path to a compassionate, more democratic and equal society. This week Unite the Union backed Richard to be the next Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. This quote by Len Mclusky sums up for me why Richard should be the next Deputy Leader “Unite is also confident that Richard will make a superb deputy to Becky, displaying the qualities that have long been absent from that post – pride in our values, a passion for our party to succeed and, above all, loyalty to their leader.”

Rebecca Long Bailey will lead with her knowledge on policy, her working class voice and strong grounding in economics whilst Richard will be the campaigning Deputy Leader, reaching out to all the communities around the country and making sure they are heard. He will make sure members voices are heard. He will fight for local communities, the members and the Labour Party Movement.

Support Richard and vote for him at your CLP Nomination meetings.