In just 10 weeks’ time, the Labour party will have a new leader.
Jeremy Corbyn, who revived the party and made so many people who had given up on politics take another look at Labour, will step down and the new leader will take over.
Whoever takes over the reins of the party will be facing a sterner challenge than any Labour leader of recent times. The party has been undeniably divided for the past five years and those divisions have played into the hands of those who were opposed to the transformative vision the party was offering. Ultimately, we paid the price for this disunity and we lost the faith of many of those who need us the most.
The new leadership team will need to re-energise our core voters and win back those who have turned away from the party, all while facing down an emboldened Conservative party led by Boris Johnson.
The only way Labour will be able to achieve all of this is if we create a credible transformative government-in-waiting with senior figures in the party all pulling in the same direction. Working-class communities cannot afford another decade of Tory rule and, as deputy leader, I would not allow that to happen. It was more than a decade ago that I became the first black woman to speak at the Commons dispatch box, when I was minister for young citizens and youth engagement.
It is easy to talk the talk of unity but I have walked the walk, serving under two Labour prime ministers and Corbyn, always using my platform to fight for working people and disadvantaged communities rather than engage in infighting.
A lot has been said about identities in these leadership elections.
As shadow secretary of state for women and equalities, I am well aware of the power of representation, and the value of marginalised groups seeing people who look like them and who share some of their life experiences in the corridors of power.
I would meet any organisation that wishes to work with me in eradicating the scourge of antisemitism
But without the right policies, and the resolve to carry them out, identity is just a PR exercise. To paraphrase Gary Younge, we want equal opportunities, not photo opportunities. I am a working-class, black, female trade unionist, but the reason I’m hoping that Labour members elect me in April is because they see that I have the right vision for how a campaigning deputy leader should serve the party and the experience and determination to deliver.
The deputy leader of the Labour party should be neither an unquestioning cheerleader for the leader nor a public rallying point for those who wish to undermine or overthrow the leader. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: my focus would be to prepare our party for power by rooting it at the heart of communities, whether in those rural and small towns we lost across the country, or in our inner-city heartlands.
In the Labour party, our diversity is our strength. I’m so proud that 51% of our MPs are female and that we have more BAME MPs than all other parties combined. But we can go further and I would champion diversity in all its forms in our party to ensure all our diverse communities have their voices heard.
On day one of a Labour government, as deputy leader, my priority would be to ensure the repeal of draconian anti-trade union legislation. The workplace needs to be fit for the 2020s and I would campaign to bring in more flexible working and to ban zero-hours contracts, which often result in lower-income workers being exploited, without holiday, sickness or maternity provision.
As deputy leader, I would continue to engage proactively with unions, which are at the forefront of campaigns to protect workers’ rights. When I was a trade union officer, I developed the Core strategy (campaign, organise, recruit and educate) with the TUC and believe this will be the basis of our fightback.
I would develop a comprehensive organiser programme rooted in communities from the south-west to Scotland to take community activism to the next level. I would ensure there were more organisers actively working on the ground than ever before to rebuild trust across the country and to win local councillors, mayors, assembly members, police and crime commissioners and more.
At the last election, I worked with members, campaigners, faith groups and union members to develop Labour’s race and faith manifesto, which demonstrated how much we value faith and our commitment to ensuring we strengthen every community’s right to practise religion free from persecution. I am committed to championing policies that value and accept all communities and their freedoms.
I have pledged to implement in full the recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. That we are the only party (other than the BNP) to be investigated by the EHRC brings shame upon us all.
I would work closely with the Jewish community and organisations to stamp this out once and for all and have offered to meet the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Labour Movement. I would meet any organisation that wishes to work with me in eradicating the scourge of antisemitism from society and the Labour party. I would help Labour develop its policies on immigration reform to ensure we take a moral and ethical stance to support refugees and never repeat the scandals of the Tories’ hostile environment to immigrants and the appalling treatment of the Windrush generation.
My family first came to the UK as part of that same Windrush generation to build a better life for themselves as well as to help build a better country; I will never undervalue Britain’s migrant communities who bring energy and vibrancy to our nation. While the autopsy on what went wrong for Labour last December will take time, this should not stop us from developing a strategy to win. I would hit the ground running. I have the experience to take on the Tories from day one and the credibility to beat them.
That is why, as deputy leader, I have a plan to prepare for power. And as deputy leader I would also work in tandem with whoever Labour members decide to elect as leader as part of a unified team.
Anything less would be letting down the very people we are here to work for.
• Dawn Butler is the Labour MP for Brent South, and the shadow minister for women and equalities