Labour urged to talk to opposition voters

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman at Labour HQ in London,  speaking about how Labour would move on from an election defeat. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 18, 2015. The next Labour leader must be able to appeal to the general public rather than just party loyalists, Harriet Harman said as she criticised the process that led to Ed Miliband's election. The deputy Labour leader said the party had asked itself the wrong questions, deciding "who do we like" rather than "who does the country like" in previous contests. See PA story POLITICS Labour. Photo credit should read: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire
Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman at Labour HQ in London, speaking about how Labour would move on from an election defeat. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 18, 2015. The next Labour leader must be able to appeal to the general public rather than just party loyalists, Harriet Harman said as she criticised the process that led to Ed Miliband's election. The deputy Labour leader said the party had asked itself the wrong questions, deciding "who do we like" rather than "who does the country like" in previous contests. See PA story POLITICS Labour. Photo credit should read: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire
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HARRIET Harman has warned Labour it must not ignore the view of the voters as she urges the party to select a leader with mass appeal.

Acting leader Mrs Harman has spoken out the day after the UK’s biggest union boss said he would axe party funding if “the right candidate” was not chosen.

In a speech setting out her thoughts on the new leader, Mrs Harman told the party it must not simply pick a candidate who appeals to Labour insiders.

She said: “There is one lesson we can and must heed right away. When it comes to elections the public are the boss. We do not question their decision. We heed it.”

Seeking a sign that the party is prepared to shift its focus onto the changes needed, Mrs Harman said the leadership contenders should take their battle to the place where Labour lost.

“We cannot just hold hustings in our Labour heartlands,” she said.

“We have to go to areas where we didn’t win. Because ultimately we are electing the team that we think can lead not just the party but lead the country. And that must be our guiding thought.

“Last time our hustings - in front of Labour members - were in cities where Labour won. We must have those hustings now in towns and suburbs where Labour lost.”

Tensions over the future of the party burst into the open over the weekend after Jim Murphy declared he was resigning as Scottish leader and delivered a stinging parting shot at Unite boss Len McCluskey as a political “kiss of death”.

Mr McCluskey hit back by arguing that the “arrogance” of Blairites such as Mr Murphy was to blame for the failure on May 7.

He warned the union could consider cutting ties with Labour if the next person in the top job was not the “voice of ordinary people”.

In response to Mr Murphy’s attack on Mr McCluskey, Mrs Harman said: “We have had a bitter defeat, we have had a thumping in Scotland. It would be very surprising if some people didn’t, from time to time, express an exasperation and frustration and anger.

“These things will be said but we are going to try and keep cool heads and we are certainly not going to change the process and are going to press on.”

Labour veteran Frank Field said the party should stop taking money from the trade unions.

The former minister said: “I don’t blame trade unions trying to influence the Labour Party but I think we should be very clear that they are one interest and one interest only.”

He said: “I think we should move to a state where we have no trade union funding whatsoever. That, I think, itself would force the Government to face up to the question about how do we fund political parties.”

Mr Field said the next leader should have a “new conversation with the trade unions”.

“Instead of them appearing to bully us, we should say we have got five things we want you to achieve in this coming parliament,” he said.

Labour should challenge the unions on pushing for the living wage and raising productivity, he said.

“We give them a constructive agenda and get away from this agenda which makes them look as though they are bullying us.”

Yorkshire candidate Yvette Cooper is said to have secured the support of the 35 MPs needed to see her formally go on the leadership ballot.