FORMER SHADOW chancellor Ed Balls has described the state of Labour as a “tragedy” ahead of Jeremy Corbyn’s expected victory in the party’s leadership election.
The ex-Morley and Outwood MP echoed concerns raised by former Labour leader Lord Kinnock that the party is facing a long spell out of government unless it takes a major change of direction.
Labour will announce the result of the leadership contest on Saturday with Mr Corbyn expected to comfortably see off the challenge of former shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith.
The result will leave the vast majority of Labour MPs with a leader they have no confidence in and facing the wrath of Corbyn supporters for attempting to unseat him.
But Mr Balls insisted the responsibility for Labour’s fortunes lay in the hands of Mr Corbyn.
He said: “If Labour’s going to win an election you need to win marginal seats. That means you’ve got to appeal to centre ground and centre left voters.
And it’s all very well winning the leadership election - and it looks like Jeremy may well - and being relaxed and having more party members.
“But the opinion polls say Labour is failing disastrously to reach into the centre ground and that has got to become a compelling thing for the leader of the Labour Party and if not then Labour’s going to be stuck as Neil Kinnock said in opposition for a very long time.”
Speaking on the Peston on Sunday programme, Mr Balls added: “It reminds me of past Labour politicians saying the electorate are not getting it but finally they’ll wake up that we’re right. That isn’t how politics works.
“It may give you a cheering audience at a rally but if you want to win elections you’ve got to persuade sceptical voters in the centre ground to trust you and at the moment there is nothing being done to do that and it is a total tragedy.
“It is time to start leading a political party, not a Left movement.”
In the wake of the leadership result, supporters of Mr Corbyn are expected to push for mandatory re-selection of MPs ahead of the next general election in an effort to unseat those who have failed to back him.
A Channel 4 Dispatches on Monday will broadcast evidence that the Momentum group, which supports Mr Corbyn, has been pushing for mandatory re-selection.
Mr Corbyn insisted that MPs would only face a selection process as part of proposed boundary changes which will see some constituencies disappear.
Asked whether it was a veiled threat, Mr Corbyn replied: “It’s not a veiled threat, it’s not a direct threat either, it’s not any kind of threat.
“What it is, is simply describing the process. There are going to be 600 new constituency Labour parties formed, as there will be for other parties, and they will go through a selection process.”
A meeting of Labour’s national executive tomorrow is set to provoke further tensions as the party considers bringing back shadow cabinet elections.
Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts proposed the idea in a move which could have allowed MPs to exert more control over Mr Corbyn.
However, the Labour leader is suggesting that some seats in the shadow cabinet should be elected by party members in a move seen as a further attempt to undermine unsupportive MPs.
Mr Corbyn insisted he would “reach out” to MPs if he is confirmed as party leader on Saturday.