Labour leader hopeful Cooper warns party must not swing too far to left or right

Yvette Cooper
Yvette Cooper
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Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper has warned her party against swinging too far to the left or right as she stressed there was a mountain to climb to become electable again.

The shadow home secretary said the party had to “face some hard truths” and acknowledge that it could not repeat the mistakes made under Ed Miliband, but insisted it was wrong to believe that “there needs to be blood on the floor” for Labour to rise again.

Ms Cooper said the party could not afford to “flail about” or “give in to the Tories” but must urgently produce plans to change in order to win elections next year in London, Wales and Scotland.

In an apparent swipe at her main rivals in the leadership race, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham - seen as the unions’ likely choice - and the Blairite Liz Kendall, Ms Cooper said “there is no comfort blanket for us either in Labour victories or Labour defeats of the past” because “the world has changed”.

She added: “Acerbic critiques and the rapid washing of hands won’t make Labour win again. Nor will doing what we’ve done before but shouting that little bit louder.

“We can’t repeat the narrow approach of the last five years. But nor should we think the answer is to swallow the Tory manifesto instead.

“Neither approach will get us the Labour government the country needs in 2020.”

In a blog on the Huffington Post website, she said: “The mountain we now have to climb is high. But there are some who mutter that we should give up.

“That there needs to be blood on the floor for the Labour Party to rise again. That we should swing our party far to the right or far to the left, then fight it out from first principles all over again.

“They believe we simply can’t return to office in under a decade. They advocate, not a 2020 strategy, but a vague plan to win in 2025.

“But that’s no good for Labour, for Britain or for those who depend on progressive change. We can’t fight and win by remaining a narrow party, we have to reach out.

“We don’t need a 2025 strategy - and even a 2020 strategy isn’t good enough. We need a 2016 strategy, a plan to win next year - starting with the Mayor of London, the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament.”

Ms Kendall addressed Westminster journalists at a lunch this week and warned that the party faced extinction unless it moved on from the policies of the Miliband-era and embraced public-sector reform and became more pro-business.

But Ms Cooper said: “We won’t win 2020 through speeches or dinners in Westminster, we’ll win in the sports halls and living rooms, offices and canteens, working men’s clubs and school gates across the country.”

Concerns have been raised within Labour that support in parliament for Mr Burnham and Ms Cooper threatens to squeeze out candidates from the contest, who need the support of 34 other Labour MPs to join the race.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said he would not stand because he had struggled to find the necessary backers and instead threw his weight behind Ms Kendall’s campaign.

Ms Cooper insisted: “I want this debate - about our party, our country - to be as wide and as engaging as possible.

“That means as many people as possible involved in the leadership election, not just a closed-down or polarised contest.”

The shadow home secretary delivered a scathing assessment of the party’s “failed” strategy under Mr Miliband.

“One thing is clear. We cannot repeat the same failed strategy again,” she said.

“We lost votes in many directions. In our target seats, the Tories increased their votes and so did Ukip. Too many swing voters and traditional voters chose anyone but us.

“The assumption that the Lib Dem vote would collapse in our favour was simply wrong.

“Though some switched to Labour in the cities, in market towns and suburbs many more went straight past us, the Tory voters we needed stayed put and our traditional support became thinner.

“Bluntly, not enough people trusted us with their future. Not enough people were convinced we could do the job.”

Ms Cooper’s husband, former shadow chancellor Ed Balls, lost his seat at the election.

In his first interview since being ousted, Mr Balls told the BBC that he and Mr Miliband had failed to persuade people they could be trusted to run the country and suggested the party should have been more “pro-business”.

Mr Balls said: “I wanted to be more pro-business. But I also backed Ed Miliband 100%. He was the leader, I was the shadow chancellor, we both worked very hard and in the end neither he nor I persuaded people, and we have to take our responsibility for that.”