Labour in crisis: Party ‘needs new vision’

Embattled Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy. Picture: SWNS

Embattled Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy. Picture: SWNS

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THE Scottish Labour Party needs a new vision, new campaigning style and new policies, former leader Jack McConnell has said.

Following the disastrous performance in last week’s election, which left the party with just one MP in the whole of Scotland, Lord McConnell said leader Jim Murphy and deputy Kezia Dugdale should remain in post while there was a full discussion about the way forward.

He warned against “blood-letting and score-settling” and said despite the Holyrood elections being just 12 months away, the party needed “a period of reflection”.

He said: “We are not going to change the situation politically 
in Scotland by running headlong into another bundle of 
slogans and tactical choices.

“One of the problems with the Scottish Labour Party over the past eight years is every single discussion we have had after an election defeat has been based on false premises and has not been genuine in the way it has looked at the result and how we need to move forward.”

Lord McConnell – who was first minister for five-and-a-half years up to 2007 – said Scottish Labour had “three massive problems that have been a long time brewing”.

He said: “We do not express a modern, ambitious vision for Scotland and we have been completely overtaken by the Scottish National Party in that regard.

“We have a style of campaigning that is not working – we’re losing time after time again because the SNP has a far more professional and modern style of campaigning.

“And we need a whole new set of policies – that means a blank sheet of paper, looking at modern Scotland and at not just the economy but our public services and what needs to happen to make them better.”

He said it was “too simplistic” to say that in Scotland the party needed to move to the left. The SNP had won both Labour and Conservative heartlands, he said. “They are appealing left, right and centre.”

Mr Murphy, who only became Scottish Labour leader in December, has resisted calls for him to step down in the wake of the election result, saying the party needs continuity.

Meanwhile, Lothian MSP Neil Findlay has resigned from Labour’s frontbench at Holyrood so he can take part in the “full, frank, open and democratic debate” he said was needed to take the party forward.

He made clear he had no intention of standing himself for the leadership or deputy post. But he said: “Radical solutions are needed. A centralised fix just won’t do.”

Chuka Umunna: ‘We didn’t appeal to the aspirational electorate’

LABOUR shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna has said the party did not appeal enough to aspirational voters in the election.

The London MP, who has emerged as one of the early favourites to succeed Ed Miliband as Labour leader, said: “In my view the Labour Party succeeds and does best when it marries together its compassion for people who can’t provide for themselves – the vulnerable or the poor – with others’ ambition and drive and aspiration to get on and do well. For middle income voters there wasn’t enough of an aspirational offer there.”

His comments came after former New Labour strategy chief Lord Mandelson accused Mr Miliband of throwing away a genuine chance of returning the party to power by a “terrible mistake” of shifting the party to the left.

Lord Mandelson said the party leader had delivered “a passionate and a professional performance” in the campaign but had seriously misjudged the public mood.

He said: “The awful, shocking thing about this election is that Labour could have won it or at least come a very near second. The reason we lost it, and lost it so badly, was because in 2010 we discarded New Labour rather than revitalising it and re-energising it and making it relevant for new times that we faced.

“That was a terrible mistake.

“Literally we were sent out and told to make an argument – if you can call it an argument – which basically said ‘we are for the poor, we hate the rich’, ignoring completely the vast swathe of the population who exist in between who do have values like ours.”

Shadow health minister Liz Kendall, declaring herself a candidate for the leadership, said Labour had failed to win people’s trust on the economy or give them confidence in the future.

She said: “I’ve argued for quite a long while that we’ve got to set out something positive and not just be the kind of moaning man in the pub.”

Asked if she agreed with Lord Mandelson that it had been a mistake to ditch New Labour, she said: “Going back to the past isn’t what we need. We’re going to have to build something genuinely new in the future.

“But if what he meant is we’ve got to keep our working class voters and support but also reach out to Conservative supporters and middle England, that’s absolutely right. That’s just a fact that that’s what you’ve got to do to win and I think we lost some of that.”

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, another likely contender, also criticised the campaign.

He said: “I think there was a hesitation about Labour being proud and optimistic about the modern country we live in. Sometimes we told too many stories about a downhearted Britain, and zero hours.

“Ed Miliband’s great achievement was to address the inequality issue, but this is also a wonderful, optimistic country which I think we needed to say more about.”