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Cooper joins Labour leadership race

Published 13/05/2015

Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said the party should have a
Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said the party should have a "thorough internal debate"

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has announced she is standing for the Labour leadership.

She joins the race alongside Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham, who also announced his candidacy today.

In an article for the Daily Mirror, Ms Cooper pledged to make life better for families as she threw her hat into the ring to replace Ed Miliband, with the new leader to be announced at a special conference on September 12.

Following last week's disastrous defeat for Labour, Ms Cooper said the party had not given voters enough hope going into the General Election.

The former work and pensions secretary rejected calls to "go back to the remedies of the past" that worked for former prime minister Tony Blair.

Ms Cooper said she wanted Labour to "move beyond the old labels of left and right" and be "credible, compassionate, creative and connected to the day-to-day realities of life".

She wrote: "In the end, Labour didn't convince enough people that we had the answers. They liked a lot of what we had to say, about raising the minimum wage, expanding childcare, cutting tax for low-paid workers and banning bad zero-hours contracts. But for many people it wasn't enough to give them hope and confidence we could match all their ambitions for the future.

"And when there's too little hope, optimism or confidence, the politics of anger, fear and division takes over - that's what the Tories, the SNP and Ukip all exploited and campaigned on in this election.

"The fracturing of politics reflects the fracturing of our country and our communities. Divided between rich and poor, north and south, city and small town. And it leaves Britain a darker, narrower place.

"But that's why Labour needs to be bigger in our appeal, bolder in our ambitions and brighter about the future.

"Going back to the remedies of the past, of Gordon Brown or Tony Blair, won't keep up with the way the world has changed. We need a Labour Party that moves beyond the old labels of left and right, and focuses four-square on the future. Credible, compassionate, creative, and connected to the day-to-day realities of life."

Ms Cooper added: "I don't want to be the next leader of the Labour Party just because there's a vacancy. I want to make life better for Britain's families. It isn't enough to say we can stop bad things happening - we need to show how good we can be for people too."

Earlier, in apparent contrast to Ms Cooper, who is married to ousted former Gordon Brown acolyte Ed Balls, Mr Burnham signalled that he wanted to return the party to the treble election-winning approach adopted under Mr Blair.

The former health secretary said he wanted Labour to "speak for everyone and for the whole country" and address voters' aspirations the way it did in 1997.

In a video message, Mr Burnham also appeared to take a swipe at potential leadership rival Tristram Hunt, who has spoken of the need for the party to appeal to the "John Lewis couple" who shop in smart department stores, as well as its more traditional supporters.

Leigh MP Mr Burnham said: "The party that I love has lost its emotional connection with millions of people.

"The way to get it back can't possibly be to choose one group of voters over another - to speak only to people on zero-hour contracts or only to shoppers at John Lewis."

Mr Burnham's announcement came hours after Labour's ruling National Executive Committee agreed a four-month campaign to find a new leader and deputy leader under the new one-member-one-vote system adopted by the party last year.

A deadline of August 12 has been set for members and supporters to sign up to receive a vote in the election.

Some 30,000 new members have joined in the few days since Mr Miliband's resignation, and unions are expected to mount an intense drive to encourage thousands of their members to become affiliated Labour supporters in order to have a vote.

Earlier, Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite trade union, dismissed claims that Labour lost the General Election because it was too left-wing and said his union would "play its part" in the debate on the party's future.

Under the timetable set out by the NEC, the formal election period will open on Friday.

The Parliamentary Labour Party will stage hustings for the leadership contenders on June 8 and for deputy leadership contenders on June 9, when nominations for both posts open.

Nominations for leader will close at midday on June 15 and for deputy leader at noon on June 17. Ballot papers will be sent out by post on August 14 and polling will close at noon on September 10.

Shadow home affairs minister Diana Johnson appeared to back Ms Cooper, alongside whom she has worked since 2011.

The Labour MP tweeted: "Delighted that @YvetteCooperMP has announced she is standing to be Leader of the Labour Party with a strong message 4 future of country. "

In sharp contrast to Mr Miliband's comments in the election campaign, Ms Kendall admitted Labour had spent too much in the Blair/Brown years.

She told BBC Two's Newsnight: "I think that we were spending too much before the crash but we did not cause the financial crisis, that was global.

"And actually I think what really concerned people was that we seemed too slow to really face up to the challenge, I think that's true in 2010 and in 2015, that we needed to balance the books and live within our means.

"That was the real problem and that was the real reason why people didn't trust us on the economy."

Ms Kendall also said she supports the role of private companies within the NHS if they were playing a role in innovation but stressed that contracting out "vast chunks" of the health service was wrong.

She said: "I don't believe contracting out vast chunks of the NHS to the private sector is the way we're going to make the reforms of the future.

"I do believe it has a role in innovation which we need in the NHS."

She added: "And crucially, you and I and other people watching this are all going to have to do more ourselves to stay fit for longer as we live for longer."

Meanwhile, former health secretary Alan Milburn called for a leader from the new generation of MPs to break with the party's past while criticising Mr Miliband's "ghastly experiment" of the past five years.

He told Newsnight: "I think parties - whether it's the Labour party or the Conservative party - they're perfectly capable of kidding themselves and frankly we've been through a pretty ghastly experiment over these last five years where our offer has been that the public have moved massively to the left following the global financial crisis when actually, when you look at issues like immigration or Europe, arguably they have moved the other way.

"We need a new generation untainted by the past to solve those problems."

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