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Cooper snipes at Labour head rivals

Published 31/05/2015

Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper appears on BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show (BBC)
Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper appears on BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show (BBC)

Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper has hit out her rivals with a warning that the party will not win back power simply by "swallowing the Tory manifesto".

In an apparent jibe at the Blairites' favourite Liz Kendall, she sharply criticised "colleagues" who she said seemed to think that because they had lost the general election they had to accept the Tories were right.

She also appeared to take aim at leadership frontrunner Andy Burnham - who warned that Labour had appeared "soft" on benefits claimants - saying it was wrong to "stigmatise" people who were out of work.

Her comments came as interim leader Harriet Harman ruled out calls for whoever wins the contest to succeed Ed Miliband to face a fresh election after three years so that they could be removed if they were not up to the job.

The proposal had been seen to favour Ms Kendall as the least experienced of the candidates who may have had a better chance of winning if she stood again later in the parliament.

Ms Harman also announced that veteran former cabinet minister Margaret Beckett would head up a "truth and reconciliation" inquiry to carry out a detailed analysis of what went wrong in Labour's disastrous general election campaign.

But even as she insisted that the party would not "tear ourselves apart" in the course of the post-mortem, Ms Cooper was mounting a thinly veiled attack on her rivals.

"I will set out ideas for the future that don't just involve swallowing the Tory manifesto and set out a Labour vision for the future," she told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show in comments that were quickly seen as an attack on Ms Kendall.

"I think some of our colleagues in some of the discussions have been thinking that 'OK, because Labour lost the election, therefore what we have to do is say that the Tories were right on things.

"We do have to win back people who voted Tory and win back people who voted Ukip but I don't think that necessarily means just swallowing the Tory manifesto."

She also appeared to take issue with Mr Burnham after he said last week that Labour had appeared to be "soft" on people "who want something for nothing".

Ms Cooper said: "What I won't do is fall in to what I think is a Tory trap of using language which stigmatises those who are not working. I don't think that is about Labour values.

"I think the important thing is to talk about responsibility - responsibility to work, responsibility to contribute - but not to stigmatise those who are unable to work, perhaps because they are too sick or too disabled to do so.

She said that she still backed Labour plans to restore the 50p top rate of tax after it was cut by the coalition in the last parliament to 45p, saying it was "the right thing to do".

While in principle she supported Conservative proposals to cut the benefit cap to £23,000 a year, she said there were problems in practice.

"There is a problem for London where rents have been so much higher and that has an impact on housing benefit," she said.

Mr Burnham, meanwhile, insisted that he was best placed among the candidates to re-connect the party with voters who turned away from them at the general election.

He warned that they could not assume they had hit their "lowest point" and there was a danger that they were becoming "increasingly irrelevant" to the public.

"There is a real challenge out there. Labour has lost its emotional connection with many people," he told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics.

"Obviously in Scotland that much is clear, but in the North and the Midlands too and in the South to Ukip, people look at us and they don't see people that they can relate to. We don't look and sound enough like them.

"I feel that there's been for too long the sense of a metropolitan elite at the top of the Labour Party. Now that is what I will change because that cannot carry on."

Mr Burnham became the first leadership contender to announce that he had the backing of the 35 MPs needed to get his name onto the ballot paper.

A spokesman for his campaign said that eight more MPs from the 2015 intake had given him their support to take his tally so far to 38.

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