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Labour hopefuls set out their stall

Published 29/05/2015

Andy Burnham says aspiration is for everyone, not just those who shop at John Lewis
Andy Burnham says aspiration is for everyone, not just those who shop at John Lewis

Labour's main leadership hopefuls have hit the campaign trail as they continue to fight it out in the battle to succeed Ed Miliband.

Rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall set out their stall in a series of events to try to generate the support they need to make it on to the ballot paper.

Mr Burnham and Ms Kendall, who were both special advisers before they became MPs, made play of their non- privileged backgrounds in their pitch to win over party members.

In a speech in central London, the shadow health secretary emphasised his humble roots, insisting his background as a comprehensive school boy who went to Cambridge epitomised Labour's ethos.

The frontrunner said too few had seen the general election "punch" coming that left Labour with a "monumental headache".

It had not yet cleared, he said, and he warned against getting back into the boxing ring before an honest appraisal had taken place.

"Politicians make a terrible mistake when they try to compartmentalise the voters, speaking only to those in parts of the country or those who frequent certain shops," he said.

"Aspiration is not reserved only for those who shop at John Lewis. It is universal, it is felt just as keenly by Asda and Aldi shoppers too, perhaps even more so.

"The difference is this - the odds of people actually achieving those aspirations varies greatly from one person to another, depending on the postcode of where they were born.

"Some still have the odds stacked against them. This is - when it all comes to down it - why I became a politician and why I am standing before you this morning applying for this job.

"It is because of that sense of injustice which I felt when I finally arrived at Cambridge, when I finally got my first job in publishing and then when I arrived in Westminster.

"Connections and background too often count for more than talent and hard work.

"So in this contest when people ask me what will the Labour Party you lead be for, my answer will be simple - to help everyone get on."

Ms Kendall, a shadow health minister, drew on her own roots as "a state school girl from Watford" who rose to become an MP in 2010.

"I recognise some people might think it's audacious to suggest that I might lead our party," she said.

But she added that while education had opened doors for her, those same doors remained shut for "far too many fellow citizens".

"I'm standing here today with an extraordinary request - to elect me as the leader of our party - not because my background is extraordinary," she said.

"I meet children here in Leicester and look into their eyes and talk to them about their futures and know that the barriers that stand in their way are so high, and their capacity to scale them with the hand that life has dealt them is so small.

"I know how difficult the future is for them in a world that is so unforgiving of those without skills.

"And I know that all of us who are responsible for their education are betraying their futures with our failures."

She set out plans to recruit businesses, charities, universities, volunteers and parents to "play a bigger role in helping to raise standards and achievement".

Ms Cooper warned Labour had been left behind and urged the party not to become mired in its past woes.

During an event at Tech City in London, the shadow home secretary said: " In a digital world, Westminster politics is stuck in an analogue age. And Labour just got left behind.

"People want to feel ambitious for their future, not fearful about what tomorrow will bring. Yet, in the end, Labour couldn't convince enough people we would deliver the jobs, business growth, opportunities or the security they wanted in future.

"We couldn't reassure those who felt threatened by change, nor could we convince those who wanted to be optimistic for their children that we had a strong enough plan. In the end, the messages of fear, of division and of blame were louder - they won, we lost.

"And it would be the biggest mistake of all to seek comfort in past victories or defeats. We can't get sucked back into replaying Miliband v Miliband, Blair v Brown, or trying the old campaign playbooks from the 1990s or the Noughties. Britain has moved on. We need answers for tomorrow, not yesterday."

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