Miliband back amid new criticism
Labour leader Ed Miliband is returning to work following his summer holiday to fresh criticism of the party's performance from one of his own MPs.
The Labour hierarchy was accused by one backbencher of an "almost deafening silence" since MPs left Westminster for the summer.
Former whip Graham Stringer said he was not clear what the party's policies were in key areas such as housing, welfare or education. He even appeared to suggest that Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour, should be asked to take over the party's planning for the 2015 general election.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World this Weekend, Mr Stringer stressed there was no challenge to Mr Miliband's leadership but added: "The real worry is the almost deafening silence there has been from the shadow cabinet in a time of the year which is traditionally a ripe time for the opposition to attack the government.
"While the Government are on their holidays and thinking about other things, the opposition has always used that as a way to put policies into the public's mind and to have a go at anywhere the Government has failed. I think the party is genuinely worried about the lack of activity in the shadow cabinet."
The Blackley and Broughton MP added there was a "lack of coherence and cogency" in Labour policies. "It's not quite clear what our policies on welfare are, what our policies on housing are, what our policies on education are. Although I don't expect Ed Miliband and other members of the shadow cabinet to write out precisely what is going to be in our manifesto in 20 months' time, I do expect the public should be told, and the party should be able to support, very clear and coherent policies."
He said the unity that had been portrayed within the Parliamentary Labour Party since the election was "a bit of a mirage" because there were a "lot of different views and there is serious concern across the parliamentary party about what our policies should be".
Mr Miliband is reported to be planning a reshuffle before Labour's autumn conference, and Mr Stringer suggested a prominent figure such as Lord Mandelson could return to play the key election strategy role vacated by Tom Watson. "There's no doubt that when Peter Mandelson held that kind of position in the past the Labour Party was more cogent and coherent in getting its message across," he said. "Whether a) he is willing or b) is the right person now, I don't know. But somebody of his abilities needs to be in that position."
Labour whip Jon Ashworth insisted the party was attacking the Government but agreed it needed to work harder to get its message across. He said the autumn conference would be used to set out the "direction of travel" ahead of the 2015 general election.
Responding to Mr Stringer's concerns, Mr Ashworth said: "On housing, we have talked about the fact that we want to build more housing. On welfare, we want to introduce a job scheme to get people back to work. Do we need to work harder to get our messages across? Of course we do."