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Labour wrong on business - Cooper

Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper has hit out at Ed Miliband for allowing the party to appear to be "anti-business, anti-growth and ultimately anti-worker".

In a clear attempt to make a break with the previous leadership, the shadow home secretary said it had been a "mistake" for Mr Miliband to try to divide the economy into "predators" and "producers".

She said she would "reset" Labour's relationship with business - dropping the party's opposition to the Government's recent corporation tax cut and promising to set up a business advisory group which she would consult regularly.

"Labour has to show we want to build businesses up not knock them down. We need to reset our relationship with business around a shared vision for building an economy that faces the future," she said in a briefing note to journalists.

"Too often in the past our rhetoric undermined that positive relationship with business, and with the creation of jobs and wealth for the future.

"People knew how we wanted to stop exploitation in the workplace, but not how we'd grow our workplaces to create more jobs and stronger growth.

"They knew we wanted to stop consumers being ripped off, but weren't convinced we also wanted businesses to grow and flourish. We can't let that happen again."

Ms Cooper, who was a senior member of the shadow cabinet throughout the last parliament while her husband, Ed Balls, was shadow chancellor, said the language they used had sent out the wrong message.

"It sounded anti-business, anti-growth and ultimately anti-worker for the many people employed by large companies in the UK," the note said.

Ms Cooper said that she would invite business people to join her new advisory group even if they were not Labour supporters and promised to consult with them on a regular basis.

"There will be dialogue and discussions about what works, rather than rude surprises that backfire," she said.

"Our rhetoric can't be set against the wealth creators and drivers of our future economic growth. We can't be set against business, and too many believed we were."

Ms Cooper is one of four contenders so far to have declared in the race to succeed Mr Miliband and her comments appear to be designed to scotch suggestions that she is the "continuity candidate".

Former business secretary Lord Mandelson warned that the candidates for Labour leadership were too focused on party unity, when they should be taking the difficult decisions needed to make the party electable.

Writing in the New York Times, Lord Mandelson said: " The leadership contenders all fault Labour's strategy under Mr Miliband. They rightly talk about reconnecting with voters, but when they also talk about the need for party unity this sounds like continuity and an unwillingness to make hard policy choices.

"This is a luxury that is not open to them - not if they want to win."

Lord Mandelson warned against comparisons with 1992, when Labour recovered from unexpected defeat to win five years later under Tony Blair.

"Labour then was on an upward trend following a near-death experience," he wrote. "This time, we are headed downward from an unprecedented series of three election victories under Tony Blair, starting in 1997."

Lord Mandelson said Mr Miliband was right to identify inequality as a key election issue, but had failed either to "establish his fiscal credentials" or to explain adequately what he would do about it. Instead, he embarked on an "unconvincing" ideological crusade and seemed "intent on pitting one half of the nation against the other" and "piling taxes on the rich", said the Labour peer.

Mr Miliband's successor will need to convince voters of Labour's "leadership, economic competence and sense of fair play", said Lord Mandelson. While there is no reason to believe voters will never elect a leader to the left of Mr Blair, " they won't sign up for what looks like an ideological vendetta, particularly if they fear becoming undeserving financial casualties of it", he warned.

Former minister Pat McFadden backed Liz Kendall to become Labour's new leader.

He told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "Labour wins when it appreciates wealth creation as well as fair wealth distribution and Labour wins when it gives a positive, hopeful, optimistic story of the country's future as well as just collecting a set of causes and grievances.

"The candidate that I feel most understands that and is most capable of voicing that is Liz Kendall and that's why I'll be nominating her for leadership."

He added: "I think she is the one who most understands the problems presented to us by the depth of the defeat that we suffered two week's ago.

"She was the first one to say 'look we overspent in the run up to the crash, that didn't cause the crash, but it didn't help'. Other candidates have followed her on that."

Former director of public prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer, a newly-elected Labour MP, backed Lord Mandelson's comments.

Asked if he agreed with the peer's comments on continuity, the Labour MP told BBC 2's Newsnight: "I agree with that. I think we can't paper over the cracks. There are no quick fixes here. We need to confront the difficult arguments.

"There is no point in a quick fix which presents itself as unity but isn't unity and to find ourselves in a position where in 2020 we haven't won an election. We need to have that debate. It needs to be an open debate. We have got to be brave enough to ask difficult questions and to see what answers are coming to us from outside our own party."


From Belfast Telegraph