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Lets move on, say Labour hopefuls

Labour's five leadership candidates have used a televised debate to distance themselves from the Blair/Brown era.

In a clear sign of the shift in atmosphere within Labour, the hopefuls were happy to describe themselves as "socialist" when they appeared in the Sky News debate.

They were also ready to acknowledge failings in the Labour administrations of the past 13 years.

David Miliband said it was "too top-down, too much about one man - first of all Tony, then Gordon", while his brother Ed said that New Labour had become "stuck in the past" on issues such as low pay, civil liberties and the special relationship with the US.

Ed Balls said New Labour had "lost its way in the second term, because we got into an argument that said 'private good, public bad'", while Andy Burnham said the party had pursued a "top-down, controlling, elitist, London-centric" style of politics which he wanted to end.

Diane Abbott said mistakes like the Iraq War had overshadowed Labour's positive achievements, including investment in schools and hospitals.

Asked what would be the defining idea behind their leadership, David Miliband cited the training of activists to become community leaders, Ed Miliband said the replacement of university tuition fees with a graduate tax, Ms Abbott suggested a new programme of council house building, Mr Balls offered the construction of 100,000 affordable homes and Mr Burnham pointed to the introduction of a Land Value Tax to replace stamp duty and council tax.

Voting slips in the postal ballot were sent out to MPs, MEPs, party activists and union members on Wednesday, and the identity of the new leader will be announced in Manchester on September 25 ahead of the annual conference.

Mr Blair himself has declined to endorse any of the contenders and promised to support whoever is elected "100%".

But commentators who suspect him of favouring front-runner David Miliband will note that he praised him as "a quite remarkable guy".

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