Kendall reaches ballot threshold

Published: Tuesday 9th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Labour leadership hopeful Liz Kendall has claimed the support of the 35 MPs needed to get on the ballot paper as would-be successors to Ed Miliband jockey for position.

The shadow health minister received the endorsement of fellow frontbencher Gloria De Piero, who said the party needed “someone from the new generation of Labour MPs to be making the case for change”.

Her camp said that took her past the required threshold of supporters – though nominations only open today, with MPs given until June 15 formally to give their backing to one of the five declared candidates.

Ms Kendall will join Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh and Jeremy Corbyn for a grilling at the hands of union activists on work issues as well as the future of Britain’s membership of the EU at the annual conference of the GMB union in Dublin.

Bookies’ favourite Mr Burnham – the shadow health secretary – and shadow home secretary Ms Cooper appear on course to comfortably secure the required backing, but shadow international development secretary Ms Creagh and Mr Corbyn, the torchbearer for the left, face more of a struggle.

Yesterday, they took part in a behind-closed-doors hustings for parliamentary colleagues, with contenders in the race to be elected deputy leader making a similar pitch today.

Daily updates of the hopefuls’ progress towards the target are to be published on the party’s website until nominations close on June 15. The date for the would-be deputies is two days later.

One candidate in the crowded field for the number two position – Ben Bradshaw – was boosted by the support of ex-home secretary Alan Johnson.

Mr Johnson, who remains an influential voice in the party, said the former culture secretary had “always been a brave and rational voice within the Labour Party”.

“He is also a brilliant communicator. I worked with Ben and I know just how assiduous, energetic and hard-working he is. These are the qualities we need in a deputy leader,” he said.

Exeter MP Mr Bradshaw, who is playing on his status as the only candidate from outside Labour’s heartlands, said: “I am delighted to have Alan’s support. He is one of our most popular, respected and best loved politicians, someone with the ability to reach out within but also well beyond the Labour family.

“This is what our new leadership team are going to have to do if we’re to have a hope of winning the next election.”

The result of the elections – for the first time based on a one-member-one-vote basis rather than an electoral college giving extra weight to elected politicians and trade unions – will be announced at a special conference on September 12.

GMB delegates are expected to ask the politicians which part of Labour’s general election manifesto they did not agree with, as well as their thoughts on the forthcoming referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

Work-related issues such as zero hours contracts and pay are also likely to be raised.

Mr Corbyn told BBC2’s Newsnight that Labour lost the election because it failed to offer a distinctive economic alternative, instead proposing “austerity light”.

“A lot of the stuff in the Labour manifesto was actually very good. I agreed with most of it. The problem was that the fundamental economic strategy was not that different to what the Conservatives were offering,” he said.

“I just think we weren’t clear enough about what is austerity. It is about reconfiguring our society in the mirror of the wealthy getting wealthier and the poorer getting poorer.

“I think we need to say why we are against austerity and what austerity is actually doing to people in this country. It is enriching the very richest.”

The party should not be ashamed to say taxes needed to rise to fund decent services, he suggested, with those earning £50,000 a year paying “a bit more” and those on six-figure salaries “quite a lot more”.

“There is something deeply unpleasant about a society going forward knowing that in five years’ time there is going to be more poverty, more homelessness, more destitution.”

People had turned to Ukip in “despair”, he said, saying support for the eurosceptic party was “the devil-may-care vote; it’s also motivated to some extent by racism within it”.

Ukip deputy chairman Suzanne Evans said: “Alternatively some Labour MPs are still blinkered, out of touch and in complete denial about real life outside the Westminster bubble.”

Published: Tuesday 9th June 2015 by The News Editor

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