Miliband ‘must decide on future’

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Published: Friday 8th May 2015 by The News Editor

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Ed Miliband should consider his position as Labour leader after presiding over a “depressing” performance in the General Election, Jack Straw suggested.

The former Cabinet minister said the party faced “a desperate situation in Scotland and a pretty depressing situation in England and Wales” as David Cameron appeared poised to remain in No 10.

Asked if Mr Miliband would have to resign, he told Sky News: “It is for Mr Miliband to make up his mind about his future.

“My advice to everybody, particularly against what is depressing news, is to take a deep breath, to go to bed and then spend two or three days assessing where we go next.

“What we want to do is make sure, over the next months and years, the Labour Party is in a winning position and has not been set back in the way we were by that first six months (after the 2010 election) which we wasted on internal contemplation.”

Labour’s deputy election chief Lucy Powell said it was too early to discuss Mr Miliband’s leadership of the party as she conceded it was facing “a very disappointing result for us in Scotland in particular”.

She admitted that a SNP surge that threatened to wipe the party out north of the border “looks like it is going to help David Cameron”, as one senior party figure raised the prospect of the Tories securing an overall majority.

Asked if he could remain leader, she told the BBC: “We are still very premature here in the evening. We have lots of results still to come. We will see how the night goes.”

“What we are seeing tonight – and it is obviously a very disappointing result for us in Scotland in particular – is that people in Scotland thought and think that they can vote SNP and get rid of David Cameron.

“But voting SNP in Scotland looks like it is going to help David Cameron.

“There are still seats (in England) we are confident we will win so let’s see how that plays out.”

As senior figures such as Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander were toppled by the SNP and the Tories held top Labour target seats with increased majorities, David Blunkett said he feared Mr Cameron could even secure an overall majority.

“I believe that the opinion polls were wrong and the exit polls were right and that it is a very, very bad night for us,” he told Sky News

Polls showed the parties neck-and-neck throughout the campaign while the exit poll forecast 316 seats for the Tories – 10 short of the number needed for an absolute majority – with Labour predicted to secure just 239 – 17 fewer than their tally at the start of the campaign.

But Mr Blunkett, who stepped down from the Commons at the election, said results such as the key Labour target of Nuneaton – where the Conservatives not only held on to the seat but increased the majority – suggested the final result could be worse still.

“My greatest fear now is that, with the Nuneaton result and others, that actually nudge over the 323 seat margin,” he said.

“If they don’t, and I pray that they don’t, then all other parties can stop them implementing some of the terrible policies they have laid out on welfare and tax cuts for the rich.”

He added: “It’s a terrible shame for the country and for the Labour Party and I just want to make it clear that instead of this weekend us going into a kind of bunker, we have got to really examine these results very carefully indeed and we have got to learn the lessons, reaching out with what Ed Miliband himself called 18 months ago ‘one nation’ politics.

“We must not revert to the far left. We must not allow ourselves to turn inwards. We must try to heal the hurt that people will be feeling and, above all, we should be gathering wherever we can, support in the House of Commons.”

There was criticism of the leadership from John Mann, who is defending the safe seat of Bassetlaw.

“Can’t say that Labour leadership weren’t warned repeatedly – those who even bothered to meet that is. Never hurts to listen,” he wrote on Twitter.

“In 1983 immediately after election I wrote, ‘The left that listens is the left that wins’. It remains true today.”

Another ex-cabinet minister, Tessa Jowell, said there were “lessons that the Labour Party has to draw from the sheer scale by which the Scottish people have turned away”.

Asked if Mr Miliband could remain leader, she told the BBC: “You can’t lay all this on Ed Miliband.

“What has happened in Scotland to Labour has not just happened in the last three of four years.

“We do not need a new leader and this is not the time to talk about whether we need a new leader or not.

“What we need is to understand, if the exit poll is borne out, why our expectations were so wide of the mark in relation to the actual result.”

Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock said: “If it continues like this it’s one of great disappointment, not so much for the party, but for what it means for millions of people in Britain.”

Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint acknowledged results were “disappointing” but said Mr Miliband had been “great during this campaign” and the policy agenda he set out had gained “traction with the British public”.

She accused Conservatives of using “scare tactics” against him by raising concerns over the possibility of a coalition with Scottish nationalists.

Ms Flint told Sky News: “Whoever forms the government after tonight, their first job is going to be to unite the country, because it has been very divisive and I think the SNP and David Cameron have to take some responsibility for that.”

Labour’s former Cabinet minister Peter Hain, who stood down at the election, said there had been “a big, big revolt against the political class”, with the SNP and Ukip the beneficiaries, adding that “Labour has to learn the lessons from that”.

Mr Hain said: “This is devastating for us in Scotland, where an avalanche happened and swept us aside.”

Published: Friday 8th May 2015 by The News Editor

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