MPs regroup after election defeat

Published: Monday 11th May 2015 by The News Editor

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Labour MPs will gather for the first time since last week’s general election defeat as one of its early leadership favourites quit the race with a stinging attack on Ed Miliband’s stewardship.

Dan Jarvis – the ex-Army paratrooper seen as an ideal fresh start candidate by many within the party – said he wanted to help rebuild the party but was putting his children before his immediate political career.

He joined the only declared runner – Liz Kendall – and probable rivals Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt in warning a more aspirational approach was needed if there was to be any hope of challenging the Tories for power in 2020.

A slew of senior figures, including former premier Tony Blair, spent the weekend savaging a campaign which saw the party wiped out in Scotland, make no progress elsewhere and left David Cameron back in Number 10 with a Commons majority.

There were also disagreements, ahead of a meeting of the ruling National Executive Committee early this week to draw up a timetable, over whether the leadership contest should be done quickly or given time for a major debate.

Critics of a longer contest say that in 2010 it allowed the Conservatives to set the agenda, but others say there needs to be a thorough debate about the fundamental approach of the party before a leader is chosen.

Mr Jarvis, who held his Barnsley Central seat with an increased majority, said the nature of Labour’s defeat meant the party must “fundamentally question our future direction” and “take our time to reflect, renew and reconnect”.

“It was a judgment on our failure to move out of the comfort zone of critiquing the Tories and instead set out a positive alternative. The Labour Party has no divine right to expect the support of the British people. We have to earn it,” he said.

Echoing demands for a more “aspirational” approach from a stream of critics of a leftward shift under Mr Miliband, he said the party “failed to tap into people’s aspirations with a sufficiently optimistic vision for how Labour would improve their lives”.

Labour allowed the Tories to appear “more serious than us about spreading wealth across the country”, he said.

“Never again can we allow ourselves to be painted as having a problem with people eager to work hard, get on and succeed. They should know that Labour will always be their champion.”

But the MP – who recently remarried after losing his wife to cancer in 2010 and bringing up their young children alone, said while he wanted to be part of the “rebuilding process” he could not take the top job.

“I’m ready to serve in that rebuilding process as part of the Labour team. But I can’t do that as leader at this moment and I won’t be putting my name forward in the coming leadership contest,” he said.

“My eldest kids had a very tough time when they lost their mum and I don’t want them to lose their dad. I need some space for them, my wife and our youngest child right now, and I wouldn’t have it as leader.”

Mr Umunna said he would “play the fullest part I can” while Mr Hunt said he was “definitely thinking about” running for Labour leader – though both ducked direct questions about their intentions.

The Parliamentary Labour Party will start to regroup at a Westminster under the interim leadership of Harriet Harman – who has said she will step down once a new leader and deputy have been elected.

In his statement, Mr Jarvis did not explicitly rule out standing for the number two role.

Published: Monday 11th May 2015 by The News Editor

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