Labour must return to ‘aspirational Blair years’, say senior party figures

By David Feeney,

Former Labour ministers Alan Johnson and Ben Bradshaw say party’s next leader should embrace former PM’s success

Labour must re-establish itself as the champion of aspirational voters, as it was during the Blair years, if it is to regain power, senior members of the party have said in the wake of its overwhelming election defeat.

The former home secretary Alan Johnson said on Saturday the next Labour leader must embrace the success of Blair, who led the party to three election victories. And the Blairite former culture minister Ben Bradshaw said the party and its next leader needed to “celebrate our entrepreneurs and wealth creators and not leave the impression they are part of the problem”.

Their comments came as the former minister David Lammy became the first Labour MP to link himself with the top role.

Johnson, who ruled himself out of the running, said Labour faced a 10-year task to reconnect with southern voters in marginal areas, such as Thanet and Hastings, who no longer saw them as the party of aspiration, a reputation won by Blair.

The former minister, who served under Blair and Gordon Brown, spoke after the former cabinet minister John Hutton urged Labour to skip a generation of MPs in its search for a leader, and to pick a younger challenger who could make the opposition an electoral threat to the Tories.

Johnson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is a kind of 10-year task as well, this is a job for the future. And whilst I didn’t hear all of John Hutton’s interview, where he was absolutely right is we need to have a proper rethink about where we’re going as a party, not just imagine that it was because Ed Miliband was leader or because the way he ate a bacon sandwich or whatever, was the problem. It’s a much deeper problem I think we have to resolve.

“The issue of aspiration in people’s lives; we can no longer relate to them as a party of aspiration. And that was one of the big successes that won us three elections.”

Johnson criticised Labour’s strategy of talking down its 13 years in government under Blair and then Gordon Brown, and suggested the party should embrace those years.

Asked whether Labour still had a problem with Blairites and Brownites arguing over the direction of the party, he said: “You might well be right. I mean it’s an incredible thing now that I was part of a successful government that did really good things, but you’d think that Tony Blair had lost us three elections, not won us three elections, it’s almost de rigeur now not to mention his name.

“That is a fundamental flaw as well because David Cameron had to prove that we would fail in government. If we’re helping him by suggesting that we failed in our 13 years in government it’s not going to do us much good.”

Bradshaw, the MP for Exeter, also called for the party to reconnect with its years in power.

Writing about Labour’s disastrous election defeat on his blog, Bradshaw, who failed to get a place in Miliband’s shadow cabinet, urged the party to convince voters it could be trusted to manage the economy as well as champion social justice.

He wrote: “People want a fairer, better Britain, but they also need to have confidence in the ability of a government to manage the economy competently. We need our party and next leader to celebrate our entrepreneurs and wealth creators and not leave the impression they are part of the problem. Economic competence combined with social justice. We learned that lesson finally, surely, after 18 years in the wilderness between 1979 and 1997.”

Lammy, the MP for Tottenham who served as a minister under Blair and Gordon Brown, said on Saturday he was prepared to stand for the leadership, despite having already joined the race to be Labour’s candidate in the London mayoral election next year.

Lammy told BBC Breakfast that “for people like me it’s absolutely time to step up into a leadership role”.

“Now, I have been thinking very, very carefully and indicating that I want to seek the Labour nomination for London mayor”, he told the broadcaster.

“But actually, putting together that team, now that we have a proper race to lead the party, of course, me and others are looking very carefully at who is the best leader and if colleagues come to me over the coming days and say ‘look, David, why don’t you put your [hat in]’ I will look at it.”

In his resignation speech, Miliband said he took complete responsibility for the party’s disastrous general election, which saw Labour nearly wiped out in Scotland by the SNP surge and fail to advance in the rest of the UK, handing David Cameron a majority government. He posed for pictures with his family outside their home in London on Saturday.

Labour’s national executive committee will meet early next week to set a timetable for a contest to replace both Miliband and the deputy leader, Harriet Harman, who will quit that post after steering the party through the interim period.
Some in the party have urged a swift contest to deny the Tories a chance to define the wider political agenda, but others – including Tristram Hunt, a potential candidate – have urged a longer period of reflection.

Among others tipped to throw their hats in the ring include Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall and ex-soldier Dan Jarvis – all of whom have been in the Commons for five years or less.

Culled from The Guardian UK http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/09/alan-johnson-labour-aspirational-voters-tony-blair







I am an experienced Social Media practitioner with a strong passion for connecting with customers of brands. As part of a team, I presently work on the social media account of a leading European auto company. On this job, I have brought my vast experiences in journalism, marketing, search engine optimisation and branding to play.