Gould hits at party silence

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(First Edition)

LABOUR leaders will lose the next general election if they continue playing the 'silly politics' of keeping quiet on policy, according to the former shadow cabinet member Bryan Gould.

Addressing a fringe meeting at the party's local-government conference in Glasgow yesterday, he said party strategists thought the policy of staying silent was 'clever politics' but: 'I say it is a mistake.'

He went on: 'If we bring out at the last minute our proposals, as we did on tax in 1992, we are extremely vulnerable and open to misrepresentation, and we will be torpedoed by the firepower of the Tory press, with not enough time to come back and get the record straight.

'It is very silly politics to leave everything to the last minute.'

The former candidate for the Labour leadership, who quit the shadow cabinet over differences on European policy, warned that if Labour failed to give 'positive and sensible' reasons for voting for the party, the public would conclude it had nothing sensible or positive to say. 'When it comes to a general election, piling up the negatives against the Government isn't enough. If negatives were enough we would have won general elections many times.'

Labour was riding high in the opinion polls at the moment, he said, but he warned his audience: 'Opinion polls can melt away very quickly. Unless we give something positive, people are not going to see that need to go out and vote Labour'.

Mr Gould's comments will infuriate the Labour leader, John Smith, who makes a keynote speech on the economy and Europe today, particularly his insistence that the party cannot meet the criteria of the Maastricht Treaty and its goal of full employment. The fresh upset for Mr Smith upstaged a pounds 250,000 donation from the GMB general union to fight the local and European elections.

Mr Smith has had several meetings with John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB, who came close to defeating his 'one member, one vote' reforms at last autumn's Labour Party conference.