Blairites question Miliband strategy for Scotland and South

Ed Miliband was facing growing questions last night from Labour's Blairite faction over his leadership after the party's mixed performance in last week's elections.

The Labour leader first has to oversee the inquest into the party's catastrophic results in the contests for the Scottish Parliament.

He is also being urged to spell out more clearly his strategy for reaching out to middle-class voters in the South of England after Labour's failure to make headway in the Home Counties.

Mr Miliband yesterday argued that the party had reached a "staging post" in its recovery, while Shadow Cabinet members insisted the English results showed the party was making progress, after Labour gained more than 800 council seats in England.

But figures on the right of the party believe it should have had a greater impact given the grim economic backdrop to the elections.

One leading Blairite said: "Strategically, Labour is completely lost. Ed won the leadership as an insurgent but, now he's there, he doesn't know what to do next. It's all looking very reminiscent of Gordon in 2007 when he finally toppled Tony. They have grabbed control, but now do not know what to do with it."

A shadow minister, who supported David Miliband for the leadership, said: "It was a disappointing performance in the South. Ed Miliband is making progress, but he undeniably is still very much a work in progress."

Mr Miliband suffered a rebuff yesterday when the Scottish Labour Party said it wanted to conduct its review of what went wrong in the elections free of interference from the London leadership. Labour lost every seat visited by Mr Miliband during the election campaign to the Scottish Nationalists.

Mr Miliband returns to Westminster today determined to exploit the growing fissures between the Tories and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners. Labour will today challenge Liberal Democrat MPs to back the Labour Party in a Commons debate condemning the Government's plans to overhaul the National Health Service.

Some of his MPs believe he is focusing too much energy on wooing disaffected Liberal Democrats and too little on winning back former Labour voters who have defected to the Tories. But Mr Miliband's allies are urging the party to hold its nerve. One MP with a southern constituency said: "There is still everything to play for. We shouldn't be too downbeat and we should keep pressing the Lib Dems' soft underbelly."

Yesterday Mr Miliband told BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "People do want us to set out the alternative to this Government. We've got to convince more people about the alternative there is." He said he would spotlight "the squeeze on people's income" as well as "the destruction of many of the things people value, from local policing to the NHS".

Mr Miliband said: "There are big challenges facing this country, we've started to set that out and we will do it more over the coming months."

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