A leading former cabinet minister has branded Labour's general election campaign a “pale imitation” of Neil Kinnock's losing operation in 1992, and warned it could deliver the same disappointing result.
Alan Milburn, a leading Blairite and former health secretary, said that Labour had made a “fatal mistake” by focusing its campaign on extra funding for the NHS without outlining plans to deliver the reforms that the services needs.
Milburn's comments come as the Westminster parties laid out their main campaigning platforms with just 100 days to polling day.
While the Conservatives are focusing on the economy and welfare, Labour plans to win the election by making pledges surrounding the NHS, and taxing those who are financially better off. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems promise to bridge the gap between the austerity of the Tories and Labour's "reckless" spending proposals.
The seats that will decide the election - Top 20
But Milburn accused the Labour party of sticking too closely to its “comfort zone”, and said it did not appear ready to take on the difficult challenges it would face in government.
“There is a risk that Labour's position on the National Health Service becomes almost an emblem for Labour showing an unwillingness to lean into a difficult reform agenda. The Labour Party is not a conservative party, it should be about moving things forward, not preserving them in aspic,” he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.
“I think the biggest risk for Labour on health - and, indeed, more generally - is that we could look like we are sticking to our comfort zone but aren't prepared to strike out into territory that, in the end, the public know any party of government will have to strike out into which is to make some difficult changes and difficult choices," he added.
He went on to compare Labour's campaign strategy to Neil Kinnock's in 1992, when the Tories enjoyed a surprise victory under then-leader John Major.
“You have got a pale imitation actually of the 1992 general election campaign, and maybe it will have the same outcome. I don't know,” he said.
“It would be a fatal mistake, in my view, for Labour to go into this election looking as though it is the party that would better resource the National Health Service but not necessarily put its foot to the floor when it comes to reforming.”
But shadow social care minister Liz Kendall rejected his claims, and said that shadow health secretary Andy Burnham had set out far-reaching proposals for integrating health and social care.
“I have a great deal of respect for Alan Milburn, I really do, but I think he is just plain wrong on this issue,” she told The World at One.
“We need major reforms to reset our health and care services so they fit for the 21sth century and fit for dealing with very old, very frail people. That is the big challenge for reform.”
Additional reporting by PAReuse content