Labour 'heading in right direction'

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Indy Politics

Labour's shadow ministers have been forced to defend the party's direction amid claims of arrogance and fears over its finances.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls and the party's deputy leader Harriet Harman used interviews to back leader Ed Miliband and pledge to address voters' worries following Labour's General Election defeat 13 months ago.

Mr Balls said: "We are not arrogant, we are humble. We know we didn't get everything right."

He said Mr Miliband had fought successful council elections in England and the Assembly poll in Wales.

"Every new leader takes time - the same thing happened with Tony Blair and David Cameron," said Mr Balls.

"There's always someone in the party who will say, 'Is it going in the right direction?'

"I actually think on the economy, the NHS and on crime...Ed is leading us in the right direction."

But Mr Balls admitted there was "more work for all of us", claiming the party's policy reviews would involve talking to voters rather than "ourselves".

He told Sky News' Murnaghan programme: "Our party is clear: we are about stability and getting the deficit down, but in a way which creates jobs and works for the long term.

"We're about an economy which is more balanced so we can have more long-term jobs for the future and getting the banking industry to work for our economy.

"It's about an NHS free at the point of use, it's about an education system which isn't only for a minority with only those who can afford to pay going to university.

"But we didn't get everything right, we lost the election. People didn't feel that on housing and immigration we were on their side."

Mr Balls said Labour could learn "lessons from history", admitting the party was too slow in the 1980s to "reassess".

Meanwhile Ms Harman denied the party's heavy debts and reliance on funding from trade unions was a problem.

Ms Harman, whose husband is Labour MP Jack Dromey, a former deputy general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said: "Of course we want more individual donors but...we are very proud of our links with people in the workplace."

But she told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "It's not true (that) we have a huge funding problem. It absolutely isn't. Our outgoings are not more than we have got coming in."

She said the party had recruited 70,000 members since last year's General Election and "was paying off its historic debts "bit by bit".

"The Labour Party is very vibrant and very determined," she claimed.