Labour leadership contest: Liz Kendall under fire from Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper

It was suggested that the Blairite candidate is not experienced enough

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Indy Politics

The Labour leadership battle took an acrimonious turn as Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate in the contest, came under fire from her main rivals.

The early frontrunner, Andy Burnham, suggested she lacked experience for the top job, while Yvette Cooper hit out at “colleagues” who were “swallowing the Tory manifesto” in the contest to succeed Ed Miliband.

Mr Burnham has become the first candidate to announce he had received the 35 nominations required to get on the ballot paper.

Ms Kendall, the shadow Care minister, who has made a strong start to her campaign, is making a virtue of her relatively short experience in the Commons as she pitches herself as the “change candidate”.

But Mr Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Often contests are a choice between experience and people who are coming along and saying they represent a fresh start. I think in the situation the Labour Party finds itself today it needs people to have been around for a while.”

He said: “The Labour Party is actually facing quite a serious situation, if I’m being absolutely honest with you, we cannot assume the last election was our lowest point. There is a real challenge out there. Labour has lost its emotional connection with many people.”

Mr Burnham’s allies argue that Ms Kendall is threatening to tear up fundamental Labour principles in her attempt to project a new image for the party and that he is best placed to defend those values while reaching out to new voters.

Ms Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, delivered a similar charge against Ms Kendall when she said: “I will set out ideas for the future that don’t just involve swallowing the Tory manifesto and set out a Labour vision for the future.

“I think some of our colleagues in some of the discussions have been thinking that ‘OK, because Labour lost the election, therefore what we have to do is say that the Tories were right on things’.”

She did not deny she was referring to Ms Kendall, saying: “I’m not going to get into attacking individual candidates. But I do think we should be setting out Labour ideas for the future and not just saying ‘the Tories are suddenly right on a whole series of things’ because I do not think they are, I do not think they have Labour values.”

She also appeared to take a swipe at Mr Burnham who last week said Labour had appeared to be soft on people who want “something for nothing”.

Ms Cooper told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “What I won’t do is fall into what I think is a Tory trap of using language which stigmatises those who are not working. I don’t think that is about Labour values.”

In a newspaper interview Ms Kendall argued Labour lost the election because it stood on a “set of policies that didn’t resonate with the people” and insisted she was ready for the leadership. “The party needs to change and it needs a whole new generation of politicians. Most importantly it needs a leader who has a clear vision and can bring people with them. I believe I’m that person,” she said.

The Burnham team has announced the backing of eight newly-elected MPs which it said reflected a spectrum of opinion within the party. He has now reached the threshold of 35 endorsements.

John Healey, the former housing minister, who is standing for deputy leader, called for a ban on the use of the terms “core vote” and “middle England” in Shadow Cabinet discussions as part of an overhaul of Labour’s language and political strategy.

In an open memo to the leadership contenders, published on The Independent’s website, Mr Healey says they should “make income insecurity as great a Labour concern as income inequality” and “oppose Government plans which hit Britain’s squeezed middle hardest”.

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