Labour must 'learn from the past but not live in it', says Liam Byrne

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said Labour would need policies for a different economy, welfare state and form of government

Labour will not win the next general election unless it admits the mistakes it made in power and learns the lessons, the head of the party's policy review warned yesterday.

Liam Byrne, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, admitted the last Labour government did not secure value for money from all its spending. "Oppositions that stay in opposition for a long time are the parties that fail to confront and take on the weaknesses the public see in them," he said. Mr Byrne acknowledged that Labour had:

* failed to spend every pound wisely

* underestimated the effect of eastern European migration and failed to manage it properly

* moved too slowly on welfare reform and demanded to little from benefit claimants who were not trying hard enough to get a job

* failed to regulate the banks properly and stop executives rewarding themselves for financial failure.

He was speaking before a meeting of Labour's national policy forum in Wrexham on Saturday, when plans to modernise the way the party is run – including the role of the trade unions – will be unveiled. Ed Miliband believes it would not be credible to announce new policies before it has "listened and learned", but he will signal some "directions of travel" at the party's annual conference in September.

Mr Byrne, who will set out Labour's strategy to ensure it is a "one-term opposition," said: "We did make mistakes – we should call a spade a spade.... We are confronting head-on the things we got wrong."

Insisting that Labour's root-and-branch policy review was not "an exercise in gratuitous masochism", Mr Byrne said: "The public – like our members – expect us to learn from our past, and not live in it." He argued: "We mustn't shy away from confronting the weaknesses of the past; but it's more important to confront the challenges of the future." Labour would need policies for "a different economy, different welfare state and different kind of government".

He added that Labour's success stories – such as rescuing the NHS, the national minimum wage and Sure Start centres – worked because they were rooted in a vision for the future.

Mr Byrne believes that when they were in opposition, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were quick to confront their party's past weakness and future challenges. But he claimed David Cameron had not learnt that lesson, saying: "He tried to reposition the brand of the Conservative Party – but he didn't engage in an argument about what the Tory party was for."

He argued that was why Cameron did not win a majority – unlike Baroness Thatcher and Mr Blair – and why Labour was now addressing the fundamental challenges facing Britain.

Labour is having a heated internal debate over how openly to admit its mistakes in office. Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, believes voters are much more worried about "the here and now" than about what Labour got wrong when in office.

At a four-hour Shadow Cabinet strategy session on Tuesday, Mr Balls is understood to have been criticised by Tessa Jowell, the shadow Cabinet Office Minister, for not telling his frontbench colleagues before announcing his proposal for a temporary emergency cut in VAT last week. Yesterday Labour officials insisted that the move was not a new policy since the party had opposed the January rise in VAT, and so it did not need to be cleared.

Taunted by Tories in the Commons, Mr Balls insisted that his proposal had been "discussed in detail" with Mr Miliband. Some shadow ministers complained that they only learnt about Mr Balls's plan from news bulletins. One said: "The problem is that it is playing to our weaknesses and creates the impression that we can't face up to tough decisions."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea