New Labour brand in good shape for election, says Mandelson

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The Government will fight the forthcoming general election as New Labour, despite warnings that its image has become tarnished with the voters.

The Government will fight the forthcoming general election as New Labour, despite warnings that its image has become tarnished with the voters.

Peter Mandelson, one of the principal architects of Labour's modernisation, yesterday insisted that the New Labour "brand" had restored the voters' trust in the party during its first term of office.

His remarks come despite warnings in a leaked memo from the party's focus group guru, Philip Gould, that many voters distrust the New Labour image. The memo, released in the summer, said it had become "badly contaminated".

But Mr Mandelson told a seminar of Labour supporters organised by Progress, a modernising group which he helped to found, that New Labour had "buried the deeply held public doubts about Labour's fundamental competence".

The Northern Ireland secretary, who is now in charge of day-to-day planning for Labour's election campaign, said there had been no 1976 IMF crisis, no devaluation crisis, and no repeat of the economic crash of 1931: "We have banished the image of mid-term breakdown that up to now dogged Labour throughout its history."

Tony Blair had earlier told the weekend seminar at Cranfield management centre that there would be a "continuous revolution" in New Labour thinking.

The head of the No 10 policy unit, David Miliband, said the party had to start by challenging fundamental questions about Britain, including the survival of traditional traits such as its reputation for a "stiff upper lip". He said this was often a camouflage for accepting second best.

"British pluck is another way of saying we must make do," said Mr Miliband. British resourcefulness meant it would go on "reinventing the wheel... tolerance is often tolerance of the substandard."

He added: "My sense is we have had half a revolution in the UK; deference is increasingly being banished but we are a very long way away from a culture of high expectations.

"We should welcome a debate about what is wrong with Britain as well as what is right with Britain."

Mr Blair and Mr Miliband signalled that the Prime Minister would announce measures at Labour's annual party conference later this month towards the establishment of more city mayors to "turbo charge" Britain's cities.

Mr Miliband said: "Britain has suffered from chronically weak cities - 30 cities should be beacons for innovation and change."

Labour council groups were attacked by Mr Mandelson for failing to reform themselves as part of the New Labour modernisation.

"I am less sanguine about members of councils and how they conduct their politics. There has been a slight ossification, complacency, an inwardness of Labour groups on councils which we have got to break out of," said Mr Mandelson.

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