Senior MPs urge change of direction

Two senior Labour MPs have issued stark warnings that their party will be defeated at the next general election unless it radically changes direction.

Jon Cruddas said Labour needed "radical but responsible" policies to help working-class and middle-class families. The Dagenham MP, who narrowly failed to become Labour's deputy leader last summer, claimed the party's previously radical programme had "stalled" under Gordon Brown. He had grasped the need to embody change when he first became Prime Minister but since then "other voices" had "reasserted themselves".

And the former home secretary Charles Clarke called on Labour to "recover the will to win" and reject the widespread "fatalist defeatism".

Writing in the Labour conference edition of The House Magazine, the pair hit out at Labour's current direction. Mr Cruddas, who worked as an aide to Tony Blair and a link to the unions, recalled Labour's 1997 manifesto. "We stood on a radical but responsible programme focused on addressing people's everyday concerns, revolving around progressive measures like a windfall tax on privatised firms and the National Minimum Wage," he said. "We got diverted from that message in our second term and now we seem to have stalled entirely.

"Many in New Labour used to believe that we could tack Right as much as we liked, because working-class or left-wing voters had no one else to turn to. Well, they have turned – turned to others or turned off entirely.

"Earlier in his premiership, Gordon Brown seemed to grasp the need to embody change, but since then other voices have reasserted themselves."

Mr Clarke said Labour must "never again" experience the electoral defeat it suffered to the Tories in 1983. The party could not expect to regain political advantage through economic recovery or "expecting a Conservative implosion".

"The past year's indecision and indiscipline must stop," he said. "And we also have to do it by facing up to our failures and tackling our weaknesses before we lose a general election, not some years afterwards. Our challenge at this conference is to reject the fatalist defeatism which is currently so widespread within our party. We must recover the will to win."

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