Clare Short joined a cabinet offensive to reassure Labour activists by hitting back yesterday at criticism that the Government had turned its back on its traditional supporters.
In a rebuff to Peter Kilfoyle, who resigned as a defence minister in protest at Labour's record in its heartlands, Ms Short warned that the party would fall into a "Tory trap" if it neglected middle-class voters.
The intervention by the Secretary of State for International Development is significant because she is seen as a champion of the party's traditional values. "Our values answer the insecurities of both lower-income and middle-income Britain. This shows Labour standing up for the country as a whole," Ms Short writes in the left-wing Tribune newspaper.
In a concession to Tony Blair's critics, Ms Short admitted the Government needed to "spell out our vision more clearly between now and the next general election". But she insisted that both middle and working-class Britain wanted a good health service and safer communities. She said "setting heartlands against Middle England" is "an age-old trap of divide and rule" by the Tories.
Her warning shot about the dangers of its intense "heartlands" debate follow William Hague's attempt to revive Tory fortunes by claiming Labour had betrayed the middle-class voters who helped it win in 1997.
Last night Mr Blair entered the debate by saying a "false choice" was being presented between the concerns of Labour's core supporters and Middle Britain. He insisted their concerns were the same - jobs, schools, hospitals, pensions and crime.
Yesterday Mr Hague launched the Tories' campaign for the 4 May local government elections by urging the voters to use them to send Mr Blair a message about his failure to keep his promises.Reuse content