Labour leadership candidates slam 'elite' policies

Alan Jones,Press Association
Monday 07 June 2010 15:30 BST

The "elite" and pro-business policies of the last Labour government came under attack from candidates aiming to be the party's next leader today.

In the first hustings of the campaign, five of the six MPs bidding to take over from Gordon Brown spelt out why they believed Labour lost the election, with a common theme emerging that the party had lost touch with its natural supporters.

David Miliband, his brother Ed, John McDonnell, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott answered questions for two hours at the GMB's annual conference in Southport today, recognising the important role union members will play in the election this summer.

The first delegate to ask a question quizzed the candidates on whether they would allow Lord Mandelson into the shadow cabinet.

Ed Miliband replied: "I think all of us believe in dignity in retirement." He said Lord Mandelson had fought "like a tiger" to get Labour re-elected, but pointedly added that people in the shadow cabinet "should be elected".

Mr Burnham said the party needed to be "refreshed", with a new generation of leaders, adding: "Peter did some great things. But we created the impression that the elite was running the country. We must have a Labour Party that involves everyone."

Mr McDonnell called for an end to the practise of "parachuting" politicians into senior positions.

The Hayes and Harlington MP later drew loud applause from the delegates when he talked about being on the receiving end of policies of Margaret Thatcher's government when he worked for the Greater London Council and then the National Union of Mineworkers, quipping that he would have liked to "assassinate" the former Tory prime minister.

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