Labour’s top team must improve, warns former Northern Ireland Secretary

Victory over Conservatives in 2015 is ’not just one heave away’

Peter Hain

Peter Hain

Thu, May 9, 2013, 12:39

Former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain has warned that senior Labour Party figures need to “up our game” if the party is to win a majority in the British general election due in two years’ time.

“I’m confident Labour can win the economic argument if Ed [Miliband, Labour leader] has the support of a loyal team around him. It’s important that all members of the shadow cabinet play their full role in explaining and defending Labour’s policy and approach,” said Mr Hain.

His message, published in the Blairite-leaning Progress , mirrors private complaints from Labour MPs that many in the shadow cabinet – the first appointed by a Labour leader rather than elected by MPs – are failing to make an impact.

“Labour’s treasury team needs to get out on the stump now and work even harder. It shouldn’t just be left to Ed and Harriet [Harman, Labour deputy leader] to carry the heavy load,” said Mr Hain, a Welsh MP.

“Victory in 2015 is in our grasp and we’ve made great strides toward it under Ed’s leadership so far. But ‘one more heave’ won’t deliver a majority. We need to up our game,” he said.

Even though the party gained hundreds of seats in last week’s local elections, some in Labour have raised concerns at the 29 per cent share of the vote it won, and warn that a repetition will not be enough to guarantee victory in 2015.

Saying the party’s share should stand at 35 per cent, Labour MP Graham Stringer demanded the return to the shadow cabinet of former chancellor Alistair Darling and former home secretary Alan Johnson.

Some of the criticism is aimed at shadow chancellor Ed Balls, seen by some as an electoral liability because voters view him as one of those responsible for the scale of the UK’s economic crisis. His habit of disappearing from the radar during political crises has led to some in the House of Commons calling him “Macavity”, after the elusive cat in a TS Eliot poem, a nickname previously applied to former Labour leader Gordon Brown.