Labour too timid under Ed Miliband, Tristram Hunt to say

Labour was timid under Ed Miliband and lacked the political courage to embrace bold ideas on welfare, the family and the devolution of power to cities, Tristram Hunt, a possible leadership candidate, will say.

The shadow education secretary will also warn that a party that merely tries to restore “the beating heart of Labour” – a phrase adopted by leadership hopeful Andy Burnham – would remain out of office and so, once again, would let down its heartland communities.

Hunt’s speech on Wednesday is likely to be critical in his efforts to get on to the leadership ballot paper, and is designed to show he has a distinctive overall analysis of both Labour’s failures and the potential solution.

Urging the party not to lapse into an abstract discussion about values, Hunt tries to come up with practical examples of how Labour can adopt what he calls a 100% strategy that appeals to the whole of the country, and not simply micro-targeted groups.

Hunt, part of the 2010 intake and considered one of the party’s intellectuals, is still struggling to gather nominations from 35 MPs – a requirement for any candidate who wishes to put their name forward for the summer leadership election.

He will say in a speech to the thinktank Demos in London that Miliband was right to make the issue of inequality central to to his programme, but the radicalism in the former Labour leader’s thinking was often blunted by a timid desire to square vested interests in the party.

Hunt will set out three big ideas he says Miliband felt unable to embrace:

• The restoration of the principle of contribution to the benefits system, with higher rates paid to those claimants with a strong record of employment

• The introduction of a universal right to free childcare for working parents of children aged two or over by freezing or reducing child benefit

• The extension of the principle of “devo max” to the English cities and regions, with combined authorities given the power to vary rates of tax so they can attract investment to particular areas as well as have control over the growth of business rate income they receive.

Hunt argues: “We did not lack for ideas, what we lacked was political courage. In our strategic straitjacket, we refused to accept them, to make the argument for them or to build them into a new sense of mission.”

He will say Labour has to be seen to be on the people’s side and earn the right to be trusted with their future.

He will argue that trust “only comes when we offer a broad-based, forward-looking Labour project. A 100% strategy. Not the timid, institutionalised caution which led so many to believe we had a 35% strategy”.

On families, Hunt will say: “There are historical deficiencies of our approach towards the family and the belief that child poverty can be solved largely or even entirely through material redistribution.

“We need institutions that tackle inequality at source – by raising the opportunities parents have to work and children have to learn, not provide a monetary sticking plaster when it is far too late.

“We need to offer a childcare revolution, free all year round, for every working family. Such ambition does not come cheap.

“The IPPR [Institute for Public Policy Research] suggested it would mean hard choices like freezing child benefit for school-age children.”

On welfare reform, he will say: “Go back to [social reformer William] Beveridge, begin to restore the contributory principle: you pay more in, you get more out.

“The IPPR’s Condition of Britain report proposed big reforms to restore the principle of contribution most of which ended up on the cutting room floor.

“We should establish a clear principle with out-of work benefits. If you have a strong record of work, you should receive more help when you fall on hard times.”

He will also express his dismay about the way Labour allowed the devolution agenda to be stolen from Labour by George Osborne, the chancellor.

Hunt will say: “Labour needs to win the race to hand power back to local people. Yet even more important: radical devolution must surely form a big part of our answer to the rise of nationalism – both in Scotland and in England.

“A modernising approach to devolution must be about about growing local pride and local prosperity.

“This is about more than the powers of local government – and indeed the Labour party’s approach to community – it is about the integrity of the United Kingdom itself.

“We must shed our timidity, match the Tory offer and go beyond it by giving city and country regions the power to vary local taxes, including business rates.

“Devo max shouldn’t stop at the Scottish border. If it’s good for Scotland and Scottish business, it’s good for England too. We need a devo max settlement for England.”

Powered by article was written by Patrick Wintour Political editor, for The Guardian on Tuesday 19th May 2015 22.30 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010