Too many in Labour are looking back on Tony Blair’s time in office with “rose-tinted glasses” and claiming pejoratively that the party no longer understands aspiration, Sadiq Khan, one of the party’s London mayoral hopefuls, has said.
The former shadow justice secretary said the word “aspiration” was being overused in the party’s leadership contest and some were looking back too favourably on the past.
Khan, who was a key ally of Ed Miliband, told the Guardian that some in the party had “rose-tinted glasses” about the Blair era and added: “A word I think you’ll hear overused in the leadership contest is ‘aspiration’. It’s used in a pejorative way to suggest we didn’t understand what it meant. I understand what it means.
“It means your dad working all the overtime hours that London Transport will give you, aspiration means your mum, notwithstanding having eight children, works as a seamstress at home as well to make ends meet. Aspiration means, as a 24-year-old trainee solicitor, sleeping on a bunk bed in your mum and dad’s home to save for a deposit. So I get aspiration.”
His comments were made as the leadership contest began to heat up with Cooper attacking colleagues for “swallowing the Tory manifesto”. Speaking on the BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, the shadow home secretary attempted to draw a distinction between her approach and those of the two other main hopefuls, Burnham and Kendall, who have been quicker to distance themselves from some of former leader Ed Miliband’s election policies.
“I’m not going to get into attacking individual candidates … but I do think we should be setting out Labour ideas for the future and not just saying suddenly the Tories are right about a whole series of things,” she said.
Kendall, often described as a Blairite candidate, has previously warned that Labour should not to cling to the “fantasy” that Britain has swung to the left. She was also the first to say she supported holding an EU referendum, accept the premise that Labour spent too much under the last government, back successful free schools and pledge to fight defence cuts.
On top of the veiled swipe at Kendall, Cooper then warned against those using stigmatising language about benefit claimants, just days after Burnham talked about the need to address the perception that Labour gives an “easy ride” to those who want something for nothing.
She said she supported the principle of a benefit cap but had reservations about the effect of a £23,000 limit on people living in London in particular. “What I won’t do though is fall into what I think is a Tory trap of using language that stigmatises those who are not working. I don’t think that is about Labour values,” she said.
Cooper said she was not going to “get into attacking individual candidates” but did not deny that she was referring to Burnham on welfare and Kendall on swallowing Tory ideas.
Although Burnham has been seen as the favoured candidate of Labour’s left, Cooper appeared to be making a pitch to some of his potential supporters. She also made it clear that she would keep Labour’s policy of bringing back a 50p top rate of income.
After Cooper’s interview, Burnham made it clear that he too supported the idea of a 50p top rate of income tax to help with reduction of the deficit and warned against any move by the party to ape the Conservatives.
“Don’t copy the Tories, we need to develop Labour answers in those areas,” he told BBC Radio 5’s Pienaar’s Politics. “We’ve got the looming European referendum, it’s time for Labour to get off the back foot on immigration and challenge David Cameron to develop a package that the British public can support, where people are free to work but not free to claim.”
The shadow health secretary also clarified previous comments about the need to review Miliband’s mansion tax policy, saying he supported the principle of taxation of assets but had disagreed with how it had been presented to voters.
Burnham, who is the favourite to win, last night confirmed that he had reached the requisite 35 MPs supporting him to enter the race, unveiling four male and four female backers from the 2015 intake including some from the left and others from the centrist wing of the party.
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