Liz Kendall backer accuses Labour rival Yvette Cooper of 'machine politics'

Yvette Cooper

The first major row of the Labour leadership contest has broken out after Liz Kendall’s camp accused Yvette Cooper of resorting to “Labour machine politics and doing people in”.

John Woodcock, a former spokesman for Gordon Brown who is a prominent Kendall supporter, hit out at Cooper after the shadow home secretary warned Labour not to choose “the new but untested and naive option”. This was seen as a dig at Kendall, the only one of the five leadership contenders who was elected as recently as 2010.

Woodcock tweeted: “Disappointed Yvette attacking @LizforLeader as ‘untested. Seen others over two decades, that’s why I’m backing Liz … Might be put on someone’s blacklist for that, but you know what? We need to turn the page on Labour machine politics and ‘doing people in’.”

Last week Cooper accused unnamed rivals of having swallowed the Tory manifesto. Kendall, when asked on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show which parts of the Tory manifesto she would spit out, replied: “The only thing I have swallowed is the sheer scale of the defeat that we faced at the election and the huge changes we need to win again.”

Kendall suggested she might be open to David Cameron’s proposal to bar EU migrants from claiming in-work benefits for four years. “That’s definitely something we should look at,” she told Marr.

But she faced some Labour criticism over her refusal to give a clear answer to repeated questions about whether she supported the prime minister’s policy. Kendall’s supporters, who pointed out that she later challenged Philip Hammond on the BBC sofa over the government’s tactics on the EU referendum, said she was making a big argument that Britain’s EU membership was more important than any individual measure tabled by Cameron.

Cooper, who has faced criticism that she cannot be a candidate for change after serving as a minister for eleven years in the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, will show she is prepared to challenge Labour’s record. In the first of a series of Challenge 2020 speeches, setting out the challenges for Labour if it is to win in 2020, Cooper will argue that Britain’s economic growth will be held back unless an extra 300,000 homes are built every year as she criticises Ed Miliband for waiting too long to help first time buyers.

The shadow home secretary will say that the party, which pledged to build an extra 200,000 new homes every year by 2020 in its election manifesto, needs to adopt a more ambitious approach and to abandon its comfort blanket. She will say that Miliband was right to pledge to pledge to abolish stamp duty for all first-time buyers purchasing homes worth up to £300,000. But she will say that the proposal, announced ten days before polling day last month, came too late for voters to digest the proposal.

Cooper will say: “For too long governments have ducked the issue of housebuilding. And right now, its worse than ever. This housing crisis will only grow and grow if we don’t act. At this rate it will be worse in ten years time than it is today. It is one of the most serious challenges for Britain’s future and we can’t keep putting our heads in the sand.

“Too many people are simply priced out of the housing market. Everyone wants a secure and affordable home to put down roots or support their family. This will hold back our economy, undermine communities and family life if we don’t have a much bolder plan.”

Alastair Campbell said on the Marr show that the Labour party was in “big trouble” and could see its support fall further after its heavy defeat at the general election. Tony Blair’s former director of communications said the party needed to embark on a debate about its future that should have taken place before the leadership contest.

”I wish we were having the election at the end of the debate, not instead of the debate. But we have to understand this may not be the bottom,” he said.

A spokesperson for Cooper said that she had had never described Kendall as a new, untested and naive option as leader.

The spokesperson said: “Yvette has never said this. What she has said is she believes the next leader of the Labour party should have the strength and experience to lead the party and win in the country. I’m sure all Labour party supporters would agree with that.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Sunday 7th June 2015 17.58 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010