Mary Creagh has dropped out of the Labour leadership race, expressing her dismay at Ed Miliband’s attitude to business and urging the next leader not to regard business as a vested interest with which to pick a fight.
Writing in the Guardian about her decision to stand aside, she warned: “Labour cannot be the party of working people and then disapprove when some working people do very well for themselves and create new businesses, jobs and wealth.”
Creagh, the shadow international development secretary, was a surprise candidate in the contest to succeed Miliband, but pulled out of the race on Friday once it became clear she was not going to reach the required 35 nominations from MPs before next week’s deadline.
Her decision leaves Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, and Liz Kendall, the shadow health minister, definitely on the ballot paper. Jeremy Corbyn, the most leftwing candidate, is still only half way to the required 35.
Creagh struggled to achieve definition in a contest that may only come alight next week when the first televised hustings take place.
She said she would not back any other candidate, but her supporters were free to do so. It was thought she had just over 10 nominees, including some new-intake MPs such as Stephen Kinnock.
In a strong attack on Miliband’s attitude to wealth creation, she claimed business people were invited to write reports for the party that were left to gather dust on Westminster bookshelves and were little more than public relations exercises. In a sign of the party’s relations with business, she said it was striking that not a single chief executive of a large company would come out to back Labour’s stance during the election campaign opposing an EU referendum.
She called on the party to “make the principled and unambiguous case that staying in the EU is in our national interest” and rejected proposals from some in the shadow cabinet that the party should boycott a cross-party pro-European campaign.
She said her own views on Miliband’s approach to business were crystallised last October when she was rebuked as shadow transport secretary for briefing bus company chief executives on the party’s plans to give regional authorities powers to regulate them, a policy she supported but which would reduce their profitability.
Creagh wrote: “I had good relationships with the big five bus companies, so we rang round to brief them as a courtesy.” She recounts she was then challenged by Miliband’s team before the launch of the policy in Manchester town hall on why she had briefed the firms. She explained that Labour would need the bus companies to deliver the reforms the party wanted to make.
She wrote: “I was told we wanted to ‘pick a fight’ with them, to show Labour was tackling vested interests. I was dismayed. Bus subsidy was a complex area and if we wanted reform without transport chaos, we would have to work with the companies, not against them.
“That exchange in Manchester town hall crystallised for me that the leader’s office did not understand business and didn’t understand what business needed from government.”
Soon afterwards, she was shuffled out of the transport portfolio.
Creagh insisted Labour lost the general election “because people trust us to run their schools their councils, their hospitals. But they do not trust us to run the economy. Tackling inequality is why the Labour party exists. It’s in our DNA. But the next Labour leader will have to show that Labour understands the problems facing the UK’s 5 million self-employed people, sole traders and small businesses. That understanding must run through our party’s DNA like a golden thread”.
Creagh’s departure comes as four of the Labour deputy leader candidates try to reach the 35 nominations. One of the four, Stella Creasy, received a political boost when 100 councillors backed her call to embrace new campaigning techniques so Labour turns into a national movement rather than just a party machine.
The 100 councillors wrote: “Too many people now see politics as a closed shop, for the few not the many. That means we miss out on their ideas and actions as they get put off taking part. Stella wants to want to change that. She represents the future of our party.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010