The Labour leadership contender Liz Kendall has rejected the suggestion that she is a “Blairite” candidate, while pledging to give greater powers to the low pay commission to increase takeup of the living wage.
“We have to move on from these labels of the past,” Kendall said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday. “I’m not a Blairite candidate, I’m my own candidate.”
She said the country needed to tackle inequalities to achieve “a stronger economy and fairer society” – a key Liberal Democrat slogan during last month’s election campaign.
Kendall announced that she would push to expand the remit of the low pay commission – a body established under the last Labour government to set the level of the national minimum wage – to push for the introduction of the living wage.
“Rather than tackling the full range of issues around low pay, it is focused on setting the level of the national minimum wage. We must now look at increasing pay beyond that,” said Kendall, who worked as a political adviser to the acting Labour leader Harriet Harman.
“As Labour’s next prime minister, I would extend the legal remit of the low pay commission to work with employers, unions and civil society to identify practical, non-statutory ways to move wages towards the living wage, sector by sector,” she said.
On Wednesday evening Kendall told a meeting of female Labour MPs and members in central London that she hoped the leadership debates would be dignified, making reference to a remark attributed to a member of one of her rivals’ camps that her campaign was “Taliban New Labour”.
“We have to change ourselves,” said the MP for Leicester West. “You have to welcome people in, support them and have a dignified debate. I hope that will happen during this leadership contest. We’ve always been a broad church and been able to have those debates without being accused of being a member of a different party or possibly a member of the Taliban.”
The deadline to get on the ballot for the Labour leadership passed this month, with Andy Burnham receiving 68 nominations from fellow MPs, Yvette Cooper 59 and Liz Kendall 41. Jeremy Corbyn, a key figure on the left of the party, made it on to the ballot with minutes to spare with 36.
Ballot papers for both the leader and deputy leader votes will be dispatched on 14 August, voting closes on 10 September and the results of both races will be announced on 12 September at a special conference.
Kendall, who is shadow minister for care and older people, is considered to be on the right of the party and an ideological heir to Tony Blair, having expressed support for the government’s free schools programme and arguing that “what matters is what works” in relation to private sector involvement in providing healthcare.
On 15 June the Daily Telegraph reported comments from an anonymous source described as being close to the Cooper and Burnham campaign teams, saying that Kendall’s leadership campaign was like “Taliban New Labour”.
“All of those Blairites who hoped they might get their candidate elected have failed,” newspaper quoted the source as saying. “The whole strategy for Liz was a Westminster strategy: she played up to the media, to the rightwing commentators, to the Blairite Taliban MPs, made a few headlines by saying she was relaxed about free schools and committing to defence spending, and just took a chance that the momentum would carry her forward.”
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Thursday 25th June 2015 10.48 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010