Labour will be out of power for a decade if it fails to change, Liz Kendall says

Liz Kendall Labour

Labour will be out of power for another 10 years if it thinks small changes in policy will be enough to get re-elected, Liz Kendall, the centrist leadership candidate, has warned.

Her remarks are clearly aimed at Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, the two front-runners. Paraphrasing Einstein, she said it was the definition of madness for the party to think it could continue with the policies of the last seven to eight years and think there would be a different result.

She said she was the candidate the Tories feared because she understood the absolute need for responsibility and reform to be put at the heart of Labour thinking.

She was speaking at a Reuters newsmakers event, where she said Labour could not blame the media for its defeat, but only itself since the public did not trust the party with its money.

Faced by claims that she was giving too many unpalatable messages to the party, she insisted good leaders should not be afraid to say uncomfortable things to a party that is recovering from its worst defeat since 1987.

“Leadership means saying what you believe,” she said, adding that it was “not in her DNA” to change what she said in order to please other people.

She also insisted there was no contradiction about being pro-business and pro-worker, saying the Labour party’s attitude to the self-employed and entrepreneurs had to change for the party to get a hearing in the new economy.

Many in the business world she said understood the need for a more inclusive capitalism that did more to equalise earnings.

She said tax credits, the target of the Conservative government in next week’s budget, were wrong if they simply helped subsidise underpaying employers, but they could only be reduced if there were guarantees that employers would pay more.

She said it had been a “white-hot dagger” to her heart when a pensioner told her in the election that Labour was against work.

She argued: “There are deep concerns that the public have about us – they know we care but they don’t think they can trust us with their money. They think that unless you are on a zero-hours [contract] or minimum wage we had little to say”.

In the main body of her speech she again urged Labour to recognise the centrality of fiscal responsibility and the concept’s place as part of the Labour tradition.

Echoing the recent views of the shadow business secretary, Chukka Umunna, she said any country’s capacity to deal with shocks was dependent on long-term strength.

“And long-term strength comes from only running deficits when you have to, bringing them down as soon as you responsibly can, and running surpluses in the good years.

“Because however much we tell the truth about the causes of the financial crisis, any political party that wants to be elected must be trusted with people’s money.

“Labour does not have that trust – and this must change. People expect us to act responsibly because they know the damage that’s done when that doesn’t happen. People’s taxes spent on servicing our national debt, instead of funding public services. This isn’t just a waste – it’s also a risk.

“Could the public finances withstand another crisis as deep as the last? No they could not. And as long as that is the case, our debts are too high. So under my leadership Labour will not take risks with our country’s future.

“We will bring debt down as a proportion of our GDP and we’ll make surpluses in the good times. We’ll do this so that we are strong enough to withstand economic shocks. And so we spend less on debt interest payments and more on making this country richer and fairer.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Patrick Wintour Political editor, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 30th June 2015 11.03 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010