Caroline Flint, a candidate in the Labour deputy leadership contest, has put herself on a collision course with Jeremy Corbyn by claiming that she would use the strength of being directly elected to force the next leader to learn the lessons of the electorally successful Blair years.
The shadow energy secretary said that even if the leftwing candidate were to triumph, she would be in a powerful position to force him to focus on winning support in the wider country if chosen by Labour supporters to be his deputy.
With less than two weeks of the campaign remaining, Flint’s canvassing suggests that about half of the Labour electorate are still undecided on who should be deputy, even among those who are are committed to one of the leadership candidates.
If elected, Flint said she would force the leader to come out of his or her “bubble” of advisers and recognise the need to address the concerns of the wider electorate. “I am ready to be deputy to whoever is to be elected,” she said. “But the deputy leader is also directly elected and therefore has a strong mandate.
“We went on that learning curve during the 80s and recognised that we needed to be a party that looked outwards, and be a party that understood people and where their everyday concerns were – economic credibility – and we were going to provide for their families without collapsing the economy.
“And we did that well. Three times in a row. Whatever else people say, Tony Blair and the people around him – and Gordon was integral to that as well – did an amazing job.”
Flint said Labour needed to recognise that people would not simply vote out of solidarity with those who were the most needy.
She praised Ed Miliband for recognising that the UK needed a “new economy”, including reform of the energy markets and his plan for a price freeze, but said the British people had not moved to the left.
“The task, whether it is Jeremy or any of the other candidates, is that they have their views which they are pitching at the moment, [but] each of them has to show they are going to broaden their appeal to make sure we can win in the country,” she said.
“And, you know, part of my job as deputy leader is to keep us focused on that. Because if we are not, we are just going back to an era when we just talked among ourselves, and I am sure none of them want to do that. They all want to win. I am happy to help them focus on what we need to do to win.”
This article was written by Daniel Boffey Observer policy editor, for theguardian.com on Saturday 29th August 2015 15.57 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010