The former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling has urged Jeremy Corbyn to outline his position on the economy in the next few days to try to regain ground after a summer in which the party “chose to blow itself up”.
Darling, who has just been nominated for a peerage, said the new Labour leader could fail to “get off the ground” unless he quickly reassured people where he stood.
“Jeremy Corbyn has won. He won overwhelmingly and he has a mandate,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I know what he’s against but I’m not actually sure what he is for. And what I would say to him is that he must know first impressions gained by the electorate, especially of a party leader, tend not to go away.
“Less than a week after he’s been elected he needs to spell out where he stands on key issues like the economy. And if he doesn’t, frankly, he’s never going to get off the ground.”
Corbyn has released a series of policy documents and made clear that on the economy he wants a financial transaction tax, an end to independence for the Bank of England, and quantitative easing to fund national infrastructure projects.
His shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has emphasised that the new leadership team are “not deficit deniers” but would want to reduce it gradually without resorting to the billions of pounds in cuts proposed by the chancellor, George Osborne.
Throughout the leadership contest, Corbyn clearly defined himself as the anti-austerity candidate, who wanted to invest more in public services. However, Darling, a supporter of Liz Kendall who came fourth with 5% of the vote, said he wanted more detail.
“So far this week I just do not know where he’s going and what he stands for. From the leader’s point of view he really does need, frankly, in the next couple of days or so to say what exactly he’s going to do and how he’s going to do it ... if he wants to make a go of this he’s got to actually do this.”
Asked about the party’s dire poll ratings in Scotland after the independence referendum, Darling said: “After the result, which was decisive, my party chose to blow itself up ... we abandoned the field for three months until we had another leader.”
He said it would be difficult to see McDonnell as chancellor of the exchequer, adding: “I am sure all clouds have a silver lining but I haven’t seen the silver lining here yet.”
Darling is one of many former Labour politicians who have been horrified by Corbyn’s win but the leader has the overwhelming backing of party members and supporters. Corbyn had already come under pressure from his own MPs to clarify policy positions earlier this week.
He ended uncertainty over Labour’s position on the EU on Thursday, declaring that the party would campaign for the UK to remain in the union during the forthcoming referendum.
In a joint statement with the shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, Corbyn said Labour would make the case for continued British membership of the EU, whatever the outcome of the renegotiation being sought by David Cameron.
This article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Friday 18th September 2015 10.09 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010