Miliband: Labour should be ‘bolder’ as fallout from elections continues

Labour needs to be “bolder” but Sir Keir Starmer should be given time to rebuild the party’s support, former leader Ed Miliband has said.

The shadow business secretary’s comments came after Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner admitted that members of the public did not know what Sir Keir “stood for” before they went to the poll.

Mr Miliband said the party’s senior figures have a “collective responsibility” to “show what we stand for”.

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Labour has been in turmoil since the by-election defeat in Hartlepool, and setbacks in council elections in England were followed by a botched reshuffle which initially saw Ms Rayner sacked but then promoted.

Ms Rayner acknowledged she has a “very frank relationship” with Sir Keir as the fallout continued from the events of the weekend.

Asked about Ms Rayner’s assessment of Labour’s problems, Mr Miliband said: “I’ll tell you what my explanation is.

“We had our worst election results since 1935 in 2019, that we have a mountain to climb, that Keir Starmer has provided new leadership, he has put the Remain-Leave argument behind us, but we all have a collective responsibility to show exactly what we stand for going forward.

“Absolutely we do, leadership is a collective endeavour and we all have a job to do, and there are massive things to fight for in our country.”

Labour Party shadow cabinet reshuffle
The Hartlepool by-election defeat has damaged Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership (Yui Mok/PA)

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We should be bolder, of course we should be bolder.”

He said Sir Keir believes the country needs a “big economic change” to make it less “unfair, unequal and unproductive”.

Mr Miliband said it is not time to “blow the final whistle” on Sir Keir’s leadership.

“What I’m interested in is what we do now. You don’t blow the final whistle on the match a third of the way through the match, which is where we are probably in this parliament; we go out and we fight for what we believe in.

“That’s what we’ve got to do as a party – look to the country, as Angie Rayner is saying.”

Ms Rayner said she was appointed to her new roles because she wanted to be more “front-facing” after she was stripped of her post as party chairwoman and campaign co-ordinator.

Amid accusations that the Labour leader was trying to make Ms Rayner a scapegoat, it was announced late on Sunday that she would be given a new role shadowing Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.

She admitted that members of the public did not know what Sir Keir “stood for” before they went to the polls, as Labour seeks to reconnect with voters after the party’s crushing defeat in Hartlepool and with another potentially tricky seat to defend in the forthcoming Batley and Spen by-election.

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Ms Rayner, who was also made shadow first secretary of state, effectively making her the shadow deputy prime minister, did not deny that Sir Keir had attempted to sack her from the shadow cabinet.

During an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, Ms Rayner said: “I’m not going to discuss the robust conversations that me and Keir have and have always had.

“We have had a very frank relationship and I welcome that, actually, I think it’s really constructive.

“And we came to a decision over the weekend of where both of us felt I could make the best opportunity and the best of my skills in supporting his leadership, and that’s what I want to do in my new role.”

Pressed on whether the Labour leader had tried to sack her, Ms Rayner said: “I’m really happy in the role I have got and I think the general public are not so much interested in my job but actually interested in their jobs.”

It comes after Sir Keir’s aide, Carolyn Harris, stepped down from her role as parliamentary private secretary amid reports that she was involved in the bitter briefing war between the Labour leader’s office and Ms Rayner.

The Times reported that the resignation of the MP for Swansea East, who is also deputy leader of Welsh Labour, came amid allegations that she had spread “baseless rumours” about Ms Rayner.

In a statement, Ms Harris said: “Stepping back from this role is the right thing at this moment, coming as it does after some trying personal times and an ever-increasing workload as deputy leader of Welsh Labour.

“I have enjoyed every minute, and look forward to supporting Keir the best way I can in the months ahead.”

Carolyn Harris with Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford
Carolyn Harris with Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford (Ben Birchall/PA)

Following the final results of Thursday’s English council elections, the Tories gained 294 councillors across the nation, while Labour lost 267.

Ms Rayner told the BBC: “What I heard on the doorstep is that they didn’t know what Keir Starmer stood for, so that’s what I think our challenge is, actually.

“It’s not people briefing, saying we think Keir thinks this, we think Keir thinks that, but actually about what are we doing, what are our policies?”

She said this is partly because the Labour leader has “put the country first” and acted as a “constructive opposition” to the Government during the pandemic.