UK Politics

Coalition has no mandate, says Labour's John Denham

John Denham
Image caption John Denham said voters did not like what the coalition was doing

The coalition must "change direction" following Thursday's Lib Dem drubbing at the polls, Labour has said.

Shadow business secretary John Denham said the government now had "no mandate" for many of its policies and had to listen to public opinion.

The Lib Dems suffered large losses in English local elections and suffered reverses in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

Their Tory coalition partners' vote held up well, by contrast.

But Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg rejected calls from some of his local councillors to end the coalition to save the party - promising to see it through to its conclusion.

The Lib Dems lost 695 councillors in England, with Labour gaining 800 - short of the 1,000 some polling experts were saying the party might have expected to achieve, given that it was starting from a low base.

But party managers and MPs insisted they were happy with the result, with party leader Ed Miliband saying it showed Labour was on the road back to power.

The Conservatives' share of the vote held up well in the English local elections, with a net gain of 81 seats.

And a proposal to change the electoral system - a move supported by the Lib Dems and Labour leader Ed Miliband, even if many of his MPs were against it - was rejected in a UK-wide referendum.

'Quite wrong'

Labour was also soundly beaten by the SNP in Scotland, taking 32 fewer seats than its rival party, and failed to win a majority in the Welsh Assembly by a single seat.

But Mr Denham told the BBC News Channel that his party had won the largest share of the vote across the UK.

He said: "The coalition government needs to listen to what people are saying. The collapse of support for the Lib Dems... is a clear message that people don't like what the government is doing.

"It would be quite wrong if they just come back next week and plough on with cuts in public spending, raising VAT and damaging young people by removing support and raising tuition fees."

He added: "There's a lot of anger at things that the Tory-led coalition are doing, a coalition that nobody voted for. They've no mandate for it and need to change direction...

"This is a Tory-led government. The Lib Dems have chosen to support it... The coalition needs to listen to the people of this country."

'Temporary demise'

But Labour former home secretary David Blunkett warned Ed Miliband he had to "learn some very substantial lessons" from Thursday's results.

He said the Labour leader had to focus on attracting voters back from Tories if he was to get the party back into power at the next general election, expected in four years.

He told Sky News: "We did do extremely well in areas where we were fighting the Liberal Democrats.

"The challenge however - given the at least temporary demise of the Liberal Democrats across the country - is to take on the Conservatives.

"Whilst in cities like Sheffield, we had to fight the Lib Dems, we have got to actually win over Tory supporters and non-voters. That's the challenge.

"There are some very substantial lessons to be learnt if we are going to win in four years' time."

Mr Blunkett - a vocal opponent of the alternative vote system during the referendum campaign - urged Mr Miliband to stick to "bread-and-butter issues" rather than "airy-fairy" issues such as changing the voting system.

In a by-election in Leicester South, Labour held on the the seat with an increased majority, although the Lib Dems remained in second place.

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