UK Politics

Peter Hain says Labour must perform better

Peter Hain
Image caption Peter Hain left Labour's front bench last year

Labour needs to be "performing better than we are now" to win the next general election, former cabinet minister Peter Hain has said.

He urged the party's Treasury team, led by shadow chancellor Ed Balls, "to get out on the stump now and work even harder" to make its economic argument.

But he denied his comments were, in a piece for Progress Online, were "an attack ... on anybody in Labour".

However. the Conservatives said party leader Ed Miliband was "weak".

Mr Hain, a former Welsh Secretary who left Labour's front bench last year, said: "If a general election was held tomorrow, Labour wouldn't win a majority ... this was always going to be a big ask - under any leader - after our terrible result in 2010."

'Focus'

He added: "We're halfway there, both in terms of time lapsed and progress made. I'm confident we've done enough to stop the Tories winning outright, and produce another hung parliament.

"But the truth is if we want a majority in 2015 [the expected date of the next general election], we need to be performing better than we are now."

He added: "The Lib Dems will do badly in the national share of the vote, but probably hold on to all or most of the seats where they are well dug-in and contesting with the Tories; where they are fighting us they will lose."

Mr Hain's intervention came after Mr Miliband was criticised over a BBC radio interview last week in which he refused to admit that Labour's plans would increase borrowing.

Mr Hain said: "Labour's focus for the next two years should be squarely on the economy and living standards.

"We cannot afford to be equivocal about our economic policy. We need to be more upfront with the public about our intentions.

He added that Mr Balls' shadow Treasury team "need to get out on the stump now and work even harder".

"It's important that all members of the shadow cabinet play their full role in explaining and defending Labour's policy and approach," he said.

"Labour's Treasury team need to get out on the stump now and work even harder. It shouldn't just be left to Ed [Miliband] and [deputy leader] Harriet [Harman] to carry the heavy load, whether on the World at One, the Today programme or anywhere else."

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: "If Ed Miliband is too weak to stand up to his own shadow chancellor, then he won't be able to stand up for the British people.

"It's the same old Labour. They're totally divided. The only thing they do agree on is taking us back to more spending, more borrowing and more debt - exactly what got us into this mess in the first place."

But Mr Hain wrote on Twitter: "Advance mischief-making to suggest my coming piece ... an attack - coded or otherwise - on anybody in Labour. It's not."