UK Politics

Labour leadership: Differences start to open up

Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper Image copyright Getty Images

Divisions opened up between the five Labour leadership candidates as they answered questions from members of the GMB union at their conference in Dublin.

Pushed for a Yes or No answer on whether they supported the benefits cap, Liz Kendall and Mary Creagh said yes - though the former acknowledged there would be problems in London where high property prices have lead to high spending on housing benefit.

Jeremy Corbyn was unequivocally against.

But to heckles both Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham declined to give a Yes or No response.

Mr Burnham said he agreed with the principle that you shouldn't be better off out of work than in it - but he would have to see how the policy was implemented.

Ms Cooper said there had to be changes to the cap to reflect areas of high rents.

Under Labour's new leadership individual trade unionists have to sign up as 'affiliated supporters' if they want a vote.

Minimum wage

Unions have a target of signing up 250,000 members which would give them parity in the contest with fully paid up members and a new category of registered supporters who can join at a cut price rate.

So it wasn't surprising that even the Blairite Liz Kendall emphasised she was a GMB member who - like her colleagues - would reverse any new laws perceived as anti-union.

But the candidates didn't know the apprentice rate of the minimum wage. Jeremy Corbyn was closest by far -£2.75 to the actual rate of £2.73

Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham said less than £3.

On the EU, differences were tactical not strategic - with all candidates saying it was right to stay in. But only Mary Creagh said she would share a platform with David Cameron if he argued for a Yes vote.

Mr Burnham wanted to see a distinctly Labour 'Yes' campaign while Liz Kendall said she would take part in wider movements.

'Painful truth'

Asked by a GMB member if shadow cabinet members had been in the toilet when the last manifesto was agreed, Mr Burnham revealed he wasn't as involved as he wanted to be but still argued it was the best manifesto he had ever stood on.

Liz Kendall said the "painful truth" was Labour didn't have a compelling vision at this year's general election and if they stuck to the same approach they would lose again.

Ms Cooper emphasised her experience and authority but said her party would only win if it stuck to Labour values rather than swallowing the Conservative manifesto. She also said it was time to smash the final Labour glass ceiling and elect a leader who was a woman.

Mr Corbyn believed Labour should have been more avowedly anti-austerity and needed an alternative economic strategy.

Ms Creagh said she was a "fighter but recognised that while people trusted Labour to run schools and hospitals the party wasn't trusted to run the economy.

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