UK Politics

Labour leadership hopefuls debate economy and Trident at hustings

Labour leadership hustings Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The leadership hopefuls were debating at the second in a series of live and televised hustings

Labour's four leadership contenders discussed the economy, the UK's nuclear deterrent and reducing the benefit cap at the second hustings of the contest.

Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn faced each other at the debate in Stevenage.

Mr Burnham, Mrs Cooper and Ms Kendall were all greeted by calls of "shame" as they endorsed a like-for-like replacement of Trident.

The new leader will be announced at a special conference on 12 September.

The first in a series of debates was televised live on the BBC on Wednesday.

Harriet Harman is acting leader of the party until a replacement is confirmed, following the resignation of Ed Miliband in the wake of the general election defeat by the Conservatives.

'Fresh start'

Mr Corbyn, the left-wing backbench MP, received some of the warmest responses from the audience as he spelled out his "moral" opposition to renewing Trident and criticised Tory welfare reforms.

But Mr Burnham, Mrs Cooper and Ms Kendall, by contrast, were heckled on both topics.

Rejecting unilateral disarmament, shadow health secretary Mr Burnham said: "As prime minister of this country the safety of this country must come first."

Shadow home secretary Mrs Cooper said she would like to see a global reduction in weapons stocks, but "in the absence of that I would renew Trident".

Also backing Trident's replacement, shadow health minister Ms Kendall said: "Some of you won't like it, but I have got to tell you how it is."

Image copyright Jeff Overs/BBC
Image caption The first Labour leader hustings was held in Nuneaton and televised live on the BBC

The three frontbenchers also avoided condemning outright Conservative plans to reduce the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000, with Mr Burnham arguing the party could not appear "comfortable" about people receiving more than a normal salary.

Asked how they would handle Tory accusations that Labour's economic mismanagement left Britain vulnerable to the credit crunch, Mr Burnham, Mrs Cooper and Mr Corbyn all denied the previous government could be held responsible for the crash.

Ms Kendall argued the party needed to focus on how the economy should be handled in the future, rather than dwelling on the "mistakes of the past".

Contrasting herself with leadership rivals Mr Burnham and Mrs Cooper, who both served in the cabinet in the previous Labour government, Ms Kendall warned the party would lose if it chose a leader who was "comfortable and familiar".

Telling activists she represented a "fresh start", Ms Kendall added: "This is not the time for safety first or turning back to what is comfortable or familiar."

In response, Ms Cooper said that her experience meant she would be "comfortable" taking on the Conservatives from "day one".

Labour leadership timetable

12 August: Deadline for people to join the Labour Party

14 August: Ballot papers sent out by post

10 September: Polling closes at midday

12 September: Winners announced at special conference

27 September: Labour's party conference begins

More on this story