UK Politics

Labour leader: Row after MP backs 'working mum' Cooper

Helen Goodman
Image caption Ms Goodman said she believed Ms Cooper would "champion families"

Helen Goodman's decision to back Yvette Cooper as the next Labour leader because she is a "working mum" has been criticised by a rival's campaign chief.

Toby Perkins, who is leading Liz Kendall's leadership campaign, said it suggested a "paucity of intellectual argument" on behalf of Ms Goodman.

Labour needed a serious debate about its future direction, he said.

Ms Cooper, Ms Kendall, Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham are all vying to become Ed Miliband's successor.

The winner of the contest will be announced on 12 September, ahead of the party's autumn conference.

'Intellectually bankrupt'

In an article for the Huffington Post, Ms Goodman, shadow media minister and Bishop Auckland MP, set out why she would be supporting Yvette Cooper's candidacy.

She said that being a parent to two children was "much more important" than her political career.

"That's why I'm backing Yvette Cooper to be the next leader of the Labour Party. As a working mum, she understands the pressures on modern family life," she wrote.

She added: "We need a leader who knows what challenges ordinary people face day to day, and who is committed to helping them."

Ms Cooper has three children with former Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who lost his seat at the 2015 general election.

Image caption Mr Perkins (right) indicated that Labour would have to change its offering if it was to win power again

Asked about Ms Goodman's comments Mr Perkins told BBC2's Daily Politics programme he was "disappointed" by the article.

"The idea that you say 'because one of the candidates is a mother they are the one that you should back' suggests a paucity of intellectual argument that the Labour Party really should have moved beyond," he said.

Mr Perkins said Labour suffered its worst electoral performance since 1983 at the general election.

The idea that the party could "go back to the electorate with the same programme but get a different outcome is intellectually bankrupt".

'Normal family man'

Criticism of Ms Goodman's article also came from Labour MP John Woodcock, who tweeted: "Looking forward to day someone tells a man they are voting for him because he has a kid and the other guy doesn't. Will be equally sad then too."

He asked whether Ms Cooper's leadership team helped draft the article, and suggested they would "know how it would be interpreted".

The article was promoted by Ms Cooper's leadership campaign Twitter account.

It is not the first time a leadership race has prompted remarks about a candidate's family life.

When Iain Duncan Smith bid to lead the Conservative Party in 2001, Norman - now Lord - Tebbit said he would back him because he was a "normal family man with children".

It was taken to be an attack on then favourite to win the race, Michael Portillo.