Brown rebukes ‘off message’ deputies

Gordon Brown has reprimanded his potential deputies for rearing “off message” after the Tories claimed Labour was lurching to the left.

The soon-to-be prime minister has warned the six deputy leadership candidates not to retreat to the “soft options” of old Labour after one of the hopefuls spoke of Labour’s “proud” socialist traditions.

Mr Brown’s reprimand followed the Conservatives’ claim the Labour party would “lurch to the left” under Mr Brown, leaving David Cameron as the natural “heir to Blair” in the centre ground.

The shadow chancellor George Osborn singled out comments made by the six deputy candidates as proof of Labour’s leftward shift. He claimed a Brownite government would be a “road block to further” reform and promised the Tories would continue Mr Blair’s reforms of public services.

The chancellor appears to have been alarmed by Mr Osborn’s claim, as well as the increasingly “off message” remarks made by his would-be deputies at hustings.

He insisted Labour can only continue election success if they remain in the centre ground and do not concede it to Mr Cameron.

“There will be no retreat to soft options, the narrow politics or the failed policies of the past. No retreat from essential reforms of our public services,” Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown is concerned the candidates’ comments at hustings have reinforced Conservative claims of a lurch to the left. One senior Labour minister went as far to call the candidates “out of control” and warned it was time for “Gordon to rein them in”.

During a televised debate, the international development secretary Hilary Benn said Labour should be “unapologetic about our socialist values” and urged more action on inequality.

The education secretary Alan Johnson said he would consider the idea of an amnesty for illegal immigrants, along with Jon Cruddas and – tentatively – Harriet Harman.

Ms Harman has also called for a review of the decision to renew Trident, despite voting with the government in support of Trident.