Byrne tells Miliband: We need to stay on the centre ground

Stay centre - the advice of Liam Byrne
Stay centre - the advie of Liam Byrnec

By Ian Dunt

Labour needs to stay on the centre-ground of British politics if it is to win the general election, Liam Byrne has said.

The call comes amid unease in some quarters of the Labour party at the line Ed Miliband has taken on bankers' bonuses, with concerns the Labour leader will be seen as anti-business by the City.

"Let's keep the insight that elections are won in the centre-ground by building an alliance around the values – aspiration, responsibility and community – that unite traditional supporters with footloose voters who change sides," the shadow work and pensions spokesman wrote in an article for Progress Online.

"What does that centre-ground look like? It is bigger than before. More voters are more likely to switch sides. Look at Scotland. No one can win elections trading on old loyalties.

That is true for social democrats everywhere. Attitudes have changed too.

"Take the latest British Social Attitudes Survey which found that support for tax increases to spend more on public services has halved from nine years ago and only a third now say that government should redistribute wealth."

Mr Byrne is also handing Mr Miliband's policy reviews, which is attempting to present the electorate with a convincing package ahead of the 2015 general election.

He caused extraordinary anger in some parts of the Labour party earlier this year when he said the British welfare state was rewarding those who had not contributed and acting against the vision of founder William Beveridge.

But the Labour leader scored a significant victory by tacking to the left of the coalition over the weekend and threatening a vote on RBS chief executive Stephen Hester's bonus, leading some to call for him to expand the critique out to other employees of state-controlled banks.

"We need a new way back to a new centre-ground," Mr Byrne wrote.

"Let's keep the insights of the 1990s but build on them for a different era. Let's keep the best of New Labour, not least the late Philip Gould's basic insight: 'What most voters want is over time and without greed to advance and improve their lives. In short, to become better off'."

Mr Byrne came most prominently into the public eye when he left a note upon departing the government with the words 'there's no money left' scrawled on it.


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