YVETTE Cooper has accused Prime Minister David Cameron of constitutional vandalism over his attempts to make Scottish MPs second-class members and to scrap the Human Rights Act.
In a blistering attack on the Tories as she attempted to raise her profile in the Labour leadership contest, the shadow home secretary became the latest contender to back SNP plans for a freeze on the number of peers in the House of Lords until a reform package can be agreed.
While shadow health secretary Andy Burnham remains the bookies’ favourite to win the leadership, Ms Cooper used an interview to show she can take the fight to the Tories, focusing on the way Mr Cameron is “undermining the UK constitution”.
She said: “We may have our own leadership election going on, but Labour can’t allow David Cameron to get away with this and carry on like nothing has happened – he is taking the British public for fools.”
Ms Cooper pointed to measures on child tax credits, housing and rail electrification as evidence the Tory leader had gone back on pre-election promises.
She said: “We have to confront him directly on every lie and broken promise – that’s exactly what I plan to do in parliament and across the country.
“It’s time the Prime Minister and George Osborne were held to account for deceiving people and letting them down.”
She laid out her ideas for a reform agenda, building on the latest devolution package for Scotland, which would include an end to or cap on appointments to the Lords until a replacement can be decided. She wants a constitutional convention for the whole of the UK.
She also blasted Mr Cameron’s “English votes for English laws” plan. She said: “Our uncodified constitution is being stretched at the seams and our democracy undermined by David Cameron’s pursuit of narrow party political interest.
“For generations, the constitutional settlement in Britain has relied on political parties and prime ministers respecting democratic principles and not using constitutional change to pursue their own party purpose.
“Instead, David Cameron and the Tories are vandalising democracy by pursuing their own narrow party political interest rather than seeking public consent or cross-party consensus for major changes to our democratic institutions.”
A Downing Street source dismissed Ms Cooper’s attack and pointed to polls that showed all parts of the UK backed English votes for English laws. He said: “If Yvette Cooper is defending the indefensible, then she is without doubt on the opposite side of the debate to the majority of people across the UK.”
The shadow home secretary’s comments came as the left-wing frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn claimed the rich would be happy to pay more taxes.
He said: “Demanding tax justice is actually a moderate pro-business campaign: it seeks a level playing field for all.
“Many well-off people I speak to, in Islington and around the country, would be quite happy to pay more tax to fund better public services or to pay down our debts. Opinion polls bear this out: better off people are no less likely to support higher taxes. A more equal society is better for us all.”
Mr Corbyn’s hopes of winning have been boosted by reports that members of far-left parties, including 11 people who stood as candidates for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the general election, had managed to sign up without being caught by the vetting process.