Prescott tells Miliband to ‘be bold’ for election

Labour leader Ed Miliband, seen on a visit to Middleton ahead of the forthcoming Heywood and Middleton by-election, needs to learn lessons of 1997's victory, says John Prescot. Picture: PA
Labour leader Ed Miliband, seen on a visit to Middleton ahead of the forthcoming Heywood and Middleton by-election, needs to learn lessons of 1997's victory, says John Prescot. Picture: PA
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ED Miliband has come under fire from senior figures in his own party, as a poll showed the Conservatives moving into a two-point lead.

The Labour leader was accused by party grandee John Prescott of showing a severe lack of ambition in a damning assessment of his “far too timid” strategy and underwhelming conference performance.

Two prominent Labour donors joined the criticism. Lord Noon, one of the party’s biggest individual benefactors, was quoted by the Sunday Times as saying the party “really need to buck up” and dismissing plans for a mansion tax on £2 million-plus homes as “hopeless and desperate”.

Lord Levy, who was Tony Blair’s chief fundraiser, also criticised the tax proposal – part of a package to pay for extra NHS investment.

“I think that is a policy that is totally inappropriate and I see no validity in that policy whatsoever,” he said. “Do I believe that the party needs to be more close and friendly to business? Yes, I do.”

A YouGov survey out yesterday suggested Mr Cameron had scored a significant conference bounce as his party moved to 36 per cent, with Labour on 34 per cent, Ukip 13 per cent and the Liberal Democrats 7 per cent.

A week ago the Conservatives trailed by five per cent.

Mr Miliband continues to lag badly behind the PM in personal ratings, with 22 per cent saying he is performing well and 68 per cent poorly.

Mr Prescott said the Opposition leadership appeared to have resigned itself to not winning an overall majority at the 2015 general election and was seeking only to shore up its “core vote”. Urging Mr Miliband to “go all out for the win”, he warned “time is running out” to set out vote-winning policies to compete with the “belter” of a tax cut offer proposed by David Cameron at the Tory conference.

New Labour’s 1997 landslide victory was secured by appealing to a broad range of voters across the country, the former deputy prime minister said. “But Ed seems to be pursuing a core vote strategy of getting 31 per cent of traditional Labour supporters with a few ex-Lib Dem voters,” he said.

“He might as well have said at the end of his conference speech: ‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for coalition.’ Ed might not like looking back but he can learn a lot from our 1997 campaign and our pledge card.

“Five polices on health, crime, jobs, education and tax that were costed, deliverable and drilled into voters on every doorstep. And at the next election we proved we delivered them. So come on Ed. Ditch the pollsters, the focus groups and US-style politics. Be bold, be brave and let’s go all out for the win.” The “flat” Labour conference was a waste of a golden opportunity to enthuse voters, he wrote, while the Tory gathering the following week was marked by “smiles on faces, a confident leader and policies galore”.

He added: “Labour had a great opportunity to put flesh on the bone, with papers and TV channels giving Ed Miliband and his team a blank page to get their policies across. But bar a mansion tax to fund an increase in NHS funding and raising the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020, nothing sticks in my mind.”

Lord Prescott said the Tory leader’s tax cut promise was a con.“But as election bribes go, it’s a belter,” he said. “The Tories may lose the next election but, by God, they’re not going down without a fight.”

He concluded: “Labour’s approach is far too timid. I fear shadow cabinet ministers aren’t delivering new policies because Ed Balls won’t approve them if they involve spending commitments.”

Responding to Lord Prescott, shadow chancellor Ed Ball said: “John Prescott is a fighter. Sometimes literally,” he said in a reference to the punch thrown by the then cabinet minister during the 2001 general election campaign.

“But he is also a political fighter and we have a hell of a fight on our hands to save our National Health Service, to stop the ‘strivers’ tax’ and to deliver our country from a Conservative Party that would take our country out of the European Union.

“John is clear … that we should learn from 1997 and I agree,” he said.