08/05/2013 07:44 BST | Updated 08/05/2013 08:29 BST

Peter Hain: Labour 'Needs To Perform Better To Win The Next Election'

Labour needs to be "perform better" to win the next general election, a former Cabinet minister has said.

Peter Hain, who stepped down from Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet team a year ago, said the party needed to be "upfront" about its economic policies, which would lead to increased short-term borrowing.

He said the party's focus in the two years before the general election had to be "squarely on the economy and living standards".

peter hain

Peter Hain said the party would struggle to get in if an election was held tomorrow

Hain denied that his comments, in a piece for Progress Online, was "an attack ... on anybody in Labour".

But Tories seized on the former Northern Ireland secretary's words, claiming they revealed division within the Labour camp.

Hain said: "If a general election was held tomorrow, Labour wouldn't win a majority ... this was always going to be a big ask - under any leader - after our terrible result in 2010."

He added: "We're half way there, both in terms of time lapsed and progress made. I'm confident we've done enough to stop the Tories winning outright, and produce another hung parliament.

"But the truth is if we want a majority in 2015, we need to be performing better than we are now."

Ukip would remain a force, he predicted, splitting the right at the Tories' expense.

"The Lib Dems will do badly in the national share of the vote but probably hold on to all or most of the seats where they are well dug-in and contesting with the Tories; where they are fighting us they will lose. Labour is well-placed in this new four-party arena."

But he said Labour needed a clearer message on its economic strategy.

His intervention came after Miliband was criticised over a radio interview last week in which he refused to admit that Labour's plans would increase borrowing. The Labour leader toured TV studios the following day to acknowledge that borrowing would initially rise but would come down in the medium term.


"Labour's focus for the next two years should be squarely on the economy and living standards," Hain said.

"We cannot afford to be equivocal about our economic policy. We need to be more upfront with the public about our intentions.

"Yes, we will borrow more in the short-term, in order to generate growth that will reduce borrowing in the medium-term. It makes sense to do so with interest rates so low. We will borrow to invest in new homes, major infrastructure projects, refurbishing schools, creating employment. Schemes that will stimulate the economy. But we will nevertheless run a tight fiscal regime."

Hain said he was "confident Labour can win the economic argument" if Miliband has the support of a loyal team around him.

He said Labour's Treasury team, led by shadow chancellor Ed Balls, "need to get out on the stump now and work even harder".

"It's important that all members of the shadow cabinet play their full role in explaining and defending Labour's policy and approach," he said.

"Labour's Treasury team need to get out on the stump now and work even harder. It shouldn't just be left to Ed (Miliband) and (deputy leader) Harriet (Harman) to carry the heavy load, whether on the World at One, the Today programme or anywhere else."

Tory Chairman Grant Shapps said: "If Ed Miliband is too weak to stand up to his own shadow chancellor, then he won't be able to stand up for the British people.

"It's the same old Labour - they're totally divided. The only thing they do agree on is taking us back to more spending, more borrowing and more debt - exactly what got us into this mess in the first place.

But Hain wrote on Twitter: "Advance mischief-making to suggest my coming piece ... an attack - coded or otherwise - on anybody in Labour. It's not."