Labour needs to produce the most "radical" manifesto in over twenty years if it is to secure the big majority it needs at the next election to implement big changes , a shadow cabinet minister has said.
In an interview with The Huffington Post UK to mark the one year to go point until the election, Angela Eagle said circumstances demanded that Labour do much more than simply play it safe and try and quietly sneak over the finish line and back into power.
As well as sitting in Ed Miliband's top team as shadow leader of the Commons, Eagle has a key role in the party's policy development given her jobs as National Policy Forum chair and chair of Labour's National Executive Committee.
Eagle also savaged the Lib Dems for inflicting "misery" on the country, said equality for women did not come "naturally" to David Cameron's Conservatives, that Ed Miliband was prepared for a "dirty campaign" and that Labour should not be too worried about Ukip.
"I’m not a 'one more heave' offer person," she said. "I‘m into transformative offers. I think the times demand it. We probably wont win 100% of the vote in the general election, but we should aspire to have a clear a mandate as possible because it’s difficult times. We’ve seen this government didn’t have a mandate and they’ve certainly remade the country in their own dismal image in the last four years. We must aspire to win with a big majority."
The former Treasury minister's warning speaks to an internal Labour debate about how the party should fight the next election, which will be held one year from today on May 7 2015. In March party intellectuals from both the left and the right of the party warned Miliband that he could not simply rely on the unpopularity of David Cameron the Conservative Party to see him safely into Downing Street.
Eagle did not criticise the Labour leader. But her demand that the manifesto "needs to be the most radical of all" produced since 1992, when she first entered parliament, may be directed at Labour colleagues who want a more cautious approach. The debate has been characterised as being between the Transformers vs Realists or the Thirty Five Percenters vs the Majoritarians.
Angea Eagle is confident voters won't 'dally' with Nigel Farage once they realise what Ukip is really like
Labour has had a consistent lead in the polls, but with one year to go until election day the gap appears to be narrowing. Despite this, Eagle said she was "very confident" Labour can win the election outright. But the Wallasey MP said it would be a mistake for Labour to think it was inevitable that the party would coast to victory, especially given the defeat it suffered in 2010.
"I’m not one of these pendulum people who think, 'Ok, the pendulum will come back'. We have to earn trust and that’s what we’re setting out to do," she said. "It was the second worst [defeat] we had in the party’s history. We have to understand where we are coming from. We have to understand we have to re-earn the trust of people."
"What Labour has to do to win the next election is come up with distinctive policy programme which speaks to the fears, insecurities, needs, wishes and dreams of our population. I don’t think the current coalition government are doing that. I think they have a very mean view of the kind of society they want to create where everyone is frightened of each other."
The 2015 campaign is expected to be one of the nastiest in recent times. Eagle insisted Labour is "not going to play it dirty" but that the party will stand up for itself if there is a "huge dirty campaign" and "personal attacks against Ed Miliband".
Eagle also said she expected a lot a of negative coverage in the media from "press barons who carry on extolling the virtues of this neoliberal structure that nearly brought the whole of Western economics down to their knees".
"Let’s face it, Gordon Brown spending money on schools and hospitals did not cause a recession in 68 countries. It did not. We know it was global financial meltdown caused by unbridled greed and problems which began in the subprime mortgage market in the United States."
Last week former Labour cabinet minister and Miliband ally John Denham warned voters in the south of England did not think Labour understood their problems. Eagle said the party had to be "realistic" about the resources it could muster to reach deep into Tory heartlands compared to the "huge tsunami of hedge fund cash" the Tories had , but suggested Denham's analysis did ring true.
"This doesn’t mean to say the party doesn’t sometimes sound too northern," she said. "I would like us to be like Heineken and reach the parts that other beers don’t. Reach everywhere."
"We always have to be mindful there are as many people who are struggling in the south of England as there are in the North. We have to tailor our messages to remember them and not always think that the northern perspective is the only one. And I speak as someone who represents a North West seat."
Angela Eagle said gender equality did not come 'naturally' to the Conservative Party
Eagle's demand that Labour aim for a sizeable majority with a clear mandate was echoed in her distaste for the Liberal Democrats. It was clear she was not wild about the idea of a Lib-Lab coalition after 2015, in the event of a hung parliament.
"The Lib Dems have facilitated every appalling decision this government have made," she said. "There wouldn’t be a majority for them to pass the bedroom tax, for them to cut tax for millionaires without the Lib Dems going along with it.
She added: "However they try to claim that somehow it was nothing to do with them, they voted for it. I see the Lib Dems as facilitators of this government causing a lot of misery and destruction in our country. They’ve not been held prisoner by the Tories, they have voluntarily gone into this agreement. I reserve the right to carry on having my opinion of the Lib Dems."
It is one year to go until the general election. But it is just over two weeks until the European parliament elections and Eagle conceded it was likely Ukip, not Labour, would top the poll.
"We want to elect as many MEPs as possible," she said. "I think quite often the electorate see the European elections as a kind of place where they can do kicking of politicians, rather than voting for something positive because many people see the European parliament as a remote institution they don’t know a lot about."
Eagle said because of the results of the elections this month were not necessarily too good an indication of how things would shake out in 2015. "I don’t think you'll be able to extrapolate hugely form what happens in European parliament elections."
Eagle also said she was confident that hammering home to voters "what Ukip actually really stand for", including being "admirers of Thatcher", would make people shun the anti-EU party. "Once we actually talk about what Ukip stand for rather than the fact its this sort of jolly looking bloke with a pint in his hand people begin to realise they can’t dally like that."
"I’m not as worried as some might be about Ukip’s appeal to Labour voters," she said. "I think they are appealing to non-voters quite a lot. I think the Conservatives have a lot more to worry about, without being complacent, than we do."
There is also an ongoing debate about whether it is both right, and electorally useful, to brand Nigel Farage and his party as racist for their anti-immigration rhetoric.
"I wouldn’t do that," she said. "I just think you have to deal with their arguments head on. I’m not a name caller in politics, unless it’s for a joke at business questions and then I hope it’s reasonably funny."
One of Eagle's most famous Commons jousting moments came not during one of her weekly more light-hearted exchanges with Andrew Lansley, but when she was told to "calm down dear" by the prime minister. "It was my fault, I was correcting the PM about something and he didn’t like it very much," Eagle said, tongue in cheek.
Eagle said the Conservatives have a "terrible problem" with women and that the coalition's policies have negatively "affected women far more than they have affected men".
"It's no surprise that they have more of a problem attracting women to vote Conservative. Part of that problem is they really don't have very many female representatives in positions of influence and power and in cabinet. The prime minister promised half his cabinet by the end of the parliament. He was reduced to blaming Nick Clegg for not having enough women in his cabinet.
"They do not do women’s equality naturally in the Conservative Party. They do it because they think they have to because they know they’ve got a problem. And because the pollsters tell them they’ve got a problem."
"I think the prime minister’s inner-circle is overwhelmingly male and public school with all the banter that goes with it. All that kind of barracks room sniggering shows them at their worse."
Asked what her ideal job in a Miliband cabinet would be, Eagle said she would "do the job I am asked to do" by the Labour leader. "I am quite happy being leader of the House and getting a very large legislative programme though in a better oder than this lot manage."
Eagle added: "But you know I’m in the market for anything that’s interesting and important. I’ve done four different departments so far in my ministerial career I’m quite happy to add another."