A Jeremy Corbyn victory in the Labour leadership race could lead to 1980s-style infighting and embolden the Tories to become more right wing, Yvette Cooper has warned
In an interview with The Huffington Post UK, the Shadow Home Secretary said that the chaos caused by a Corbyn win could be exploited by David Cameron just as Margaret Thatcher used Labour’s 1980s lurch left to become more hardline.
But with less than a week to go in the race, Ms Cooper said that she still has a chance of pulling off a surprise victory because Labour members are holding back from voting until the last minute in order to ‘get it right'.
* confirms she will go to the backbenches if Jeremy Corbyn wins
* admits she has struggled with the personal element of the leadership campaign, revealing she is ‘a bit too English’ in getting embarrassed talking about herself
* says that the first 6 weeks of her leadership campaign were dominated by the general election loss; “it was just like everybody was just on the floor. It was really hard for anyone to start thinking about the future”
* says she ‘hasn’t thought about’ running again for leader if asked to a second time
* attacks Corbyn's pacifism, declaring “I think you always have to work for peace, but sometimes you have to fight for justice" and citing the example of Kosovo as a military intervention on behalf of refugees.
* admits that when husband Ed Balls went on holiday with their children, she resorted to takeaways and McDonald’s because she hates cooking for herself
In the interview, Ms Cooper also talks about how she felt for her own children when she first saw the photo of Aylan Kurdi.
Asked if her 10,000 refugee call showed she had 'found her voice’ in recent weeks, she said ‘my voice will be strongest when there’s a lot at stake’.
She also reveals the public have inundated her with messages of support over her strong call for action - and attacks Corbyn’s reluctance to back military action to prevent refugee crises.
Mr Corbyn last night won an online poll and most audience applause in the final televised hustings of the leadership race.
Ms Cooper, Mr Corbyn, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall are all in the contest, which ends at noon on Thursday September 10.
Margaret Thatcher in her pomp
Ms Cooper said that the big danger of a Corbyn victory was the way the Tories would then exploit the shift Left, not least after some Corbyn allies have suggested deselecting Labour MPs who had not backed their candidate.
“What happened in the 1980s made it possible for the Tories to become more right wing in Government, made it possible for Margaret Thatcher to take a harder line because the Labour party wasn’t as a credible threat, a credible alternative.
"It’s not just about.. the Labour party fighting itself. It’s about making it harder for us to defeat them. It’s divided parties, people don’t want a party fighting among itself.”
With less than half of the 550,000 the Ms Cooper added: "I think there’s a huge number of people who haven’t voted yet. Some of that is delayed ballots, some of that is people being on holiday, some of that is people wanting to take time to get it right."
“And I think that is a good thing. It also fits with what I’m saying, which is we’ve got to get this right because this is really important.
"And if we just go down shouting from the sidelines. The whole point of the Labour party when we were first founded was to put principles into practice. If we don’t do that we stop being the Labour party, we just become a protest movement.”
But she also admitted she had struggled with the personal nature of the leadership campaign and that it had taken six weeks before she could start making an impact.
Asked what she had learned most about herself in the leadership campaign, she replied:
"I think the thing that is different in running for the leadership and other campaigning is all other previous jobs that I’ve done in the end it’s all about what are you fighting for, what is it you want to change.
“Sometimes the way you do it is by persuading other people to do things rather than going out and doing things yourself and rather than talking about yourself and having to sell yourself. And I suppose the difference in a leadership campaign is that you’re also having to sell yourself.
“And actually I’m a bit too English to do that all the time.
"The thing I had most trouble with when I first started, she [pointing at her aide] had got these great banner things, pop up things, with my face on. I would look at it and think ‘that’s just too embarrassing, I can’t go and stand in front of a big picture of my face, that’s just not a very English thing to do.’ I had to. And that is a big change."
"When you first stand to be selected as a candidate, you are for that brief period selling yourself. Once you are selected as a Labour candidate, you are promoting the Labour party and a whole set of values.
"And to be honest, I’m much more comfortable saying this is a set of ideas and about a vision of things that we want all of us to do."
The leadership contenders
Ms Cooper also reveals that she struggles with cooking for herself when husband Ed Balls is away, as he was this summer with their children on holiday.
“I went just briefly at the beginning of the holiday with them and I came back. And so when they were away, of course Ed does all the cooking so I was completely stuffed.
"Takeaways, fish and chip shop...one night I went to McDonald’s at ten o’clock at night. A few ready meals I could just about manage.”
Mr Burnham today warned Mr Corbyn's failure to commit to Britain's EU membership put manufacturing jobs at risk.
A new Anglia Ruskin University poll of Labour councillors put Mr Corbyn in first place on 30%. But he was narrowly ahead of Ms Cooper on 29%, Mr Burnham on 28% and Ms Kendall on 13%.