Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Minister Hits out at Labour Failings; 'Lamentable' Performance Is Lambasted

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Minister Hits out at Labour Failings; 'Lamentable' Performance Is Lambasted

Article excerpt

Byline: Gavin Cordon

THE Government has been guilty of a "lamentable failure" to get its message across to voters, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said yesterday.

In a scathing article for The Observer, she said Labour's reputation had suffered a "titanic battering" in recent weeks and warned that the party faced "dire consequences" if it did not re-connect with the public.

She even had a dig at Gordon Brown's infamous YouTube appearance, saying: "YouTube if you want to. But it's no substitute for knocking on doors or setting up a stall in the town centre." In a hastily issued statement last night, Ms Blears said that her comments had not been intended as a criticism of Mr Brown, who enjoyed her "100% support".

Nevertheless they will resonate with those Labour MPs who have become increasingly dismayed with the Prime Minister's leadership.

They came after a bruising week for the Government with setbacks over Gurkha settlement rights and MPs' expenses, as well as lingering unhappiness over a proposed smear campaign against leading Tories by ex-No 10 aide Damian McBride.

Like some of Mr Brown's most outspoken critics on the Labour backbenches - such as former home secretary Charles Clarke who said he felt "ashamed" to be a Labour MP - Ms Blears is closely associated with the Blairite wing of the party.

In her article, she was particularly critical of the handling of last week's vote on settlement rights for Gurkha veterans which resulted in a highly damaging first Commons defeat for Mr Brown since becoming Prime Minister.

"We approached the Gurkha issue purely rationally and were mown down by a wave of emotion in support of these brave, loyal fighters," she said.

"We put ourselves on the wrong side of the British sense of fair play, and no political party can stay there for long without dire consequences." Mr Clarke stepped up his attack, calling for a complete clear-out of ministers and "noxious apparatchiks" associated with Mr McBride's smear tactics. …

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