UK Politics

Labour leadership: We must offer optimism - Yvette Cooper

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Media captionYvette Cooper: "We've got to have optimism for the future"

Labour needs to offer a more ambitious and optimistic future for the country if it is to win back support, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has said.

Setting out her pitch for the party leadership, Ms Cooper said it was time to move beyond the Blair and Brown era.

She said she had the credibility and toughness to lead the party.

Ms Cooper joins Andy Burnham, Chuka Umunna and Liz Kendall in the race to succeed Ed Miliband, who resigned after Labour's general election defeat.

The party was left with just 232 seats, having sustained heavy losses at the hands of the SNP and failing to make ground in England. The Conservatives defied the opinion polls to win an overall majority.

Acting leader Harriet Harman, who has set out the timetable for electing a new leader, has pledged an "open and honest" debate on the future.

The winner of the contest will be elected in September before the party conference.

'Bigger ambitions'

Ms Cooper announced her intention to throw her hat into the ring for the party leadership in a column for the Daily Mirror.

Setting out her vision for the party on Thursday, she told the BBC the new leader needed to offer answers for the country, and not just the party.

And she cautioned against going "back to remedies of the past, be that of Tony Blair or Gordon Brown or other approaches in the past", saying this would not work because the world had changed.

"We've got to have a much bolder vision for our future, much bigger ambitions for people in this country.

"Because if this leadership election is just about the Labour Party that is not going to answer the real concerns families across the country have about their future. That is what this has got to be about," she said.

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Media captionAndy Burnham: "Our challenge is... to rediscover the beating heart of Labour"

Pressed on what went wrong for Labour at the election, Ms Cooper said the party did not convince enough people that it "could match their ambitions for the future".

The shadow front bencher also said Labour needed the credibility, ambition and optimism to "drown out those voices of fear and anxiety that we've heard from UKIP and the Tories".

"We're going to need somebody strong enough to take on the Tories and UKIP, but we've also got to have that optimism for the future as well," she added.

Asked during an interview on BBC Radio 4's World at One programme whether the previous Labour government spent too much in the run up to the 2008 crash, Ms Cooper said it had not.

Ms Cooper - who was then chief secretary to the Treasury - acknowledged the party did not always spend public money "wisely" but insisted overall spending levels were supported by all the political parties at the time.

'The beating heart'

Also putting himself forward as Mr Miliband's successor is the shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, who has said the party must support the "aspirations of everyone".

In a video announcing his intention to stand, Mr Burnham said the party needed a leader "whose voice could carry into all the nations and regions of the UK".

"Our challenge is not to go left or right, to focus on one part of the country above another, but to rediscover the beating heart of Labour," he said, adding: "That is about the aspirations of everyone, speaking to them like we did in 1997."

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Image caption Chuka Umunna said the election defeat was a "collective failure on the front team"
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Image caption Liz Kendall said a "fundamentally new approach" was needed from her party

Mr Umunna, the shadow business secretary, has said the party must address the aspirations of people "all the way up the income chain", while shadow care minister Ms Kendall has suggested Labour lost the election "because people didn't trust us on the economy".

Tristram Hunt and Mary Creagh are also seen as potential successors.

Labour must also choose a new deputy leader to replace Ms Harman, who has said she will not seek re-election to the post. Stella Creasy, Tom Watson, Angela Eagle and Caroline Flint are thought to be in the running.

Under the timetable drawn up by the party's National Executive Committee (NEC), hopefuls have until 15 June to meet the requirement of having the backing of 15% of the party's MPs by gaining nominations from 34 colleagues.

Under rules agreed last year, all Labour Party members, registered supporters and affiliated supporters - including union members - will be allowed one vote each.

The ballot will close on 10 September, with the new leader announced two days later. Labour's annual conference begins on 27 September.


Labour leadership timetable

15 May: The formal election period opens

8 June: Parliamentary Labour Party will stage hustings for the contenders

9 June: More hustings for the deputy leader contenders. Nominations for both posts open.

15 June: Nominations for leader will close at midday

17 June: Nominations for their deputy will close at midday

12 August: Deadline for people to join the Labour party

14 August: Ballot papers sent out by post

10 September: Polling closes at midday

12 September: Winners announced at special conference

27 September: Labour's party conference begins

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