UK Politics

Harman: Labour activists wrong to boo Blair

Harriet Harman
Image caption Ms Harman said it was not true to suggest Labour was shifting to the left

Labour Party members were wrong to boo at the mention of Tony Blair's name during the party conference, deputy leader Harriet Harman has told the BBC.

Party leader Ed Miliband mentioned the former Labour PM during his big conference speech - but some party members expressed their disapproval.

Ms Harman said they were a minority and other members were "very aggrieved" at the way it had been presented.

She also rejected suggestions the party was shifting to the left.

Some jeers were heard when Mr Miliband said in his conference speech: "You know, I'm not Tony Blair."

He went on to praise Mr Blair and his successor, Gordon Brown, as "great men" but adding: "I'm my own man."

'Tiny section'

David Cameron mentioned the episode in his speech to the Conservative Party conference, listing all his predecessors back to Baroness Thatcher and adding: "We don't boo our leaders. We're proud of our past and what those people did for our country."

In an interview with BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, Ms Harman was asked whether Mr Miliband had decided to move the party to the left.

She said: "I don't think that's true. It was a tiny, tiny section of the conference that did a kind of groan at the mention of Tony Blair's name and I think they were wrong to do that and that was not the view of conference as a whole and people were very aggrieved at the way that's been presented."

"I don't think it's particularly left wing to say that people shouldn't be ripped off in their energy bills."

She also defended Mr Miliband's remarks in his speech about changing the "values" of British business - to favour "producers" over "predators", and his criticism of "big vested interests" like energy firms.

Various business groups raised concerns about the speech, leading Mr Miliband to stress he was not "anti-business".

Ms Harman told the BBC it meant government should not remain "agnostic" towards businesses which help the economy and those which engage in "bad behaviour". Instead public policy should enforce good behaviour.

She said it was "fair criticism" to suggest the previous Labour government had been happy not to interfere, so long as it was reaping the benefits of tax take from the financial sector. "We're taking it forward now and saying things should be done differently," she said.

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