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20 May 2011

Labour needs to stop mourning for its “lost leader”, says shadow cabinet minister

Angela Eagle, shadow minister, will call on colleagues to forget about the leadership battle and con

By Duncan Robinson

The shadow chief secretary to the treasury, Angela Eagle, will tomorrow call on Labour MPs to forget about the leadership election and concentrate on rebuilding the party.

“Nostalgia for a lost leader is no substitute for the hard graft of renewal,” she will say in a speech to the New Labour pressure group Progress.

The line is a clear reference to David Miliband, whom Eagle supported in the Labour leadership election. David picked up more votes from MPs than his brother, Ed, but was defeated overall. The speech is part of an explicit attempt to draw a line under the fraternal feud that has left bad feelings in parts of the party.

According to extracts seen exclusively by the New Statesman, Eagle will also call on fellow MPs to defend Labour’s economic record, rather than passively accepting the blame for the financial crisis – and the Conservative Party’s solutions. “A masochistic display of mea culpa will not win us the next election. It will only play into the Tories’ hands,” Eagle says.

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She will also defend Ed Miliband’s record in opposition, telling her audience:

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To those of you who are impatient with our progress I say, we need to be patient not complacent. There is a rhythm to opposition. The public aren’t inclined to listen to you immediately after you have lost a general election. Tony Blair did not win a leadership election six months after an election defeat. And if he had his approach would have been different to the one he took 15 years later.