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Chuka Umunna and Liz Kendall attacked for early Labour leadership interventions

Unannounced rival campaign accuses shadow ministers of "behaving like family members taking jewellery off a corpse".

By George Eaton

With another Labour leadership contest about to begin, two of the leading candidates – Chuka Umunna and Liz Kendall – have wasted no time in setting out their stalls. In a piece in tomorrow’s Observer, Umunna, one of Ed Miliband’s original supporters, delivers a fierce critique of his political strategy and tone. He writes:

We tried to cobble together a 35% coalition of our core vote, disaffected Lib Dems, Greens and Ukip supporters. The terrible results were the failure of that approach writ large. We need a different, big-tent approach – one in which no one is too rich or poor to be part of our party. Most of all, we need to start taking large numbers of votes directly from the Conservatives.

The shadow business secretary also revives the arguments he made in a recent interview with me, warning that Labour appeared too dogmatic and ideologically rigid under Miliband. “Sometimes we made it sound like we saw taxing people as a good in itself, rather than a means to an end,” he writes. 

Kendall, the shadow health minister has given an interview to the Sunday Times in which she warns that the “future survival” of the party is at risk unless it does more to appeal to Conservative voters. Asked whether she will run for the leadership, she says: “Yes I am considering it. But we don’t just need a new face. We need a fundamentally new approach.”

Umunna and Kendall’s decision to intervene just two days after Labour’s defeat has prompted anger among some in the party. A source from an unannounced leadership campaign told me they were “behaving like family members taking jewellery off a corpse”. Whether Labour activists (who have as much influence as MPs under the new one-member-one system) regard their interventions as premature or as entirely necessary will be crucial in determining the early shape of the race. 

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