Prescott fumes at shadow cabinet’s Project Humility
Stop apologising and take on the coalition says Prezza, as Ed Miliband faces opinion poll blow
AS ED MILIBAND prepares to address the Labour party conference in Liverpool this afternoon, he has been urged by John Prescott to have a shadow cabinet reshuffle and get rid of anyone who is "not pulling their weight".
The former deputy prime minister exploded on BBC Newsnight after hearing that the shadow cabinet had been operating under an "oath of silence" for the past year and that the very public apologies for the last Labour government's performance - from Ed Balls and others – had been agreed at a meeting of the shadow cabinet.
The revelation of an oath of silence, and the apology strategy, came from Dougie Alexander, shadow foreign secretary, who was interviewed just before Prescott came on the programme. "Let's be honest," Wee Dougie told Kirsty Wark, "after Labour lost the election, people wanted a period of silence and humility from Labour."
Prescott went ballistic. "I have just heard from Douglas that they took an oath in the shadow cabinet not to campaign, to be silent. There are so many things wrong, on the planning side, the housing side, but people have kept their mouths shut… I now know why they have kept their mouths shut in the last 12 months. They took an agreement to keep quiet. We've given the argument to the Tories."
There was only one answer, fumed Prezza: chuck anyone who wasn't pulling their weight out of the shadow cabinet and bring in some people prepared to take on the coalition.
The shadow ministers he probably has in his sights could include Mary Creagh (environment) Caroline Flint (communities) Ivan Lewis (culture) and Meg Hillier (energy and climate change).
Prescott may be an old warhorse, but he is reflecting growing unrest at the party conference among the rank-and-file members and trade union leaders at the spectacle of Ed Balls and others apologising for the past instead of going onto the attack against the Tory-led coalition. If Labour fail to win the next election, they will point to the shadow cabinet's "period of silence" as the reason for their failure.
Miliband's task today could not be harder after the Independent's ComRes poll today put the Tories back in the lead (37 per cent to Labour's 36 per cent) for the first time in a year and showed that only one-in-four see him as a credible prime minister-in-waiting.
Just as serious, it appears the public prefer to trust George Osborne, the chancellor, than Ed Balls, his Labour shadow, on the crucial issue of the economy.
Miliband's spinners have fed some lines to today's papers ahead of his big speech – he will attack the "fast buck, something for nothing" society. He'll also target "predator asset strippers" in big business, implying that they should be penalised while good employers should be rewarded with tax breaks. He will name Southern Cross, the operators of residential homes for the elderly who went bust, as bad and Rolls Royce as good.
In a line from his speech given out by the spinners, Ed will also say: "There is a quiet crisis which doesn't get the headlines. It's about the people who don't make a fuss, who don't hack the phones, who don't loot shops, fiddle their expenses or earn telephone numbers salaries at the banks."
None of this will cut much ice with Prescott, who is already off to China on a global warming meeting. His blunt message to Labour is: "Stop complaining – start campaigning." ·
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