UK & World News
Labour: Miliband Told To Raise His Game
Ed Miliband has until next spring to prove he can lead Labour to election victory, a senior shadow cabinet minister has said.
Andy Burnham, who stood against Ed Miliband for the party leadership, says his party needs to spell out its ideas in a way that "captures how people are feeling and thinking".
The shadow health secretary claimed many voters had "decided the coalition is a failure as a government", but "what they aren't yet convinced is that we have the answers".
In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Burnham said: "I think there's definitely a need to shout louder, and speak in a way that captures how people are feeling and thinking. There's definitely a need to put our cards on the table."
Asked how long that window was, he replied not "much beyond next spring".
His comments follow criticism of Mr Miliband's leadership from backbench MPs, but the shadow health secretary insisted he had the "utmost respect" for his leader.
Veteran backbencher George Mudie says Labour appears "hesitant" and "confused" because of Mr Miliband's failure to spell out a clear agenda to voters.
Mr Burnham denied he was echoing Mr Mudie's concerns and said: "No, this isn't a criticism of Ed ... I'm making it a criticism of modern politics."
He confirmed there were difficulties within the shadow cabinet over his radical plans to integrate social care into the NHS, but claimed he wanted to deliver a policy for Mr Miliband which would "knock the others off the pitch".
The Guardian said the proposal faces strong resistance from shadow chancellor Ed Balls, and Mr Miliband remains undecided.
Mr Burnham, who was health secretary under Gordon Brown, criticised the way in which Labour had opened up the NHS to private sector firms.
"Once the market takes a hold on the system it will destroy what's precious about it," he said.
"We had been building a policy that had been saying it doesn't matter who provides healthcare as long as it's free at the point of delivery. But I'm saying it does matter."
His comments follow interventions in recent weeks by Mr Mudie and his fellow backbenchers Geraint Davies and Graham Stringer.
Mr Davies wrote in The Independent earlier this week that Mr Miliband needs to provide a "compelling case" to the electorate on why the country would be better off under Labour and come up with a more effective response to Conservative attacks.
Mr Stringer said the party was making "a huge mistake" by "slumbering" during Westminster's summer recess, rather than using the opportunity to attack the Conservatives.
Conservative chairman Grant Shapps said: "This shows that even senior members of Labour's top team think Ed Miliband doesn't have what it takes to stand up for hardworking people.
"His lack of leadership and his lack of ideas shows he's a weak leader of a party that just hasn't changed. It's the same old Labour Party and hardworking people would pay the price of its failure to face up to the mess it created."