Ed Miliband: Forces of hell was “awful culture”

Ed Miliband has distanced himself from Labour's culture of briefing. He said it was a "self destructive, awful culture".

Labour leadership candidate Ed Miliband has distanced himself from the culture of briefing and counter-briefing that became a characteristic of new Labour’s period in office. David Miliband’s campaign co-manager, Douglas Alexander, described the culture as “unconscionable”.

Speaking at a panel on “Learning from the 2010 election” at Progress’ annual conference in London this morning, the two members of the shadow cabinet answered questions from grassroots Labour members. Douglas Alexander said that culture of briefing, described by Alistair Darling as “the forces of hell” did “profound damage to our moral claim to office”. Later, he suggested that a lower tolerance to the briefing culture of recent years could be one of the reasons why the “rate of attrition” among female MPs had been higher than among men.

Ed Miliband said it was an “awful culture” which had been “self-destructive”. He called for a  “genuinely fraternal contest between all the candidates”. Earlier, the leadership candidate said, “people lost a sense of what we stood for [during the election]”:

“Sometimes we strayed from our values … We didn’t give the kind of response [to the banking crisis] that would have been true to our values.”

Mr Miliband said the party needed to have a debate about what it meant by equality, responsibility, and aspiration. Douglas Alexander said the challenge of future months was to “answer the question and describe the way forward” including on immigration, conditions at work, and social housing.

Earlier, Guardian journalist Jackie Ashley said Labour had developed a school teacherly “because I say so” attitude on issues including the environment and taxation. Peter Kellner said the party had to come to terms with the big issue of our time: “security – income security, job security, pension security, personal safety”. Opening the conference, Brendan Barber said the party had become timid on policy areas including banking, tax fairness, and climate change.

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