Labour “rebel” with a cause

INTERVIEW by DAVID WOODING

WANNABE Labour leader Liz Kendall told yesterday of her lifelong “rebel” streak which she hopes will propel her party back into power.

The feisty MP admits she’s a born agitator – making her well qualified to break up the old guard standing in the way of change.

Despite being a new face to most voters, she says that makes her the only “sure bet” to put Labour on the path to government again.

Unlike her two main rivals – Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper – Ms Kendall has never held a Cabinet post.

But she’s been “leading from the front” since she was made head girl at pop star Geri Halliwell’s old school, Watford Grammar.

“I always thought myself as a bit of a rebel,” she declared. “So when they pinned the badge on me I couldn’t believe it.

“On the first day, I had full make-up on and the headmistress called me in and said ‘You’ve got to wipe all that off your face’. I remember thinking I don’t want to do this.

“But being head girl gave me an early taste of responsibility. I relish it and never shirk it. I don’t know why but I’ve always liked leading from the front.”

Ms Kendall, 44, also ran after-school sports clubs and societies and also captained the ladies’ football team at Queens’College, Cambridge.

She said: “I wasn’t particularly great on the pitch but I loved getting people together, building a team, going out to win.

“People want a strong leader. They want someone who listens, debates, decides and then leads from the front.

“I often look at great sportsmen and women and if you saw what happened in the Olympics, all of those gold medal winners always thanked the team. They said it wasn’t just them.

“That’s as true in politics as it is in sport. You need a team player who is able to point their side in the right direction and take everyone with them.

“I think I’m a sure bet because I’m the candidate who is going to change the party so we can win to change the country.”

Ms Kendall, 44, says Labour must wake up to the “catastrophic” scale of its election defeat before it accepts the scale of the changes needed to win again.

Picture 173100685 11/06/2015 at 16:40   Owner : Sun Private Pictures PIC JON BOND. 11.06.2015 LIZ KENDALL MP. SHE IS LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTENDER INTERVIEWED AND PICTURED AT PORTCULLIS HOUSE IN WESTMINSTER WITH SUNDAY SUN POLITICAL EDITOR DAVE WOODING

Liz Kendall talks to David Wooding

She said: “We need profound change, to put it mildly. A change of face and a bit of tweaking won’t be enough to win back voters who left us for Ukip, the SNP and Tories.

“So we need to turn the page and have a fresh start – and I’m the only person who can do that.”

Fitness fanatic Ms Kendall, who does four 45-minute runs a week, believes her boundless energy and modern thinking will overcome her lack of experience at top level.

“It’s not about the jobs you’ve done in the past,” she said. “It’s about understanding how our country has changed and what people want to get a better life for themselves and their families.

“The painful truth is people didn’t trust us on the economy or with their taxes and we didn’t have a positive vision for a better life that everyone could feel part of.

“It’s their money, not ours. They are busting a gut every week to earn a living and it’s their hard-earned taxes we are spending. So we have got to be more careful with their money and get the best out of every penny we spend.

“We shouldn’t be spending more on servicing our debt than on educating our children. We should be investing in things that really matter for people

“It helps to be a new face but we also have to have a new argument.”

She blasts Ed Miliband’s failed election campaign for being too narrow in its appeal.

He talked a lot about “one nation” but then failed to follow it through by focussing on a single social group.

Ms Kendal said: “I care passionately about people who are struggling but we have got to have a vision of a better life for everybody.

“If you weren’t on a zero-hours contract or the minimum wage or if you own your own home, we didn’t have anything to say. We want to be a government for the whole country and that means having a much broader message to people.”

Ms Kendall’s parents typify the sort of aspirational voters she believes her party needs to win back. Her mum was a primary school teacher while her dad, who left school at 16, studied for finance exams while working at the Bank of England.

Turning on her opponents, she added: “We need big, big changes and I’m the only candidate offering that.

“We don’t want ten more years of opposition. We want five years to set out a better vision and win in 2020.”

Dark-haired Ms Kendall, a svelte size eight, admits her personal life has been a little chaotic since she became MP for Leicester West in 2010.

Her current crisis is the “random splodge” on the white jacket she is wearing for our interview.

“It probably happened on the bus,” she said before asking an aide to dash to collect a pink M&S replacement from her flat.

“I showed my mum the jacket and she just went ‘Tut, tut. It will never last.’

“She was right. It’ll teach me never to wear white again. Other things I have to think about is not having any milk in the fridge . I’ve also run out of toothpaste.

“But like most people I know what comes in and out of my bank account. I know what I pay for and what it costs for what I buy. But I am not going to pretend I buy things that I don’t. People lead different lives.”

Ms Kendall recently ended an eight-year relationship with comedian and Inbetweeners star Greg Davies.

She is coy about discussing the break-up, adding: “He’s still a good friend and he makes me laugh. I thought the Inbetweeners was hysterical, properly funny and tapped into.”

Would she stand more chance of winning if she had a family?

“I’ve got a family,” she retorts. “Families come in lots of different shapes and sizes and I spend a lot of time – not as much as I’d like – with my nieces.

“They’re aged five and eight and they love Irish dancing and put in so much effort and energy. I danced a lot when I was younger. I love it and know how much you have to work at it.

“I went to see them in a concert. They did a funky 80s neon legwarmer version and they were out there, giving it their all, confident, in front of all these people and I felt very proud.”

The shadow care minister also has a wide circle of friends outside the Westminster “bubble”, which helps her to keep a foot in the real world.

“I try and stay as normal as possible,” she says. “If I don’t, my friends will tell me where to get off. Most of them aren’t involved in politics. They do lots of other things and that helps me.

“But I am also proud that I’m in politics because it is about changing people’s lives.

“That’s why I’ve thrown my hat in the ring. Because I love my party, I love my country. I think the Tories are letting the country down. But Labour is, too.

“And we’ve got to change if we are going to convince people to trust us to govern again.”

LIZ on SCHOOLS

Toddlers would get an early-step on the learning ladder if Liz Kendall becomes PM.

She wants pre-school education to be given equal status to primary and secondary schools.

Ms Kendall said: “My parents taught me education was my ticket to better life but sadly the labour party has stopped talking about education and forgotten what it’s for.

“We’ve got to start really young.  Kids in my constituency start school 15 months behind where they should be in their development and then play catch up for the rest of their lives. That’s my big thing on education. Start young.”

LIZ on JOBS

THE world of work has changed dramatically, she says, and so must Labour’s attitude to jobs.

“We’ve got to be a high-skill, high-wage economy in every part of the country,” she added. “We need a modern industrial strategy right across the country.

“The world is changing, work is changing and we’ve got to change and so have the unions. Women are working full time, part time, in all different sorts of sectors.”

Only 14 per cent of private sector workers now belong to a union and 15 per cent of Britain’s workforce is self-employed.

Ms Kendall said: “We’re Labour, the party of work, but we can be pro-business and pro-worker.

“Great companies know they do better if their employees have good skills. And good union leaders know that if businesses make profits, thrive, grow and expand, their members will do better, too.”

LIZ on EUROPE

LIZ Kendall was first of the leadership candidates to say she was in favour of an in-out referendum.

She said: “It was a mistake not to have done so before the election. Europe has got to change.

“We have to have the courage of our convictions, go out and make the case.  I am very strong on Britain staying part of Europe because I believe it is vital for jobs and investment.”

LIZ’S SCHOOLDAYS

SPICE Girl Geri Halliwell went to the same school as Ms Kendal – in the year below.

She remembers her well and spotted her as a rising star at a talent contest at Watford Grammar School, Herts.

Ms Kendal said: “I remember thinking, God, she is giving it her all.

“She was making the very best she could and was full of guts, passion and energy.”

She added: “I didn’t know her really well. But I couldn’t help but notice her. I remember spotting her for the first time and thinking ‘Wow!’”

LIZ’S PACKED LUNCH

LIZ Kendall never pulls her punches – and socked it to a phantom fridge raider who swiped her packed lunch.

She was stunned to find her tuna sandwich missing when she went to pick it up one day soon after landing her frontbench job.

So she left a hand-written note on the communal fridge door in a Commons corridor.

It said: “Someone has stolen my lunch from this fridge. I do not appreciate this and warn other people don’t leave anything in her unless you’re happy for it to go missing.”

But next day, a riposte appeared on a bright yellow sticky note: “I took it…AND I’D DO IT AGAIN.”

Later, a third message was added, reading: “YOU ARE A VERY SICK INDIVIDUAL.”

Ms Kendal said: “I bought a sandwich and a salad at a supermarket and put the bag containing them in the fridge.

“They only took one thing out so it wasn’t as if they nicked the whole bag. So I wrote a note warning other MPs on this corridor. Then someone wrote another little note saying they’d do it again, so it was quite funny. But I didn’t write the third note.”

David Cameron: Bulldog spirit key to ending debt crisis

By DAVID WOODING in Manchester

DAVID Cameron urged cash-strapped Britain to adopt the bulldog spirit to drag ourselves out of debt and despair.

The Prime Minister called for the nation to stop being “paralysed by gloom and fear” – and instead show some fight and energy to get our great country back on the road to prosperity.

He called on people in every walk of life to work together to turn things round and make Britain a beacon of enterprise for the world.

Mr Cameron (pictured left making his speech) issued the rallying call  in his closing speech to the Tory party conference in Manchester.

He declared: “Britain never had the biggest population, the largest land mass, the richest resources – but we had the spirit.

“Remember, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. Overcoming challenge, confounding the sceptics, reinventing ourselves, this is what we do. It’s called leadership.”

The final flourish of his address – echoing on the conference slogan: “Leadership for a better future” – was aimed at contrasting his leadership skills with those of Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Mr Cameron said: “Let’s turn this time of challenge into a time of opportunity. Not sitting around watching things happen and wondering why. But standing up, making things happen and asking why not.

“We have the people, we have the ideas, and now we have a government that’s freeing those people, backing those ideas.

“So let’s see an optimistic future. Let’s show the world some fight. Let’s pull together, work together. And together lead Britain to better days.”

The 50-minute speech covered a wide-range of issues. Here’s a summary in nugget form:

JOBS AND DEBT: Mr Cameron said: “It’s an anxious time. Prices and bills keep going up – petrol, the weekly shop, electricity.” He admitted the “uncomfortable” truth that the slump is caused by too much debt and the only way out is to cut spending and live within our means.

EUROPE: Britain will never join the euro while Mr Cameron is Prime Minister, he vowed.  And he won’t let us be sucked into “endless bail-outs” of countries that are in the single currency.

SCHOOLS: He promised to tear down the “apartheid” between private and state schools. It was “disgusting”, he said that we should aim for any less from a child from a poor background than a rich one.

IMMIGRATION: Mr Cameron vowed to get tough with criminals who use human rights laws to try to stay in this country. But he warned we must not lock out talent and should give the red carpet treatment to the best entrepreneurs, scientists and students from around the world to attract them here.

JOBS and BENEFITS: More than 2.5 million people have been “parked” on sick pay as a con trick by governments to keep unemployment figures down. The PM said: “Under Labour they got something for nothing. With us, they’ll only get something if they give something.” He will spend up to £14,000 on long-term jobless to get them trained and back into work.

GAY MARRIAGE: He promised to give equal marriage rights to same sex couples – “not despite being a Conservative but because I am a Conservative”.

ADOPTION: Action to find homes for the 65,000 children in care. Only 60 of the 3,660 kids without parents under the age of one  were adopted in Britain last year. He promised action to end this scandal. “How can we let this happen? We’ve got people flying all over the world to adopt babies, while the care system at home agonises about placing black children with white families.”

LIBYA He urged everyone to remember what Gaddafi did – he bankrolled the IRA, was behind the shooting of a police officer in London and the bombing of a plane in the skies over Lockerbie. Mr Cameron said: “Let’s be proud of the part we played in giving Libyan people the chance to take back their country.”

HEALTH and SAFETY: Mr Cameron said he would overhaul barmy health and safety rules and scale back criminal checks rules to common sense levels. He remarked: “Britain didn’t rule the waves with arm bands on.”

Mr Cameron got the biggest ovation of the afternoon when he took a sideswipe at Ed Miliband who was met with jeers when he mentioned Tony Blair at Labour’s rally in Liverpool last week.

He said he had lucky enough to have strong support from all previous Tory leaders, including Michael Howard, Iain Duncan Smith, William Hague, John Major and Lady Thatcher.

The PM quipped: “You know what? We don’t boo our leaders. We’re proud of our past and what those people did for our country.”