Byrne critical of ‘intangible’ Labour message

Liam Byrne continued Labour’s search for answers at its autumn conference with an admission his party has not connected with the electorate.

He said the government needed to connect with voters by presenting a “far more tangible” policy message in future at a fringe meeting hosted by the Fabian Society in Manchester this evening.

The Home Office and Treasury minister said the huge global changes transforming British society in the last ten years were having a major impact on domestic politics which needed explaining.

“We have not put this story together with the political elan that I think we could,” he said.

“This is a story about national unity in the face of change that is absolutely sellable across middle England. We will be the party to make sure that Britain will still feel like home as we go through these changes.”

Mr Byrne’s comments came in a debate about engaging middle-class voters with inequality issues. He called for Labour to use the new wealth generated by years of economic prosperity to end society’s divisions.

But Mr Byrne was challenged by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who was attending the meeting to press his support for early intervention.

“We have to look at poverty not simply on how much money you spend on it – but how you spend it,” he said.

“If we can get to them early, we may have a chance of changing the lifestyle they’re going to lead.”

Mr Duncan Smith suggested his proposals about early intervention may encounter difficulty at the Conservatives’ conference in Bournemouth next week.

“You think it’s tough for me to come here, you wait for me to go to my party’s conference next week,” he said, to laughter.