LABOUR is facing one of the greatest crises in its 115-year history, according to the man who oversaw the writing of the party's manifesto.


Jon Cruddas said whoever took over from Ed Miliband following the party's disastrous General Election defeat must be prepared for a fundamental rethink on what the party was all about.

The MP for Dagenham, who was drafted in by the leader to conduct a policy review and oversee the 2015 manifesto, said the party's election loss was "profound".

"Arguably, it's one of the great crises of the Labour Party's history," he declared.

"I argued that the 2010 defeat was actually the worst defeat in Labour history since 1918 and the defeat of 10 days ago was much worse; so this is profound."

The UK party's leadership battle is currently being fought by Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh and Liz Kendall with Tristram Hunt expected to throw his hat in the ring this week. Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna quit the race only days after entering, complaining about the level of media scrutiny on him and his family.

Already some of the candidates have begun to ditch previous policies. Mr Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, regarded as the frontrunner, dropped his party's opposition to an EU referendum and called on David Cameron to bring it forward from 2017 to 2016 to end uncertainty, that was damaging business.

His colleague Mary Creagh, the Shadow International Development Secretary, said she now opposed the party's mansion tax policy, saying: "It alienated a whole bunch of people, who said we were against them getting on and doing well."

Mr Cruddas said the new leader had to "own" the May 7 defeat and be "prepared to go to the dark places and fundamentally rethink what the Labour Party is for, who it represents, what it's all about".

In a separate development, Labour peer Lord Adonis suggested the party leadership should be an open primary, involving members of the public as what was important was for Labour to win not just backing from groups within the movement but also popular support.

Meantime, Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour's deputy leader, has emerged as the early favourite to take over from Jim Murphy as party leader in Scotland; indeed, suspicions are growing that she could be the only candidate.

Neil Findlay, the left-wing MSP who stood in the initial leadership election which Mr Murphy won, announced he would not be challenging for the leadership this time round.

He said he hoped to play a full part in the rebuilding process but added: "I also want to make it crystal clear that I will not be a candidate in the election for the position of Scottish Labour leader.

"I hope we can now move ahead as quickly as possible in electing a new leader, who will begin the fightback by rebuilding a confident, effective Labour Party; proud of our values whilst offering hope and a positive vision for the future."

Ian Murray, Labour's sole surviving Scottish MP, came out in support of Ms Dugdale. "She has been a good deputy leader; she's fresh, she doesn't carry any baggage of the past," said the Shadow Scottish Secretary.

"She inspires people. She's really experienced at community engagement and local community activism, which is where the Labour Party has to get back to," he added.

Mr Murphy resigned on Saturday after surviving a no-confidence motion tabled before the Scottish Labour executive committee by a narrow 17-to-14 margin; 10 MSPs had signed a letter calling on him to go.

The Sunday Herald reported the former Scottish Secretary won after voting himself on the motion, which caused some surprise, and that the no-confidence vote was won thanks to the vote of Baroness Ramsay.

Lady Ramsay, a former spy, was put on the executive temporarily by Harriet Harman, the acting UK party leader, because, under party rules, there were two executive places for MPs. But the landslide election defeat meant there was only one MP in Scotland to take an executive seat.