Angela Rayner has insisted the public "don't care about my job, they care about their jobs" as she battles to move Labour on from the damaging fall-out of last week's elections.
Labour's deputy leader will appear alongside Keir Starmer at a series of joint public visits across the country as they put on a united front after a botched reshuffle.
After a bruising few days, she admitted the party - and its leader - had failed to articulate what it stood for.
Instead of "fluffy language", Labour needed to promise decent, secure jobs that paid enough to get a home and look after family.
In her first interview since the chaos of the weekend, Ms Rayner admitted she had found it "difficult" after being initially sacked from her party role, then given a broader brief to set out Labour's plans and take on the Tories.
She said internal briefings around her position had been "frustrating" and revealed how she was "disappointed" that the situation had overshadowed some of the party's better results.
Ms Rayner admitted that she and Mr Starmer had had "robust and frank" conversations around her role but that their teams were now working together.
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But she insisted she remained loyal to her boss - with whom she has a "huge amount of mutual respect" - despite claims from allies she could mount a leadership challenge amid the chaos.
"I'm getting on with the job of supporting Labour being a party of a Government in waiting. That's what we need to focus on," she said.
"Not just attack the Tories where they're doing things wrong, but also talking about what we'd do.
"Talking about the differences between the Conservatives and us, and talking about what type of Britain we want."
Ms Rayner batted away claims she still had one eye on the leadership herself.
"I want to be deputy PM. I want to get into Government as quickly as we possibly can. I'm absolutely focused on that. People don't care about my job, they care about their jobs."
But the fall-out from the elections rumbled on after Labour MP Carolyn Harris, a close aide to Mr Starmer, stepped down when she was accused of negative briefings about Ms Rayner.
"I don't think anybody should be discussing people's private lives," she responded, although she had not seen the reports.
"We're professionals. It's about what we do for the country and how we perform in our roles."
She added: "I've always found Keir to be incredibly professional.
"When we took over our joint leadership we were very clear about how we wanted to set that culture and standard in our organisation."
As she reflected on Labour's losses - which saw it suffer a devastating loss in the Hartlepool by-election as well as a swathe of council seats across the so-called 'red wall' - Ms Rayner admitted the party had failed to articulate what it stood for.
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"One of the things I heard on the campaign trail is okay, you're not Jeremy Corbyn, but what do you and Keir Starmer stand for? We've got to answer that question," she said.
"We've got to offer something that speaks to our voters post-pandemic that focuses on jobs and security, and looking out for our area and being proud of it."
She added: "We failed to be able to articulate that in those areas we had austerity and significant cuts and the Government has delivered piecemeal investment, little bits here and there, but taken it out of the areas where the greatest need is.
"I always say we under-promise and over-deliver, it's always the Labour way, yet the Tories they over-promise and under-deliver."
She admitted that Labour had too often "patronised" or "talked down" to voters rather than listening to them - but she was convinced the party could win them back.
"We've just got to say what we mean and mean what we say - speak to the voters and listen to them, that's the most important thing.
"Those voters we need to regain lost trust with us, but they are emotionally connected with us.
"Yes, they're also upset with us. But now they're willing to listen to us we've got to set out why they should vote for us."
But she rejected the idea of a John Prescott-style pledge card, saying the party needed to offer "practical steps, not platitudes".
She added: "What do we mean by improving things? For me it's pay-rises, it's rights at work, it's ending out-sourcing so our public services are for the public and not for profit, it is bringing back industry and green jobs into areas that have been hammered. That's it in a nutshell.
"It's about not talking fluffy language, it's actually making sure that you have got a decent, secure job that pays you well and that you can get a home and look after your family."
She said Labour needed to focus on the strength of communities - and the party's candidate for the Batley and Spen by-election this summer should be picked by local members.
"People are not necessarily interested in the background of that candidate, they're interested in whether they'll reflect and fight for their area".
Ms Rayner accused the Tories of failing to deliver real change to people's lives - singling out their promises to end regional inequalities and to fix the social care system.
"It's all jam tomorrow. It upsets me because people will be disillusioned by it," she said.
"The Tories have been in power for over 10 years. I'm sorry, you can make a grandiose speech, it doesn't change things for people, they don't want platitudes.
"They keep saying they'll give us stuff but we haven't got that investment actually, we keep getting told we're getting a little bit here and a little bit there.
"He's probably very clever at using words and being theatrical but he's not delivering on the ground.
"Do people think their loves have improved in those areas since the Tories have been in power?"
Ms Rayner said she did not believe that the realignment of British politics - with working-class people in England backing the Tories - was permanent.
"No, I don't. And what I'm really concerned about is that people are going to get even more disillusioned with the whole of politics because of it."
She defended Labour's strategy of attacking Boris Johnson over 'Tory sleaze' allegations that he has broken rules on his Caribbean holiday and the lavish refurb of the Downing Street flat.
No 10 has insisted he has stuck to the rules but several investigations are ongoing.
Ms Rayner said: "It's not about personnel, it's not because it's Boris Johnson, it's about our democracy.
"Nobody is above the law, the rules are there for a reason.
"It goes bigger than Boris Johnson. If you allow him to do that, then anyone can do that."