A mountain to climb: Miliband bats away leadership questions

Ed Miliband struggled during his World At One interview
Ed Miliband struggled during his World At One interview
Alex Stevenson By

Ed Miliband has insisted he is "confident about Labour's message" in a challenging and at times embarrassing radio interview.

The Labour leader attracted unusually high levels of criticism online during his interview for BBC Radio 4's The World At One programme, in which he refused to speculate on his party's performance in Thursday's local elections by declaring he is not interested in "political commentary".

Miliband dismissed opinion polls showing him performing worse at this stage of the electoral cycle than Neil Kinnock, saying irritably: "Let the polls take care of themselves."

He has faced attacks on his approach to the job from senior Labour figures including former prime minister Tony Blair. Miliband said Blair's best piece of advice was to "understand the new circumstances you're in", before later in the interview addressing the feedback head-on.

"Different people at different times make criticisms, that's what you get with leadership," he said


"I feel confident about Labour's message. We've got a One Nation message, which is a real message about how we can change the country.

"We're setting out really important policies for people. As I go around the country I feel people responding to Labour's message and in the end the voters make their choice.

"That's what they'll do in these elections and at the general election."

Both his unusually aggressive tone and the policy content of the interview attracted instant disapproval online. Miliband used the interview to suggest he would deal with the government's welfare reforms by creating more jobs and repeatedly hinted Labour could scrap universal pensioners' benefits like winter fuel allowance.

When asked what the toughest question he had faced over the campaign period was, he replied by saying he had found a complaint about the price of a first-class stamp, now 60p, had proved challenging.

On the pensioners' benefits policy, Miliband pointed out winter fuel allowance had been effective since its introduction by New Labour but added its future was under consideration in Labour's policy review.

"We're supporters of the winter fuel allowance, we think it's an important benefit, but of course we'll look at all those issues," he added.

Labour is airing its latest party election broadcast tonight. The film shows Miliband on soapbox speeches in town centres across Britain, underscoring his message about the need to get politics out of Westminster.

"There's a big mountain to climb in politics today, because everybody's asking this question: is it possible to turn this country around? I say it is," he said.

"The reality is that one of the reasons people are so turned off politics is they think politics takes place in a hermetically sealed bubble in politics."



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