Labour 'responsibility' on Ed Miliband's mind

Political pressure growing on Ed Miliband
Political pressure growing on Ed Miliband. Photo:

By Alex Stevenson

Ed Miliband has relaunched his troubled leadership with a speech redefining Labour's attitude towards 'responsibility'.

The embattled leader of the opposition gave a strong defence of his performance by insisting that most people are not interested in the party political speculation of the Westminster village.

He appeared encouraged by applause from Labour-supporting members of the audience and criticised journalists by pointing out "ordinary people up and down this country inhabit a different world".

"I'm going to talk about those issues that matter and then in the end the electorate are the boss," Mr Miliband said.

"What people want to see from me is talking about the issues that matter today.

"When I talk about the threat to the promise of Britain, it's because people are feeling it all around this country. And when I say we need strong communities, it's because that's what people want," he said.

Mr Miliband will hope his comments help put to rest a weekend of speculation about possible challenges, less than a year after he narrowly beat his elder brother David Miliband to the party leadership.

Responding to reports that his brother David is plotting to oust him, he said: "He is someone who said yesterday, has said ever since the leadership contest that he accepted the result that took place. He makes his own decisions about what the best future for him is."

In his speech, Mr Miliband sought to change Labour's attitude to both the very rich and benefit claimants by arguing the party has been viewed as being too lax on both.

"For too many people at the last election, we were seen as the party that represented these two groups of people - those at the top and those at the bottom who were not showing responsibility and were shirking their duties," he said.

The Labour leader said his party would force company executives to reveal the pay gap between themselves and the average paid members of their companies.

Rather than attacking those who take advantage of the benefits system, Mr Miliband argued those who contribute something back to society should be rewarded.

"From bankers who caused the global financial crisis to some of those on benefits who were abusing the system because they could work - but didn't," he added.

"Labour - a party founded by hard-working people for hard-working people - was seen, however unfairly, as the party of those ripping off our society.

"So my party must change. We were intensely relaxed about what happened to those at the top of society. I say, no more."

Mr Miliband referred to former business secretary Peter Mandelson's infamous comment that New Labour was "intensely relaxed" about people getting rich.

"To those entrepreneurs and business people who generate wealth, create jobs and deserve their top salaries, I’m not just relaxed about you getting rich, I applaud you," he added.

"But every time a chief executive gives himself a massive pay rise - more than he deserves or his company can bear - it undermines trust at every level of society. We cannot and we must not be relaxed about that."

Criticism of New Labour's record has been one of Mr Miliband's more sensitive approaches to many party members, some of whom feel his break with the past has gone too far.

But Mr Miliband insisted his party had to change.

He said New Labour had not done enough to change the 'take what you can' culture of the 1980s and that it was "too slow" to recognise that those on benefits also have responsibilities.

"We need a culture in our country which marks a real break with the 'take what you can' ways of the past," he concluded.

"I know that there is a yearning for that different culture. A more responsible economy, a more responsible society, and a sense of common life that offers meaning and purpose.

"That is the mission for our party. That too should be the mission or our country."

Yesterday's newspapers were full of suggestions that Blairite favourite David Miliband was "poised" to mount a challenge against his brother.

Reports suggested brotherly relations are at an all-time low. A book serialised by the Mail on Sunday about their relationship even claimed they could not agree over the circumstances in which David Miliband discovered Ed Miliband was prepared to run against him.

Yesterday's flurry of speculation prompted bookmaker William Hill to cut the odds on Ed Miliband losing the party leadership this year from 8/1 to 6/1.

"As apparent dis-satisfaction with Ed Miliband's stewardship seems to be taking root, we've seen money for his brother David to replace him," spokesman Graham Sharpe said.

A poll by YouGov for the Sunday Times found two-thirds of respondents were unclear what Ed Miliband stands for. Just six per cent thought David Miliband would do a worse job than his brother.


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