EU referendum ‘not a priority’ for Ed Miliband
Ed Miliband has pledged to put a "bold and radical" agenda to the British people in his response to last week's elections – but refused to back an EU referendum.
The Labour leader used a visit to Thurrock to pledge his party would offer a set of policies helping link Britain's wealth with ordinary household finances in the 2015 general election.
Miliband has faced criticism since last Thursday's local and European elections, after Labour became the first main party of opposition not to win the European elections since 1984.
His speech emphasised the need to build solidarity in communities and create a "big change in our economy" towards more reliable employment.
But he did not provide a comprehensive agenda for restoring trust in British politics as some had hoped.
— Labour Press Team (@labourpress) May 27, 2014
"Some people have said at times when I have announced our energy price freeze, policies on rents, policies on banks that Labour has been too radical," Miliband said.
"I believe this is dead wrong. To meet the challenges we face we need more change, not less. To meet the generational challenge I am talking about, Labour needs a radical and bold offer at the next election. And that is what we shall do."
After his speech the Labour leader took questions from local residents, Labour activists and journalists.
"People in this country don't have hope," a Polish migrant – who lost as a Labour councillor candidate – told her party leader.
Another told him it was a mistake not to offer an in-out referendum.
"It's not our priority to have this debate," he replied, pointing out those on the doorstep were not calling for a debate.
"I think about what would happen with two years of Britain spending its time debating whether to leave the European Union – it would be a disaster."
That view was challenged by the People's Pledge campaign group, which held a referendum in Thurrock that found 89% backing an EU vote on a turnout of 30%.
"Labour is losing support to other parties because Mr Miliband's current policy appears to serve no other purpose than to kick an EU referendum into the long grass and deny people a say," co-founder Stuart Coster said.
"Ukip's 28% share of the vote in the European elections ought to give pro-Europeans confidence that an EU referendum is winnable. So why do many continue to damage their party's support by refusing to give people a say?"
Miliband did not mention the prospect of a referendum in his speech.
When asked afterwards to sum up his leadership in one word, he replied: "One nation."
Labour must win the Thurrock seat if it is to stand a realistic chance of winning the next general election.
But the constituency's Ukip challenger Tim Aker, who was elected as an MEP last week, responded confidently to Miliband's speech:
— Tim Aker (@Tim_Aker) May 27, 2014