'Call my wife': Ed Miliband left phone at home for holiday

 

Ed Miliband left his mobile phone at home when he went to Greece on holiday this summer - and told people that if they wanted to contact him they would have to call his wife Justine.

The Labour leader also revealed that he read no British newspapers and watched no TV news during the break, saying it was "a relief and a liberation" to be out of contact for a while.

Mr Miliband's efforts to ensure his summer break was undisturbed were revealed in an interview with New Statesman magazine in which he said he had developed a Zen-like approach to dealing with the stresses of political life.

Asked what has sustained him during times of difficulty, he said: "Justine, plus my instincts. My family is the most important thing in my life and therefore that's always what you fall back on.

"I think what you learn most of all is, er - is it Zen? I'm not sure Zen is quite right, but I'm a pretty stoical guy.

"You know it's not a walk in the park... but I'm sanguine. I know that conventional wisdom can swing one way, it can swing the other. I think I've just got to keep doing what I think is right and setting out my agenda. I think it's the right agenda for the country. We're going to expand it and broaden it in the months ahead."

He joked that aides were "of course... reluctant" to bother him during his holiday fortnight after learning they would have to go through Justine to reach him.

"It was such a relief and a liberation not having a phone," he said.

He revealed that he read Michael Frayn's new Greece-set comic novel Skios as well as Robert Harris's thriller The Fear Index while holidaying with Justine and their two sons.

But his reading list also featured more serious tomes on social inequality and the financial markets - The New Few by Margaret Thatcher's former adviser Ferdinand Mount, How Much is Enough? by Robert and Edward Skidelsky and Michael Sandel's What Money Can't Buy: Markets and Morals.

Mr Miliband made clear he is concerned about opportunities for relaxation available to people in what he said had become "a stressed-out country".

"What kind of economy you have shapes what kind of society you are," he said. "If you're a country where people need to work two or three jobs, 50-60 hours a week, don't get a chance to see their kids, all of that - then you're not a country that is at ease with itself and you're not a country where people have the well-being that they need."

He also said that the sense of national celebration during the London 2012 Olympic Games reminded him of the wartime spirit of unity which brought Britain together in the Second World War.

"You can't have a permanent Olympic Games, but I think there's something about what kind of country do we feel like," he said. "Do we feel a sense of obligation to each other? Do people feel the benefits and burdens of life are fairly distributed? Those things are partly economic but they go deeper than that."

PA

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