Ed Miliband came out fighting today as he vowed that criticism of his performance would not divert him from Labour’s mission to make the country more equal.
In a combative and passionate speech, Mr Miliband tried to draw a line under the unsuccessful attempt by some Labour MPs to force him to stand down as party leader. He put the spotlight on his party’s policies in a tacit acceptance that the Labour brand – rather than his credentials as a prime minister – offer the best of hope of victory at next May’s general election.
Labour MPs rallied behind him, but one said: “If he had made this speech at the party conference [in September], we wouldn’t be in this mess. He’s been in his box ever since.”
In what was a disastrous conference address, the Labour leader forgot to mention the deficit when he spoke without notes. In London, he took no chances and read his speech on an autocue. He looked tired after working on what was billed as a make-or-break speech late into Wednesday night. It went through 24 drafts.
Mr Miliband tried to turn his recent troubles to an advantage. He said anyone who thought his job was hard should think about people doing "really hard jobs" like shift or night work, being on a zero-hours contract, doing 60 hours a week in two or three jobs to make ends meet.
"For me, this election is about them. And let me just say this: I am willing to put up with whatever is thrown at me, in order to fight for you,” he said."That's my duty, that's my responsibility, not to shrink from the fight. Not to buckle under the pressure, but to win."
In pictures: Ed Miliband trying to look normal
In pictures: Ed Miliband trying to look normal
1/17 The beggar
Ed Miliband casually gives money to a homeless woman in Manchester, surrounded by press photographers.
2/17 The Bacon Sandwich
Ed Miliband buys a bacon sandwich from cafe owner Antonios Foufas at New Covent Garden Market in London as he kicks off a day of campaigning on the eve of the local and European elections
3/17 The Bacon Sandwich
Ed Miliband chats with a cafe owner Antonios Foufas at New Covent Garden Market in London
4/17 The Bacon Sandwich
Ed Miliband embarked on a whirlwind campaign tour of England - but struggled at the first hurdle (a bacon sandwich). Aides intervened after just a few less-than-elegant bites
5/17 Flower Shopping
Ed Miliband talks with a couple of traders at New Covent Garden Market in London
6/17 Flower Shopping
Ed Miliband purchases some red roses for his wife at New Covent Garden Market in London
7/17 Talking Business
Ed Miliband talks with a trader at New Covent Garden Market in London
8/17 Good Morning Britain
Miliband on ITV's Good Morning Britain show on 20 May 2014, a day of gaffes in which he was also caught out by BBC Wiltshire for not knowing who the local Labour leader was
9/17 '£70 Weekly Shop'
Ed was accused of being 'out of touch with reality' after he seemed not to know what he - or the average British family - spends on a weekly food shop
10/17 Drop in Polls
Ed Miliband paid a visit to Leighton Hospital in Crewe to speak with the staff about the NHS, but faced difficult questions about polls showing his personal ratings falling well behind those David Cameron and George Osborne
11/17 On the Sofa with Farage
Ed Miliband appeared on the Andrew Marr Show to debate with Nigel Farage - but has all but conceded defeat in the Newark by-election, allowing Ukip a free run at the Tories
12/17 Wollies in Wellies
Miliband was among a number of politicians to come under fire for 'touring' the floods in the South and South West earlier this year
13/17 Wollies in Wellies
The Labour leader admitted it was 'a difficult decision for politicians whether to visit areas like this'
14/17 Missed Opportunity
Miliband's performance at the Labour conference last year failed to make much of an impression on voters, polls suggested
15/17 Sharing the Moment
Miliband, Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Angus Robinson enjoy their moment with Andy Murray, after the tennis player's Wimbledon win
16/17 Casual Husband
Miliband and his wife Justine are pictured in their hotel room in Brighton as he prepares to give his keynote speech to the annual Labour Party Conference
17/17 The Milibands
Just your average family of four?
Demanding loyalty from his Labour critics, he said: “Our task, the task for every person in this party, is simple. To focus our eyes on the prize of changing this country.”
He dismissed the idea that no one knew what Labour stood for, saying the party’s mission was to reform a country that was “too unequal.” His prescription was “big ideas, not the old ideas [that] won't work anymore."
Mr Miliband conceded that the need to pay down the deficit would mean "big reform, not big spending". In an important change of language, he stressed that Labour had to be "wealth creators, not just wealth distributors" and facilitate "good, private-sector jobs at decent wages".
Abandoning Labour’s reluctance to attack Ukip head on, Mr Miliband said: “I think it is time we levelled with people about Ukip. They’ve got away with it for too long. It is time we had a debate about where they really stand. They do have a vision of the past. But I say to working people in this country, let’s really examine their vision. Because when you stop and look at it, it is not really very attractive.’
During a question-and-answer session, Mr Miliband was asked whether he was paranoid after he suggested that “vested interests” were trying to destabilise his leadership.
He replied: "There are vested interests in this country like the banks, like the energy companies, and we need to change Britain. That is what my project is about. I am showing a willingness to take on those forces and make reform. I make absolutely no apology for that."
Asked about his poor opinion poll ratings, Mr Miliband replied: "I believe that if we go out and fight for what we believe in, we will win the election. You don't declare the result of the match until the final whistle."Reuse content