Ed Miliband will today reject calls for Labour to respond to the rise of the UK Independence Party (Ukip) by promising a referendum on the European Union.
Addressing the Blairite group Progress in London, Mr Miliband will say: “Our national interest lies in staying in the EU and working for the changes that will make it work better for Britain.”
Criticising David Cameron’s promise of a Europe referendum by 2017, he will say: “It is wrong now to commit to an in/out referendum and have four years of uncertainty and a ‘closed for business’ sign above our country. Let me be very clear: we will always make decisions on these issues in the national interest.”
His remarks suggest Labour is unlikely to offer a referendum in its 2015 election manifesto, a move favoured by some Labour MPs in order to neutralise Mr Cameron’s pledge. Mr Miliband’s aides insist a final decision will be taken “in the national interest” closer to the election.
Mr Miliband will describe Ukip as a “party of protest” after its success in this month’s local elections, while insisting that Labour is a “party of solutions”. He will ridicule Mr Cameron for allowing Conservative MPs and ministers to vote next week for an amendment to the Queen’s Speech regretting the absence of an EU referendum bill. Labour will join the Liberal Democrats in voting against the amendment.
Accusing the Prime Minister of putting his party interest before the national interest, the Labour leader will say: “I know David Cameron is a man who likes to be known for relaxing – even chillaxing – but, on this occasion, it beggars belief.
“He’s not lying on the sofa, relaxed. He’s hiding behind the sofa, too scared to confront his own MPs. It’s not chillaxing. It is weak and panicked. He’s flailing around, directionless, unable to show the leadership the country needs.”
Mr Miliband will tell the Blairite group’s annual conference that his party needs to move on from New Labour but will deny that means lurching to the left. He will reject criticism by Tony Blair last month that Labour risks becoming a party of protest as it opposes the Coalition’s spending cuts.
“To be true to the traditions of our party and indeed of Progress, the task of this generation is to take our values and develop an agenda fit for purpose to meet the challenges of our time,” he will say.
“Just as in the 1990s, Labour adapted to change. So too today. The policies for today will not be the same as those we put forward back then, or in 2005, or in 2010.”
But Mr Miliband will reject a return to the Old Labour agenda demanded by some trade union leaders: “We are not going to go back, make false promises or look for easy answers. We will have to pay the deficit down we cannot promise to reverse every cut and we will not just sit back and wait.”