Labour leader pins hope on policy offensive to silence critics
Ed Miliband will attempt to fight back against his internal Labour critics today by unveiling new policies demanding more "responsibility" from the highest paid people and welfare claimants.
On the eve of his long-awaited policy offensive, Mr Miliband was hit by claims that his relationship with his brother David was still in the deep freeze eight months after he defeated him to win the Labour leadership. A new book by journalists Mehdi Hassan and James Macintyre claims that Ed spent years plotting to beat his brother and that David now thinks he is taking the party "in the wrong direction."
The Labour leader will try to turn a tide of negative publicity about what critics see as his lacklustre performance by turning the spotlight to one of his big policy ideas. He will announce plans for people on council housing lists to receive priority if they are in work, undertake voluntary work and do not commit anti-social behaviour.
He will also promise a "revolution in the boardroom", saying a Labour Government would make companies publish the ratio between their highest earners and the average pay level.
In a long-planned speech in London, Mr Miliband will admit that the last Labour Government was too relaxed about bankers who caused the financial crisis and benefit claimants who abused the system. "We will be a party that supports the real boardroom accountability that rewards wealth creation, not failure," he will say. "At the bottom of society, we will be a party that rewards contribution, not worklessness."
However, amid media speculation that he was waiting on the sidelines for his brother to fail, David Miliband rushed out a statement professing his full support and saying he wanted no part in the "soap opera." The former Foreign Secretary said: "I have moved on from the leadership election and so should everyone else. Ed won, I stand fully behind him and so should everyone else. I called for unity last October and I repeat that now."
Senior Labour figures expressed concern that Labour had become engulfed in the bitter in-fighting which scarred the Blair-Brown era. Lord Falconer, the ex-Lord Chancellor, said the "damaging" reports were "highly reminiscent" of old battles. Diane Abbott, Labour's public health spokeswoman, blamed supporters of David Miliband unable to accept he lost.
Shadow ministers believe that the speech David Miliband would have made if he had won the top job last September was leaked at the weekend without his knowledge in a deliberate bid to destabilise Ed Miliband.
David Blunkett, the former Cabinet minister, said Ed Miliband needed to "build a persona" to give voters a sense of what his leadership offered. But Lord (John) Prescott, Labour's former deputy leader, denied a report in The Sunday Times that he is unhappy about Ed Miliband's attacks on Labour's record. The paper apologised, saying a production error wrongly attributed a quotation to Lord Prescott.
A special Shadow Cabinet meeting tomorrow will become a show of support for Ed Miliband. "It's very frustrating. We all recognise that it's very hard for Ed to make a mark with all this going on, but there's no appetite for doing anything other than giving him our strongest support," one member said. "We have got to come out fighting the Tories, not each-other. Ed needs a few strong, bold policy announcements to get us back on top of events," the party member said.
What we learnt about Ed
By Rob Hastings
He had no girlfriends at university
The future Labour leader was so dedicated to furthering his political knowledge and intellect that he did not have a single girlfriend throughout his three years at Oxford, nor during his year at Harvard. One friend said Ed was "not bothered about that sort of stuff", while another said that he was "focused on developing his politics for 12 or 13 hours a day". Since his graduation, his girlfriends have included BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders, Times journalist Alice Miles and Tony Blair's then-deputy chief of staff, Liz Lloyd.
His student days were not very wild
Ed drank very little, always being "in control". He is also remembered as a "terrible dancer", while his karaoke performance of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" – described by one onlooker as "crap" – fared little better. What's more, his indecisiveness was evident at an early stage as he "agonised" over which chocolate bars to buy from the vending machine in the common room at Oxford. However, he did enjoy winding down by watching many television soaps, including Dallas and Neighbours, and during his time at Harvard he was a keen fan of the Boston Red Sox baseball team.
Ed had a geeky childhood
Apparently he could solve a Rubik's cube in one minute and 20 seconds – with only one hand. And when not studying, his favourite pastime was playing Manic Miner on his ZX81 home computer.
David's rudeness helped him to win
David Miliband has been accused of alienating people before, but his lack of manners was a crucial factor in his loss to the more amicable Ed. One Labour strategist is quoted as saying: "If David had won the backing of another half a dozen MPs he would have won, but he didn't because he's rude to people. He's dismissive and patronising." Another says every Labour MP has a "David was rude to me" story, including one that he accepted a lift on a rainy day from a junior colleague, only to talk on his phone during the whole journey before getting out without saying "thank you".
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