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UK Politics

Labour’s largest donor: ‘Pygmy’ Ed Miliband needs to get on message over economy

Head of JML shopping channel, John Mills, also criticises party over opposition to EU referendum

Labour’s largest donor has warned the party that it still lacks a “credible” economic message about how to get Britain’s economy growing again.

In a series of frank remarks John Mills, the head of the television home shopping retailer JML, said the party was “policy-light” and had still to develop a “compelling message” to take into the election.

He also criticised the party’s position on Europe, warning that Ed Miliband’s opposition to offering an EU referendum pledge could be a vote-loser in 2015.

Mr Mills’s comments, to the news website LondonlovesBusiness.com, were seized upon by the Tories.  Earlier this month it emerged that Mr Mills had donated £1.65m in shares this year to the Labour Party – more than twice the amount given by the party’s next biggest contributor, the Unite union.

In the interview, Mr Mills said it did not appear that Labour – along with the Conservatives – had a “clear idea on how to get the economy growing again at a reasonable speed and how to get the deficit down to a much more sustainable proportion”.

“The whole political spectrum is policy-light and this includes the Labour Party,” he said. “I’m not sure anybody has a compelling message.”

He said while the Chancellor George Osborne might not be “policy-light” his plans were damaging the country. 

“I think he’s very determined to implement the policy that he is putting forward [but] there are increasing doubts everywhere that this policy just isn’t working,” he said.

He praised Mr Miliband for doing a “lot better than most people thought he would, including me”, saying that the Labour leader was a “very nice person and a very capable speaker”.

“The problem is that anybody who is in opposition always looks like a pygmy – this is just a fact of life,” he said.

“Anybody who is in power looks much bigger and more powerful than people want.”

Mr Mills, who is also the chairman of the Business for Britain group, which is lobbying to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU, also warned that Mr Miliband’s opposition to offering an EU referendum pledge could be a vote-loser.

Although Mr Miliband has ruled out an EU referendum, Mr Mills insisted that his disagreement did not jeopardise his financial support for the party. “I’ve been a Labour supporter for the last 40 to 50 years and I’ve never been in a situation when I’ve agreed with everything that [the Labour Party] is doing.”

Speaking to The Independent, Mr Mills said he believed that both parties needed to do more to get the economy growing and that there was a sense that “neither know what to do”.

However he insisted he was fully behind Mr Miliband and had not been trying in any way to undermine the work he was doing.