Exclusive interview

No regrets. No crisis. Ed Miliband hits back

Angry opposition leader spells out to Jane Merrick how he intends to win the next election

Ed Miliband attempts today to reassert his authority over his fractured party as he warns supporters of his brother David that the Labour leader is "sticking to the mission" of returning his party to election-winning form. He urges them to "move on" from the bitter leadership contest.

In his first interview since an unauthorised biography exposed deep tensions in the Miliband family and revived complaints that he is not up to the job, the Labour leader says he has "no regrets at all" about running against his elder brother.

Despite claims, reported by The Independent on Sunday last week, by friends of David that the former foreign secretary is "waiting for his brother to fail" so he can take over the top job, the Labour leader says his brother has "moved on, so everybody else should too".

Ed Miliband, however, hints at the difficulty his surprise narrow defeat of David last September is continuing to cause between the pair, admitting that they have been unable to "look back and laugh" with each other about the contest.

And he all but confirms that there is disagreement between the brothers about whether Ed kept David in the dark about his intention to stand.

But he tells The IoS: "I'm a pretty level-headed person. I know what the task is and the task is not to be distracted by all of this stuff, and I haven't been. The main thing to know is where you're taking the party, and I do, to know where you want to take the country, and I do, and stick to the mission."

He reveals that he has taken advice on leadership from Tony Blair, that "the most important thing in politics is that you are who you are". Mr Miliband says: "That's what I am and that's what I'm going to be."

Mr Miliband responds to critics who say he has no "big picture" idea to equip the party with an election-winning formula. He calls for "your neighbour is my neighbour" responsibility across society, a Labour twist on the notion of the Big Society.

He also speaks candidly about his leadership leaving him less time to spend with his two young sons.

The Labour chief was speaking at the end of the most difficult period of his leadership, centred on a new book, Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader by Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre, which claimed the brothers and their wives are barely on speaking terms.

A poll for The IoS this weekend puts Labour and the Tories level on 37 per cent, while Mr Miliband's net personal rating has fallen from minus 14 in April to minus 27 today. Some 27 per cent believe David would make a better leader than Ed.

Sipping tea from a Labour mug in his office in Westminster, Ed Miliband, who says he hasn't read the book or any extracts, fails to deny that there is a fundamental disagreement between the pair about how much he told David, following the general election, about his intentions. According to the book, Ed's version of events is that he went to David's house on Wednesday 12 May 2010 and left his brother in no doubt that he would run. The book also says that David has no recollection at all of the meeting.

Can the Labour leader clear this up? "I'm not going to get into the detail of this. What we both agree on is that we talked before both our candidacies were declared and talked to him about the position too and we're both on the same page on that."

Mr Miliband denies that he dreamt of becoming Prime Minister since he was a teenager. "I think if you told me as a teenager I'd be leader of the Labour Party I wouldn't have thought that was going to be the case. I only became an MP in 2005 and I wasn't certain before that that I wanted to become an MP."

So how does he characterise the relationship with his brother? "I am not going to get into that. I'm just going to say that we've both moved on." Does he regret that his decision to stand against David has caused tensions in the family? "I don't regret my decision to stand at all."

Mr Miliband tries to make it sound as if there is no issue, but he is not altogether convincing. Are there any tensions at all between him and David? "Everybody knows that we fought a leadership election last year. As I said at the time I was pleased to have won and disappointed for him, but both of us have moved on."

He told The IoS in an interview exactly a year ago, when the contest had just got under way, that he and David would "look back at all of this and laugh". Have they done so? "I don't think we've done that yet, but I think what I would say is that both of us have moved on."

What about their wives, Justine and Louise? Reports are that Louise, David's wife, is so furious with Ed that the sisters-in-law have also fallen out.

"Nonsense, nonsense, that's nonsense. It's nonsense. David and Louise were at our wedding a few weeks ago, and we had a great day. It was great that they were there and enjoyed themselves." He doesn't add that the couple didn't make it to the post-wedding party later that day in north London.

The Milibands' mother, Marion Kozak, is rumoured to be "in despair" that her once-close boys have fallen out. What does she make of all of this? "I'm not going to get into my conversations with her about it."

With each question about his brother, the wives, or his mother, Mr Miliband becomes tenser, and it feels like intruding into private grief – which, of course, it is. But, more than any other political leader in modern times, Mr Miliband's family relations are intertwined with his political life, so it is impossible to ignore.

Mr Miliband relaxes only when he talks about his sons Daniel, two, and Sam, six months. Last year, he said he would advise his sons not to go into politics. Has that changed? "My advice to them would be: do the right thing – do what you want to do. And that's what I'm doing."

Daniel's favourite song his father sings to him at bedtime is "The Grand Old Duke of York", which, says Mr Miliband, "he claims I sing too noisily. 'Too noisy, Daddy', he says, 'too noisy', which I think is a comment on my singing voice, I fear."

"Too noisy" is not a complaint his MPs have made about their leader. But, perhaps energised by the fresh talk of crisis, Mr Miliband found his voice at Prime Minister's Questions last week. There remain questions about how long this will last. So what is his big picture idea?

In a speech last Monday, Mr Miliband said he wanted to end Labour's support for those who are "ripping off our society" such as benefit cheats and bankers, and called for more responsibility across society. It drew praise from Blairites, and The IoS understands that Mr Miliband has spoken to Mr Blair more times recently than to Gordon Brown, his mentor.

But Mr Miliband insists he is not the "heir to Blair". "I'm not the heir to anyone. I'm my own person." His speech fed into his vision for the "promise of Britain". Mr Miliband explains: "The mission that I have, the single most important thing that I think matters is how do we reverse the sense of national decline. How do we give people a sense that you can be optimistic about Britain, that the next generation can do better than the last?

"It is not just about earning and owning ... but it is also about the fabric of our society. What kind of country do we want to create for our kids?"

It's early on Friday evening, and this interview means that Mr Miliband is missing bathtime with his sons.

"The most difficult thing about this job is not having enough time to see your kids. There are always frustrations in politics, but actually the thing I care most about is having the time to see them."

He adds, poignantly: "Actually Daniel's now got to the age where he sort of notices me not being around."

With the hint taken, the interview is over, and Ed Miliband is off for another rendition of "The Grand Old Duke of York".

In his own words

On ambition I think if you'd told me as a teenager I'd be leader of the Labour Party I wouldn't have thought that was going to be the case. That's not the way I've thought about my life.



On his brother What we both agree on is that we talked before both our candidacies were declared.



On 'wives at war' Nonsense, nonsense, that's nonsense. It's nonsense. David and Louise were at our wedding a few weeks ago, and it was great that they were there and enjoyed themselves.



On his mother I'm not going to get into my conversations with her about it.



On Tony Blair I'm not the heir to anyone. I'm my own person. I think you do it in your own way and that's the thing you've got to do.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick