'Unmarried, disloyal and cold': Miliband feels listeners' wrath

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Indy Politics

Ed Miliband admitted yesterday that he had to improve the way he got his message across to voters as he pleaded for more time during an uncomfortable radio phone-in.

After a week in which he has launched successful attacks on the Government for raising VAT to 20 per cent, Mr Miliband came back to earth with a bump during an hour-long appearance on BBC Radio 2.

He faced a barrage of tough questions from presenter Jeremy Vine and callers for "shafting" his brother David, whom he defeated for the Labour leadership. One Labour supporter said he was too "laid back" and lacked the "passion and fire in the belly" to land blows on the Government.

Another caller criticised him for not marrying his partner, Justine, and registering as the father after the birth of their first child.

It is the second time that Mr Miliband has endured a difficult BBC radio interview. In November, he struggled to define what he meant by the "squeezed middle" on Radio 4. One Labour insider commented last night: "If the first interview was a car crash, then this was a pile-up."

Mr Miliband, who has faced internal Labour criticism for not making more impact during his first 100 days as party leader, admitted: "Of course there's further to go for me to set out both what we need to do as a political party and who I am as a politician... and indeed as a person.

"I know that as a politician, as a person, I have a journey to go on and we as a party have a journey to go on. That comes over time." He added: "We will fight as hard as we can. We have to not just fight but we have to convince people... we have a job to make a reasoned case and convince people, but I accept the point that we have to speak up for the anger people have."

Responding to a caller who told him he had been prepared to "tread all over your brother to get to the top", Mr Miliband replied: "We both had felt that we had something to say, something distinctive to say, a distinctive leadership to provide to the party and we discussed beforehand that we both wanted to stand."

He added he would like to see his brother back in the Shadow Cabinet at some point "but that's his decision".

On personal questions, Mr Miliband said it would have been wrong to have rushed into marriage for political reasons but said he and his partner planned to marry. "I think marriage is an important institution but some people choose to get married and some people don't," he said.

Mr Vine, who asked Mr Miliband about his "Communist" parents, was accused by one caller of haranguing the Labour leader and asking personal questions. Another caller, who had voted Liberal Democrat because of the Iraq War, welcomed his election as Labour leader.