Tuesday 30 May 2017

Miliband denies his election represents a 'lurch to the left'

Andrew Woodcock

Newly elected Labour leader Ed Miliband last night declared the New Labour era over, but insisted the party would not "lurch to the left" under his leadership.

Mr Miliband was cheered on to the stage as he made his first appearance at the party's annual conference in Manchester, since defeating brother David yesterday in the race to succeed Gordon Brown.

He sought to quash Conservative claims he was the creature of the unions, whose votes were crucial in his victory, insisting: "I am my own man."

He dismissed the 'Red Ed' tag applied by critics as "tiresome rubbish", and reached out to former rivals for the top job, saying he wanted to use "all the talents from across our party" to form his shadow cabinet.

But he gave no clues over whether he would offer the key role of shadow chancellor to his brother or to former Treasury minister Ed Balls, who came third behind the brothers.

Speaking on BBC1's 'Andrew Marr Show', Mr Miliband said David -- who kept a low profile yesterday -- had shown "extraordinary generosity and graciousness" towards him in defeat.

But, asked what future role he envisaged for his brother, he replied only: "He needs time to think about the contribution he can make. I think he can make a very big contribution to British politics."

Mr Miliband denied his election represented a "lurch to the left", saying: "I am for the centre ground of politics, but it is about defining where the centre ground is."

But he insisted he would not be tied to the orthodoxies of the Blair/Brown period, declaring: "The era of New Labour has passed. A new generation has taken over."

Humility

Labour had to show "humility" in recognising and understanding why it had been rejected by voters, he said.

The new leader also played down union bosses' post-result claims that their man won.

"I am nobody's man, I am my own man. I am very clear about that," he said.

Strike action should always be "a last resort" and the unions must show "maturity and responsibility" in their response to public spending cuts, he said.

He would provide "responsible opposition", adding: "I'm not going to oppose every cut that the coalition government comes up with. I will judge them on their merits."

Mr Miliband appeared to pave the way for a shift in Labour's economic policy, describing former chancellor Alistair Darling's plan to halve the state deficit within four years as "broadly the right starting point" but adding that he would want to look at how he could "improve" it.

Chancellor George Osborne's plan to eliminate the structural deficit by 2015 was "economically dangerous", he said. It should be cut "at a cautious pace and in a way that will help our economy, not hinder it".

Conservative deputy chairman Michael Fallon described the new Labour leader as "very confused" on the economy.

"First he says he supports Alistair Darling's plan, but we know Alistair Darling wanted to increase VAT -- he then voted against VAT," said Mr Fallon.

"He was in the cabinet, part of a government that made the mess for the public finances that we are having to clear up."

Following yesterday's leadership vote, and the victory of Ken Livingstone over Oona King in Friday's election of a candidate for London mayor, there was a third defeat for a New Labour candidate yesterday as former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott failed to become the party's treasurer.

Lord Prescott had run a high-profile campaign for the post and won a majority of support among party activists, but was defeated by Unite union official Diana Holland.

Nominations opened yesterday for Labour's shadow cabinet, with Mr Balls confirming he will throw his hat into the ring as one of 50 or more MPs vying for 19 elected posts.

Mr Balls would not be drawn on whether he would like to be shadow chancellor, saying only: "I have always said 'put the best people in the job', that's the right way to do leadership, but he has got to make his own decisions about how to do that."

David Miliband -- who speaks to conference tomorrow in his role as shadow foreign secretary -- has until the deadline of Wednesday to make clear whether he is ready to serve under his brother by putting himself forward for a shadow cabinet post.

Irish Independent

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