Ed Miliband interviewed by University of York Media: Nouse, Vision, The Zahir, URY, YSTV, the Yorker
Ed – You have amazing media here. Bloody hell. How come York has so much amazing media?
Ed – I don’t have a formal opening statement to say: I’m in York and it’s a lovely sunny day. There’s an issue of having new uni campuses round the country, and John Denham is making recent proposals and my area of Doncaster doesn’t have any universities, and we’re going to be fighting for a new university campus, and places like York show hat an amazing impact a university can have. I shall be using York as a model, plus it’s a very nice place to be, with ducks and all that.
Q – Yesterday’s results?
Ed – I thought you might ask me about that
Q – Do you think something needs to change with Labour, and if so, what?
Ed – These were clearly bad results. In the course of the day in certain areas you had seen variability around the country, but overall they were bad results for us. I am partly informed by my experience of going round and talking to people, mainly from my constituency but also from around the country, I think a big thing for people is what’s happening in the world economy and how that’s impacting on them, whether it’s whether they can get a mortgage, whether it’s the impact on prices, it’s a whole range of worries.
Our task is to chow we can address those issues. In the context of that economic backdrop, it’s not surprising that people
a) hold the government responsible for that and
b) want the government to be able to take action on that. I think secondly, I feel like we have a very exciting message to sell about the future, which I will be talking about tonight, about some of the challenges that Britain will be facing in the future abut climate change, global challenge, and part of our job is to show people that we can address those concerns. The final thing I would say is that the task also i to draw the contrast with our opponents. There was not a general election and it’s not so much whether we should be voting Tory or Lab, it’s a hole range of other factors too, and part of our task is to draw the contrast with them and to show what the different visions of Britain might be.
Q – So you don’t think people we reacting against Lab policies in some sense?
Ed – I think they were reacting against some policies, such as the 10p tax rate was problematic, but again on that that, if I had been sitting here and we had not acknowledged a mistake about helping certain groups out then I think people would have rightly been saying that we don’t listen to people, and I think that it’s good that we listen to people on that.
Some policies have been difficult, and I think that’s inevitable with government, you are always going to get things that people don’t like, you have to take a step back and listen to people and then take that into account, as we did with the 10p tax rate, but then at other times you have to take steps that may not be seen as popular at the time, but you have to go with that. What’s very important is that people know where you stand overall and know what you’re about and where you’re going. It’s been very difficult in the last few months.
Q – In London, where it seems inevitable that Boris is going to win, do you not think that was more about personalities than issues?
Ed – My sense about the London election, which is quite unusual across the country, is that the London election was more about London. I think that Ken would make a much better Mayor than Boris, we will see hat happens. Ken Livingstone faced difficulties in the campaign, and a lot of people wrote him off two months ago, and I think it’s going to be a very close vote, much closer than a lot of people would have expected. I think on the policies, on housing, transport, crime, I think he’s got bette policies but obviously we’ll have to see what verdict people reach. I don’t think that’s true across the country, I think it’s mainly about London.
Q – The weekend you started working on the new Manifesto, the Sunday Telegraph released an ICM poll putting Labour on 40%, their biggest lead over the Tories in 2 years. What has gone wrong since?
Ed – Ever since I started writing it, you’re saying that it’s cause and effect! Look, early on he had impressed people a lot with the handling of particular crises and the impression that the new government was making. We faced difficulties since, all government’s face difficulties. Some of them have been of our own creation, like allowing the election to go on for too long, that was our mistake and one that we will learn from. I do think that I have been around in this business to know that polls go up and down. The votes that took place yesterday are important, and it’s really important that we listen to people and show concern over some of the issues. I don’t think that’s the way that people will vote in a general election, because it’s not a general election. Polls go up and down, I think that we stand for some really important things and I think that we have some unfinished business and it’s really important that we go out and tell people about that and then let the votes decide really.
Q – Who would you like to see win the next american election?
Ed – It’s hard to say in that we have to work with whoever wins. If you compare Obama and Clinton, then they both have great attributes. If you look at Obama, he has been very inspirational and has drawn lots of new people into politics, and Clinton has lots of experience which people can draw on. I think that all three candidates, all three have been written off at some point. McCain had 5% opinion polls and then became the Republican Nominee, and in the see-saw battle at various times, maybe even twice, each of them have been said to have no chance of winning. The lesson you can draw to British politics is that polls can go up and down, and it’s actually good for politics. The other thing that is interesting is that I spent some time in the US primaries and it’s a bit like our local elections and meeting voters up close and up front is a great thing about our constituency system, which you don’t have in America in the same way.
Q – Did you get angry with Tony Blair?
Ed – Rubbish. It was in the Daily Mail, and anyone who knows me will know it was rubbish because I’m a pretty mild-mannered guy. Not my style. Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers, except the York newspapers, but not the others.
Q – Where would you like to be in 5 years time?
Ed – I always hate those questions when they’re asked at University interviews and I still hate them now. It’s really important, particularly when the government’s facing difficulties, to focus on the job you’re doing and not to start thinking about where would I like to be. I think it is a great privilege to me, relatively young and relatively new to parliament, to be in the Cabinet.
Q – With regards to your age, do you think that image is important?
Ed – I think image is important, the cult of youth is something which is more questionable. If you look at Nick Clegg, the new Lib Dem leader who I quite like, I think he is finding it a hard step up to be leader of the Lib Dems because he’s quite inexperienced in Parliament, he’s quite new. These things will wax and go up and down, but I don’t think having younger and younger leaders is the answer. Image is obviously important, but people recognise that you have to have certain experiences and have done certain things to be PM.
Q – You said yourself in November last year that “the election speculation was allowed to go on for too long”, and Harriet Harman this morning on the Today programme said that Gordon Brown needed to react quicker to issues, and that his slow reaction to the 10p tax rate had cost him the local elections. If the Deputy Leader of the Labour party says he reacts too slowly, and you say he acts too slowly, what sort of message does that send to Gordon Brown about the support of his ministers?
Ed – I don’t think it’s about sending a message, I think it’s about we all accept our share of responsibility, but I think what you learn about politics is that impressions get formed very quickly and issues can change very quickly – that happened with the 10p tax rate. It’s always easy to be wise in hindsight, but we need to learn our lessons. Obviously with the election issue we did let it run on too long, and I think we need to learn from that.
Q – What’s it like working with Gordon Brown?
Ed – It’s great. The reason I worked with him a long time is because I admire his values and I admire what he stands for, and I think he cares deeply about people in Britain. The thing that frustrates him most is people who have talents, ambitions, who want to do things in their lives, and find that there are barriers in the way. What he is about fundamentally is about saying that government wants to remove those barriers, Obviously we can’t all be rocket scientists or brain surgeons, but what he wants to do is remove the barriers to allow those people who do want to become rocket scientists or brain surgeons to do so. He is an inspiring person who cares, and that’s what makes him a good person to work with.
Q – Why isn’t Gordon Brown taking more of a stance on the Beijing Olympics?
Ed – In the end you have to make a judgment about China – is it better to try and isolate them or is it better to try and work with them within the international community? I think he made the right judgment, which is to work with the, making points about human rights and other things, but also understanding that them being in the community of nations is better than them being outside the community of nations. We’re going to host the Olympics next, and so I think it was sensible for him to go to the closing ceremony which is where the torch is passed on.
Q – The German Chancellor isn’t going, and I don’t think they’re isolating themselves, I think they’re making a statement.?
Ed – Different people take different positions, but we are in a different situation in that we are hosting the Olympic games, and we have quite a good relationship with China. I don’t think one should ignore the issues you raise, I just don’t think it’s the best way of dealing with them.