Ed Miliband sought to distance himself from allegations he was aware of infighting at the heart of his Labour Party when former Prime Minister Gordon Brown was in power, as the movement began its annual conference.
“Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin,” a memoir by Damian McBride, a former aide to Brown, is being serialized in the Daily Mail newspaper. It tells of McBride’s attempts to neutralize criticism of Brown within the party by passing on to the media stories about ministers including alcohol abuse and extramarital affairs.
Miliband, an ally of Brown, served as energy secretary in his government until the party was ousted from power in 2010. The Independent on Sunday newspaper today cited an unidentified party source as saying that Miliband, who succeeded Brown as Labour leader, may have been copied in to e-mails that were at the center of the 2009 smear campaign.
“People who know me would say I am someone who was never engaged in the factionalism and never engaged in the briefing,” Miliband told BBC television’s “Andrew Marr Show” today in Brighton, the conference venue on England’s south coast. “That’s not my style of politics; it’s never been my style of politics. I find it reprehensible and not something I would engage in.”
McBride was forced to resign as a special adviser to Brown in 2009 after newspaper reports showed e-mails that discussed using Web sites supporting Labour to publish false claims about lawmakers from the then opposition Conservatives.
“It’s a matter of public record: I was concerned about the activities of Damian McBride and, indeed, I complained to Gordon Brown about it,” Miliband said. Asked if he had urged Brown to fire McBride, the Labour leader said: “I did, yes.”
Labour is meeting in Brighton with opinion polls showing a narrowing of its lead as Britain’s economy has returned to growth. One YouGov Plc survey last week showed Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives running neck-and-neck with the opposition party. Some Labour lawmakers broke ranks last month to criticize Miliband’s leadership style.
Miliband dismissed as “nonsense” accusations by a Conservative Treasury minister, Sajid Javid, that there’s a 27.9 billion pound ($45 billion) “black hole” in his party’s spending plans for after the next general election in 2015. Javid released an analysis by Treasury officials that he said showed Labour spending promises would require more than 1,000 pounds of extra borrowing per household in 2015.
“We have said in 2015-16 that Labour won’t be borrowing more for day-to-day spending,” Miliband said. “We have been absolutely clear about that. The next Labour government will be facing different circumstances from the last.”
Miliband’s comments do not rule out further spending on capital projects.
He also said his party was examining making the so-called mansion tax one of its election campaign pledges. That would be a levy on houses valued at more than 2 million pounds, a policy favored by the U.K.’s third party, the Liberal Democrats, who are now in coalition with Cameron.
While the Liberal Democrats used their conference last week to leave the way open to a possible coalition with Labour after 2015, Miliband refused to be drawn on any possible coalition negotiations, dubbing them a “poker game” in which the public has no interest.
On Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, Miliband said: “I really hate what he is doing with this government,” calling him an “accomplice” to austerity measures favored by the Tories.
Announcing a series of new policies, Miliband said he would require big companies employing workers from outside the European Union to train more apprentices. The Sun on Sunday newspaper reported that Miliband will also publish plans to stop energy companies putting up bills when their profits are rising.