UK Politics

I'm my own man, says new Labour leader Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband has said the party will not "lurch to the left" under his leadership and rejected claims he will be in thrall to the unions.

"I'm my own man," the new Labour leader told BBC One's Andrew Marr show.

He said he was on the centre ground of politics and rejected the nickname "Red Ed" as "rubbish".

His brother David, who he narrowly beat to the job, ducked questions about his future saying he did not want to "take anything away" from the new leader.

Although David won a higher percentage of votes from Labour MPs, MEPs and party members - Mr Miliband's success with trade union members and affiliated societies pushed him into first place.

Centre ground

But he rejected claims he would take the party further to the left, telling BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "I think these labels don't help, that's not the way I would see my leadership. It's not about some lurch to the left, absolutely not."

However he said he believed the party could "do more on tax" for the banks, in his first broadcast interview since becoming leader.

Asked about the threat of industrial action over the winter over planned spending cuts, he said strikes "always have to be a last resort".

But, he added, unions had an important role in society and the vast majority of union leaders were showing a "great sense of responsibility". He warned against "overblown language" and playing up the threat of strikes.

Mr Miliband said his brother, who was long considered the favourite for the leadership, had shown "generosity and graciousness" in defeat but he would not be drawn on whether he would remain in front line politics.

"I think 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, who was energy and climate change secretary in the previous government and a former aide to his predecessor as party leader Gordon Brown, promised to lead a "responsible" opposition.

He told the BBC: "I am not going to oppose every cut the government comes up with."

He agreed "some public sectors workers would have lost their jobs" if Labour had not lost the general election.

But he also suggested he would adopt a more "cautious" approach on cutting the deficit than former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, with more emphasis on tax increases than spending cuts.

"Alistair Darling's plans are a starting point in terms of the timing of the deficit reduction. I have said I think we can do some more on tax."

He attended a meeting of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee on Sunday morning and called a meeting of the parliamentary party in the afternoon, as the Labour Party conference got under way in Manchester.

David Miliband told the BBC on Sunday that it was "not a day to take anything away from what Ed is doing" adding: "This conference is not about jobs for me, it's about the future of the Labour Party."

He said he was "still enjoying 40 winks this morning" when his brother was on the BBC show but added: "I gather he did really well".

Mr Miliband, 40, won the leadership by just over 1% from his brother after second, third and fourth preference votes came into play.

Ed Balls was third, Andy Burnham fourth and Diane Abbott last in the ballot of MPs, members and trade unionists.

Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi said Mr Miliband owed his victory to votes of trade unionists and said it was now time for him to "to tell us how he'd cut the deficit".

Mr Miliband takes over from Harriet Harman, who took over the reins from Gordon Brown in the wake of Labour's general election defeat.

Ms Harman told BBC One's Politics Show it was a "new chapter for Labour" and she expected David Miliband to "play a really important part in Labour's future".

"It was a tough fought contest but it was not a divisive contest. Although he won by a whisker, I think the party will unite behind Ed Miliband."

Gordon Brown said all of the candidates' campaigns "brought credit to the Labour Party" and congratulated Mr Miliband who, he said, was "a warm, engaging, progressive leader whose intelligence and wisdom is matched by a passion for change which comes from the heart."

The joint leader of the Unite union, Derek Simpson, said the new leader was no "blast from the past".

And Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told the BBC: "We never expected him to be in thrall to the unions.

"What we were looking for was a leader of the Labour Party who could win the next election for us ... it has never ever been about somebody who would just go along with trade union values."

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