UK Politics

Miliband's leadership talk is 'mischief' says Cooper

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Media captionYvette Cooper, Shadow Foreign Secretary: "There's been some mischief in the papers"

One of Ed Miliband's most senior colleagues has defended his leadership, blaming the media for "mischievous" talk about his control of the party.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Yvette Cooper told the BBC Mr Miliband was doing a "very good job" and his senior colleagues were "supportive".

This came after Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson said he doubted whether a graduate tax plan was "workable".

Mr Miliband backs a graduate tax as an alternative to higher tuition fees.

'Mischief'

Ms Cooper told BBC One's Andrew Marr programme that there had been "some mischief in the papers" about Mr Miliband's leadership since he took a fortnight's paternity leave last month.

But she said, under his leadership, Labour was making an impact in forcing the coalition to rethink its approach on certain policies such as housing benefit and the funding of school sports.

"I think he is doing a very good job and has got a very supportive team around him," she said.

MPs will vote on Thursday on the coalition's plan to raise tuition fees in England from £3,290 to £6,000 and to allow universities to charge £9,000 under certain conditions - a policy which Labour opposes.

Mr Miliband has said the as yet unfinalised plans for a graduate tax - levied as a percentage of a graduate's annual income - would more closely reflect an individual's ability to pay than higher fees.

But Mr Johnson, who helped introduce a tuition fees rise as education secretary during the last Labour government, said on Saturday there was a "difference of view" between him and his party leader over the future shape of student finance.

"I feel it is going to be very difficult to make a graduate tax a workable proposition," he told the Daily Telegraph.

Ms Cooper said she had supported a graduate tax plan since 1998 and she believed the coalition's plans to charge higher fees, while cutting public funding for university teaching by 80%, was "deeply unfair".

"I think a graduate tax is the right approach but we have to look at it as part of our policy review," she told Andrew Marr.

Policy reflection

More generally, she said it was right for Labour to "reflect" on its policies after its election defeat while continuing to "challenge" the government on key issues like the economy and welfare.

Despite reports of policy differences between Mr Johnson and Mr Miliband over student finance, and whether the 50p tax rate should become permanent, the shadow chancellor has insisted they "absolutely" agree over the way forward for Labour.

He has said Mr Miliband has been right to launch a root-and-branch review of policy and he should be allowed to proceed with "confidence" and "at his own pace".

The Conservatives have claimed Mr Miliband has "no authority" in his shadow cabinet.

The coalition has said the majority of graduates will be paying less per month as a result of its student finance plans, and that disadvantaged students will be given extra support.

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