LISTEN HERE TO LES REID’S FULL INTERVIEW WITH ED MILIBAND
LABOUR leader Ed Miliband refused to say how much he knew about a failed plan for one of his key advisers at Westminster to be parachuted in to replace Geoffrey Robinson as Coventry North west MP.
It came as he pledged in a speech at Warwick University today to clamp down on so-called ‘non-dom’ tax avoiders, and ensure the wealthy would have to play by ‘the same rules as everyone else’.
The Coventry Observer spelled out the evidence to Mr Miliband from a leaked email from his head of strategy Greg Beales to 76-year-old multi-millionaire Mr Robinson, which exposed the eleventh-hour plan for Mr Beales to meet the local party.
Mr Robinson two weeks ago ultimately declared he would stand to retain his seat for the tenth time after all. We had exclusively revealed the story and leaked email, and an email from Mr Robinson’s constituency party hierarchy had been sent to members stating he was resigning.
A Labour party statement after three days of silence by Mr Robinson suggested in words attributed to Coventry council leader Ann Lucas that news of Mr Robinson’s resignation had been “appalling rumour” and “absolutely false.”
In an exclusive interview with the Labour leader during his visit, we asked Mr Miliband how much he had known about the Beales/Robinson plan.
He said: “Well, Geoffrey’s not standing down. He’s staying on and I’m pleased. Geoffrey makes a big contribution to our party. He brings a huge wealth of experience having been an MP for a long time, a former Treasury minister, and he has an important business background.
“So Geoffrey’s decided to stay on. I’m pleased about that and I think he’ll carry on making a contribution in Parliament.”
Asked again about what he had known, Mr Miliband said: “I’m not getting into all of that, honestly.
“I think there isn’t a story here because Geoffrey’s staying on and, as I said, that’s a good thing.”
Asked if it concerned him that an important member of his team of advisers had considered moving on, Mr Miliband said: “Well my concerns are about the people of Coventry North west and I think Geoffrey has served them incredibly well as an MP.
“It’s obviously up to them but I think he will continue to serve them well as an MP.”
We asked Mr Miliband if the ‘will he/won’t he’ saga presented questions for voters about whether Mr Robinson really wanted to be the next MP, and whether he would serve a full Parliamentary term if elected on May 7, or resign soon after the election.
Mr Miliband said: “That’s a matter for Geoffrey, but I know that he’s standing at the general election to stand for a full term.”
We also raised with Mr Miliband the conduct in February of two Coventry Labour councillors – Rachel Lancaster and David Galliers.
They had respectively publicly branded the views of Greenbelt campaigners concerning immigration controls as “racist” and made comparisons with Nazi Germany.
We asked Mr Miliband if it concerned him, and for his views on why a response was still awaited from the Labour Party following formal complaints by two of the Greenbelt campaigners, Sandra Camwell and Allan Owens – despite Coun Galliers’ private apology previously reported by us.
Mr Miliband responded: “I’m not going to get into the detail of things I have no knowledge of, and it’s not a matter for me to deal with directly.
“I think we’re in a big election campaign which is about the future of the country. I think what people are concerned about is actually what kind of country we’re going to be.
“Are we going to be a country that works for a few people at the top, or are we going to be a country that works for ordinary working people again? That’s about the minimum wage, zero hours contracts..”
Invited to repeat his often stated view that the Labour party prior to 2010 ‘got it wrong’ on immigration and was too quick to brand people ‘bigots’ or ‘racist’, he said: “I’m not going to get into the detail of what you’re talking about. My remarks on the record are well known.”
Mr Miliband, in his speech at the university to the local party faithful and national media, outlined an election manifesto pledge to clamp down on tax avoidance by wealthy so-called “non-doms” – UK residents who avoid some taxes on earnings abroad if they are deemed to be permanently living (domiciled) abroad.
He spoke of a Labour party that was pro-business, but would clamp down on the few at the top who did not ‘play by the same rules’ as ordinary working people.
The Conservative seized on recent comments by Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls that scrapping the ‘non-dom rule’ would not raise taxes and would drive the wealthy abroad.
But Mr Miliband said latest independent research showed it would raise ‘hundreds of millions of pounds’, and was also the right thing to do in principle.
Mr Miliband said opponents were the ‘same people’ (the Conservatives and big business) who opposed Labour introducing the national minimum wage in 1997.
Asked by the Coventry Observer if such statements highlighted a key difference between him and his predecessor Gordon Brown, who was reluctant in interviews in 2010 to make the same comparisons, Mr Miliband said: “I have changed the Labour party, yes.
“I’ve moved on from New Labour. I think it’s right to do so. We’re a pro-business party, but that’s not pro-business as usual.
“We do need to change the country and the way it works. Whether that’s on energy companies, or how the banks work, or our commitment to an £8 minimum wage.
“Of course, you’re always going to get people who don’t like what you’re doing and sometimes they’ll use arguments about the impact it will have on the economy.. I take a different view about the way the country succeeds.
“It’s important people see that, whether it’s banning exploitative zero-hours contracts, raising the minimum wage, reforming the banking system, a freeze on energy bills so they can only fall and can’t rise, and giving the regulator the power to cut prices.. all those things are about saying, ‘We’re going to stand up for people again’.”
Mr Miliband arrives at Warwick University to deliver a key election pledge.
Mr Miliband, in his speech at the university, outlined an election manifesto pledge to clamp down on tax avoidance by wealthy so-called “non-doms” – UK residents who avoid some taxes on earnings abroad if they are deemed to be permanently living (domiciled) abroad
Talking politics with Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya – founder and chairman of Warwick Manufacturing Group.