Miliband goes on warpath over cost of living - but under-estimates his own grocery bill

Ed Miliband has insisted that he can tackle concerns over the cost of living in Britain after it was suggested that he had under-estimated his family's weekly food shopping bill.
Ed Miliband has insisted that he can tackle concerns over the cost of living in Britain after it was suggested that he had under-estimated his family's weekly food shopping bill.
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ED Miliband has insisted that he can tackle concerns over the cost of living in Britain as it was suggested that he had under-estimated his family’s weekly food shopping bill.

The Labour leader said the cost-of-living crisis was the biggest issue facing the country - and insisted that, in spite of his “relatively comfortably off” position, he was qualified to tackle the problem.

Asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain about the average weekly household grocery bill, Mr Miliband responded: “It depends on how much you are spending.”

Pressed on his own family’s bill, Mr Miliband said: “We probably spend £70, £80 a week on groceries at least, probably more than that. The point is that different families will have different costs that they face but what I am clear about is that there is a crisis facing so many people.”

He was told on the programme that the average weekly bill for a family of four is more than £100 - so he would be spending “significantly more” than £70 to £80.

Mr Miliband responded: “Lots of people are facing a real struggle. I am relatively comfortably off, but what I know is that there are deep issues that need to be tackled and we are determined to tackle them.”

He added: “I think this issue of the cost-of-living crisis is the biggest issue that our country faces and I am determined we tackle it. I am absolutely determined we tackle it.”

In his interview on Good Morning Britain, Mr Miliband defended the Labour Party’s policy on making the minimum wage “closer” to average earnings.

“We always get people who want to carry on with the way things are, five millon people in this country who are on low pay, I don’t think that is good enough,” he said.

“I don’t think we can carry on with one in five people in our country not able to make ends meet and being paid such a small amount of money, so I am determined we do raise the minimum wage.”

He said Labour would set out a plan for five years at the next Parliament to raise the minimum wage to get closer to average earnings. He said the precise figure would be set after consultation with business and other groups.

He declined to name a figure until consultation had taken place.

The minimum wage is currently around 50% of average earnings, he said. “I think it has got to go higher than that, I think it has got to get closer to average earnings,” he added.

Asked about the poll suggesting that four out of 10 people said his leadership made them less likely to vote Labour, Mr Miliband said: “Polls go up and down, different people have different views.”

He added: “Different people will commentate, different people will have views. I leave the commentary to others. What I focus on is what I see from people as I go around the country.”

Asked about a Daily Mail report on 62 Labour MPs employing workers on zero- hours contracts, Mr Milband said: “We have got to change the rules, we don’t know exactly the detail of that survey but we have got to change the rules.

“Zero-hours contracts are a massive issue for people. You have got a situation where people are working month after month, even year after year, on a zero- hours contract. I am determined we change that.”

“We will obviously look at the situation facing Labour MPs. This is an anonymous survey; we will obviously look at that but the most important thing is to change the rules and do something about those rules.”

Mr Miliband’s interview comes ahead of local and European elections to be held on Thursday.

Mr Miliband later admitted that his shopping estimate may have been on the low side, saying he had been thinking of the bill for “basic groceries”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Oxford, the Labour leader said: “Well, I said this morning it was on the basic groceries, the basic fruit and vegetables, about £70 or £80 - the total shopping bill was slightly higher than that, obviously.

“On the basics, I was saying it was about £70 or £80 but the overall shopping bill would obviously be higher.”

Figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Family Food survey show the average weekly expenditure on all household food and drinks in 2012 was £29.29 per person, an increase of 4.6% on 2011.

Total expenditure on household food and non-alcoholic drink rose by 4.3% to £25.98 per person and was 8.9% higher than in 2009.

A Conservative source said: “It’s the same old economic incompetence from the Labour Party that gave Britain the biggest peacetime deficit in history.

“They have no long-term plan to fix the economy and Ed Miliband can’t even get the numbers right for his political gimmicks.”

Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, said: “If Ed Miliband said his family weekly grocery shop cost £80, he was making it up on the hoof and digging himself a hole - which pretty much speaks for this leadership of the Labour Party.”