Miliband looks for Yorkshire inspiration in battle for No 10

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband during his speech at Leeds Town Hall while on the General Election campaign trail, in vites Chardonnay Morton from Scholes, near Leeds onto the stage. 23rd April 2015. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband during his speech at Leeds Town Hall while on the General Election campaign trail, in vites Chardonnay Morton from Scholes, near Leeds onto the stage. 23rd April 2015. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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Ed Miliband could be the first PM to represent a Yorkshire constituency, but only if he succeeds in the image battle facing him.

“We’re not getting married,” are the first words from Ed Miliband in an interview that takes place in the part of Leeds Town Hall normally reserved for wedding ceremonies.

And with that opening gambit he shows why the Conservative plan to attack the Labour leader on his image has faltered.

Left wing, weak, led by the unions, led by the SNP, a bit of a geek, doesn’t understand business ...you do not have to look far to find a wide range of personality failings targeted at the man seeking to be returned as a Doncaster MP, yet, curiously the polls remain more or less deadlocked.

Has the Tory plan backfired? As he spoke to The Yorkshire Post before addressing hundreds at an NHS rally, Mr Miliband was confident the Tory plan would fail.

“I don’t think the Tory attacks have worked, it hasn’t gone very well for them. I think these personal attacks boomerang back, it hits you in the face. Michael Fallon ended up looking pretty cheap when he tried it,” Mr Miliband said.

The last week has seen Mr Miliband go from highs to lows in the battle for control over his own image.

Social media site Twitter came to his aide as teenage girls started a Milifandom campaign- “it’s just about young people having a voice, I think” - to having to face down accusations he has politicised the deaths of migrants after criticising the aftermath of Conservative intervention in Libya.

Despite spirited performances though, question do remain over what type of Government he would run if successful on May 7.

“I’m a leader of the centre-left, that’s how I describe myself,” Mr Miliband said.

“We’re on the left, but we occupy the centre ground. Policies to freeze energy bills, to clamp down on tax avoidance, to make banks work for businesses again, I think they are centre-ground policies.

“The big choice at this election is do you have a pretty extreme ideological view like the Tories, look after the rich and the wealth will trickle down, or do you have a different approach rooted in British values that says if working people succeed the country succeeds.”

Since taking over in 2010 Mr Miliband has sought to change the Labour party into an organisation which plays to its strengths, mobilising a large volunteer base which has helped doorstep voters connect with candidates and offset a largely hostile national news media.

Mr Miliband admits that this has meant repairing at least some of the damage caused to the party after 13 years in office.

Could, for example, Labour have matched its £2m worth of small donations if it had tried in 2010?

“It would have been harder. Whenever you get to the end of your time in government, and I hope the Conservative Party is reaching its end in government, your supporters become less enthusiastic, and the people in the undecided category are less enthusiastic.”

He added: “I’m focused on the next two weeks, but there is an important point that whatever happens at this election the party has to continue to rebuild.

“The key to this is to act as a community organisation as (Barack Obama strategist) Arni Graf who came over and helped us on this said. That’s a Labour party tradition, going back to the Labour party of the past you build up the local organisation because politics is to important to be left to politicians.”

If his party reforms get him into Downing Street, Mr Miliband will be the first serving Yorkshire MP to do the job, with Yorkshiremen such as Harold Wilson and Herbert Henry Asquith both coming from the region but representing seats elsewhere.

Will it matter to Mr Miliband?

“I will stand up for Yorkshire,? definitely,” he said.

“Wilson came in in 1964 saying he wanted to get rid of the old way of doing things, see out the old order and in some sense that is what I think we need to do. We need a different way of running the country that puts working people first. I’m sure there are lessons to learn there.”

And what of his favourite Yorkshireman? David Cameron has picked William Hague - “a very poor choice according to Mr Miliband - but the two party leaders perhaps share one favourite.

Like the PM when asked his second nomination for the title, Mr Miliband put Geoffrey Boycott first.

“I saw his hundred hundredth when I was 7 years old, the first cricket match I went to.

“It is fair to say we are not on the same political wavelength but I have always been great admirer, he showed me around Headlingley, and he will certainly agree with that choice.”