Ed Miliband has given his most personal interview yet as he seeks to fend off growing criticism of his leadership.
At home in north London with his wife Justine and two sons, Mr Miliband spoke of his difficulty juggling work and family life.
Among the details revealed are that he loves the TV show Desperate Housewives and “cheesy 80s” music, and tells his children stories about sheep named “Boo Boo and Hee Hee”. The Daily Mirror interview comes with Labour struggling in the polls and Mr Miliband under pressure over a series of badly-received performances at Prime Minister’s Questions.
He is described playing with two-year-old Daniel and one-year-old Samuel - whom he calls “Mr S”. The elder boy has apparently picked up the habit of saying “bugger” from his environmental barrister mother, while the younger is teething.
Mr Miliband said the most difficult part of his job was “missing out on time with the boys and the fact I can’t do my fair share of the childcare”.
“Justine bears the burden because her job is more flexible than mine,” he said.
“I try to get home by bathtime at least once a week, but they go to bed by 7pm so I see more of them in the mornings before I go to work.
“I try to be around at weekends to play with them and read to them.” As his late father, left-wing academic Ralph, did, the Opposition leader has been making up stories for the children about two sheep who live on the Yorkshire moors. “Yes, Boo Boo and Hee Hee are having a lot more adventures,” Mr Miliband said. “It’s great to keep up a family tradition.”
Mr Miliband said they relied on family to help take care of the kids. “My mum, Marion, helps out a lot with the children, as do Justine’s when they come to stay,” he said. “I think we should form a new union - the National Union of In-Laws and Allied Workers - so they get the recognition they deserve.” But Mrs Miliband praised her husband’s childcare skills and insisted that he would be helping out over the festive season.
“The grandparents are coming this Christmas,” she said.
“I’ll be doing the cooking with Mum but Ed has to peel the potatoes.”
Mr Miliband also played down the rift with his brother David, whom he defeated for the leadership, insisting jibes from David Cameron on the topic were “water off a duck’s back”.