30 Apr 2013

Ed Miliband: prime minister of Crawley?

I watched Ed Miliband campaigning in Crawley this morning before he was off for the Windsor Castle state banquet lunch for the president of the United Arab Emirates. Passers-by do stop and listen to these old-fashioned bits of campaigning, people who wouldn’t turn up at a political meeting.

I’d say the numbers were about 40 or so passers-by and 40 or so Labour activists. It’ll take a while to reach all the country by these techniques but people seem to like them and they probably make Ed Miliband look accessible in the TV images. One man who asked a question had no idea who Ed Miliband was and started wandering off before he’d answered it. Two others hadn’t the first idea who he was. I said he was running for prime minister and one of them said: ” … of Crawley?” “No – the whole country,” I said. “Jesus,” came the response.

When I interviewed Ed Miliband after his campaigning, he put yesterday’s troubles in the BBC Radio 4 World at One interview with Martha Kearney down to a one-off “not such good interview” and quickly offered the admission he wouldn’t utter yesterday, that a big VAT cut to stimulate the economy would mean borrowing more in the short term.

I suggested his caution about repeating that line was because many voters had bought the coalition line on the deficit and were anxious about more short-term borrowing. He said he’d omitted the line because “I suppose I felt it was rather a commonplace” that had been often stated by Labour and because he wanted to get across what Labour wanted to happen in the medium term – ie the stimulus would bring growth that would lower borrowing.

In Crawley shopping centre, Ed Miliband talked about how Labour in government had “got it wrong on immigration.” I put it to him that voters I spoke to in the square wanted to hear him say Labour “got it wrong on welfare”. That’s not where his thinking is. He makes clear he thinks there were smaller mistakes in Labour policy on welfare but not the bigger picture.

In his New Statesman interview from 2010, when he was running for the Labour leadership,  Ed Miliband sounded pretty emphatic that he wouldn’t go into coalition with the Lib Dems if Nick Clegg was leader. Here’s what he said, according to the New Statesman:

A: “Given what he is supporting, I think it is pretty hard to go into coalition with him.”
Q: So you wouldn’t work with Nick Clegg?
A: “That’s right. No.”

I asked Ed Miliband to repeat that emphatic line a few times but every time he refused. He insisted that didn’t constitute a change of tack but you can listen for yourself.

Follow @GaryGibbonBlog on Twitter.

Tweets by @garygibbonc4