LABOUR leader Ed Miliband has raised the possibility that former Chancellor Alistair Darling and other party “greybeards” could be brought into his shadow cabinet as he prepares for the next election.
In an interview with House magazine, the Labour leader also denied that he was lobbying to get his brother a job with the EU.
However, he hinted that he might bring back figures like Mr Darling, who is currently heading the Better Together campaign against Scottish independence.
He said: “My view on this is clear. I’m very happy with the Shadow Cabinet I’ve got. Those grey beards, old hands, are always good for offering advice, and that’s what they do.”
Mr Miliband also did an about turn on his decision last week to oppose an in/ out referendum on Europe and now says he will not rule it out.
And looking ahead to the general election Mr Miliband has also called for Ukip leader Nigel Farage to be included in the leaders’ TV debates as the anti-European Union party has climbed up the polls and is challenging the Lib Dems for third place in popular support.
Mr Miliband also accused Prime Minister David Cameron of trying to run away from the debates.
He said: “I sort of think let’s get the Prime Minister to the TV debates first. He seems to be sending out slightly mixed messages about the TV debates. Look, I just want to do the debates. I want the debate to happen wherever and whenever they can happen.
“So I sort of think it’s for the people who are organising the debates, and for me to start dictating who’s at the debates is not the right thing to do. Let’s get the people who are organising the debates to make the suggestions about how they want to do the debates. I think they are important, I think they were a good innovation, I think I feel warmer about them than the Prime Minister clearly does. I don’t think he should be ducking them.”
Explaining his decision to reject an in/out EU referendum last week, Mr Miliband said: “As time will pass our position will seem more and more like the right position for the country, which is: Should you commit now to an in/out referendum a year’s hence? Is that in the interests of our economy and people investing here? Is it in the interests of getting a good negotiating deal? Cameron himself said in [a Commons vote in] October 2011 [that] committing now to an in/out referendum will harm our negotiating stance.
“My answer to those questions is no, I don’t think it was the right thing to do, you know, so that’s the position we take. The way I would characterise that position is it right to commit now to an in/out referendum a year’s hence? No, it isn’t right now. Let’s do the negotiations and let’s see what emerges from the negotiations.”
Mr Miliband also signalled that he’s set to anger European allies again by voting for a real terms cut in the EU budget for a second time in parliament.
Currently Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to negotiate a freeze but is under pressure to get a better deal after he was defeated by Labour and rebel Tory backbenchers on the issue last year.
Mr Miliband said: “We said the negotiating aim for David Cameron should be a real terms cut. That is the right place he should have been starting negotiations. That is our position but let’s see what he comes back, let’s see what deal he gets for Britain and then you’ve got to make a judgment because you’ve also got to make a judgment about what happens if the deal is rejected what the implications are of that, so let’s see what he comes back with.”
Mr Miliband also said he wanted his party to have fewer middle class candidates at the next election with a change in selection policy.
He said: “What you are going to see from us this year, as we select our candidates now the boundaries are settled, as we target those 100 or so seats for the general election, is a party reaching out to all parts of the country but also a party that’s going to get people from all backgrounds: business people; I want more people who are military and ex-military, like Dan Jarvis, in the party. People from all class backgrounds because frankly I think Parliament is too middle class and doesn’t have that diversity that it needs to have.”