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Ed Miliband tells The Argus: ‘I’ll be back and it will be as Prime Minister’
Labour leader Ed Miliband promised he will return to Brighton – and vowed next time he will be Prime Minister.
With the party’s annual conference wrapping up, Mr Miliband spoke exclusively to The Argus about topics ranging from fracking to his respect for Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas.
With many activists seeing this year’s event as crucial to the party’s general election hopes, the Labour leader was under a lot of pressure to map out a clear way forward for the official opposition.
With Labour due to return to Brighton for conference in 2015 – just four months after the general election, Mr Miliband smiled when asked if he would return not only as leader of his party, but also as leader of the country.
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Speaking from a seafront room in the Hilton Brighton Metropole, he said: “I absolutely hope so.”
It was a relaxed moment in what has been a manic few days for the Labour leader.
For most of that time he has been holed up in rooms in the Hilton or pictured in the Brighton Centre conference hall.
Looking a little tired – no doubt caused by a few late nights memorising his speech – he did admit it felt like conference had been “going on for a few weeks”.
However, Mr Miliband went on to say he had found some time to relax in the city by the sea.
He said: “Brighton has been brilliant, the weather has been absolutely brilliant and that has made a huge difference.
“I love Brighton and found time to enjoy a walk on the beach before my speech.
“I always love coming here and the kids had a fantastic time on the seafront playground.”
Before conference, a number of activists had raised concerns the party was lacking direction and without clear policies.
With Labour stagnant in the opinion polls, Mr Miliband knew he had to make announcements that would energise activists.
Among those to generate enthusiasm has been a pledge to end the “bedroom tax” and a promise to build 200,000 homes a year by 2020.
But perhaps the policy which attracted most attention was the announcement to freeze energy prices for 20 months.
Mr Miliband said the freeze “will happen”, adding: “If we get elected it will start in 2015, no ifs, no buts.
Asked about fracking, he said: “With fracking, we need to make sure environmental cases are made and local views are taken on board.
“Where this Government has failed is they feel as though it’s the whole answer.
“Whereas we feel it could be part of a solution along with nuclear and renewable, they feel fracking will solve all the problems.
“There’s no way that fracked energy is the panacea, we still need other answers.”
For others in Brighton and Hove, there were fears that another one of Mr Miliband’s announcements – the reversal of the planned Conservative business rates increases in 2015 – would leave them missing out.
Local firms said they would still have to pay the extra sum as the tax cut would only apply to businesses with an annual rental value of less than £50,000.
In response, Mr Miliband said: “It will actually be a cut in business rates.
“It seems we have a Government actually failing small business needs and making it difficult for them.
“If there is a Labour Government this is proof we will actually stand up for them.”
But it will take more than winning over small businesses for Labour to reverse the decline that it experienced in 2010.
Overnight the party lost its five Sussex MPs, including its three seats in Brighton and Hove.
Perhaps the most difficult to take was Caroline Lucas winning Brighton Pavilion for the Greens.
When asked about Dr Lucas, Mr Miliband said: “Obviously I respect the fact she fights her corner.
“But I’m going to be supporting our Labour candidate because we care not just about the environment but also about social justice.
“These two things together are what matters.
“We need a Labour Government to deliver both of these and you get that by voting Labour, not by voting Green.”
Speaking generally about 2015, Mr Miliband said: “I feel quite confident as we go forward.
“We are talking about the things that matter to people.
“At the end of the day it is the people of Britain, indeed the people of Brighton, who will decide what Government we have.
“There have been some really good responses to what we have pledged as I have been walking around and I’m confident that we’re on track.
“We’re living in a cost of living crisis and we’re standing up for all the people, not just the privileged few.”
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