Labour making progress, says Ed Miliband
- 26 May 2014
- From the section UK Politics
Ed Miliband has said Labour's second place in the European elections shows the party is "making progress", but acknowledged it has "further to go".
Labour finished behind UKIP but ahead of the Conservatives, while its vote share was up by nearly 10% on 2009.
Labour's leader said there was "deep discontent" in the UK and it must show it could "answer the call for change".
But Mr Miliband said the party would not be changing its position on a referendum on EU membership.
Labour has said it will only hold a public vote if there are any plans for further powers to be transferred from the UK to the EU and opposes the Conservatives' pledge to hold an in-out referendum in 2017.
Labour had hoped to beat UKIP to top the European poll, but it finished in second place in terms of total votes.
However, its 25.4% share of the overall vote is much higher than the 15.7% it obtained in 2009, after the party came first in Wales, the North West and North East of England, as well as London.
It has 20 MEPs, up seven on 2009. Mr Miliband said he was pleased with the results, which follows gains in Thursday's English council elections.
He rejected suggestions Labour should be doing better less than a year before the general election, saying the results proved Labour was continuing to recover support it had lost since 2009.
"We won the local elections. We beat the Tories in the European elections. These elections show Labour making progress. We have further to go and I am absolutely determined we do that."
UKIP's victory was more than a vote about Europe, he said, suggesting it reflected the "deep discontent" among large sections of the population about the way the economy worked and other issues.
He added: "The challenge for Labour is to understand the lessons of these elections and show that we can answer the desire for change."
Mr Miliband said there needed to be change in Europe but he had set out his position on the circumstances in which a referendum would be held and said that would not change in the light of UKIP's performance.
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said the result showed that victory in the 2015 general election was "not in the bag".
He told the BBC that Labour had not won a European election for more than 20 years and he welcomed the extra scrutiny that UKIP would get as a result of their victory.
While his party had to take UKIP seriously, he said the public expected more from Labour.
"The challenge for us as prospective parties of government is that we are not treated the same as UKIP, in the sense that people expect us to provide answers, and that's what we are doing," he said.
However, two senior backbenchers have told the BBC there is a feeling of "complete despondency" about the party's election performance.
Both MPs said Ed Miliband "clearly got it wrong" by not committing to an in/out EU referendum and the party was "out of position" on Europe.
One of the MPs said Labour could not rely on winning seats in London and the party's message must reflect the concerns of voters outside the capital. Another added that the results pointed to Labour coming third in England behind UKIP and the Conservatives which was "very worrying".
UKIP has topped the poll, with 25 MEPs and 27.5% of the vote - up 11% on five years ago. The Conservatives got 19 MEPS and on 23.9%of the vote, are 3.8% down on their 2009 showing.
Labour topped the local elections in England on Thursday but fell short of the margin of victory some had said it needs to secure a majority at Westminster. It gained 338 councillors.