Labour leadership: Ed Miliband targets rich-poor gap

Ed Miliband Mr Miliband said Labour did not lose the election because of 'personalities'

Ed Miliband has told the BBC narrowing the gap between rich and poor would be his "central aim" if he won the Labour leadership race.

Despite its efforts, the gap had "got wider" under Labour, he said.

He backs a "living wage" of more than £7-an-hour and wants an inquiry into public and private sector "excesses".

He also said there had been "too much factionalism" in Labour in the Blair-Brown era but he did not consider himself to be "tribal" politician.

'Profound issues'

Shadow energy secretary Mr Miliband is up against his own brother, David, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott in the leadership race - the result of which will be announced in September.

In the first of a series of interviews with the contenders on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Miliband said building a different sort of economy - that was less reliant on financial services - was one of the most important goals for Labour.

But he said there were also "profound issues" about inequality in the economy - and the gap between rich and poor had "unfortunately got wider despite the great things that we did to tackle child poverty and to redistribute resources".

"I would make it a central aim of my leadership to narrow that gap," he said.

He has highlighted his backing for a "living wage" - higher than the existing minimum wage of £5.80 an hour for those aged over 22.

"I start from a simple proposition, which is that if you work, you shouldn't be in poverty... because actually I think people think that work isn't valued in this country," he said.

A seminar this year, attended by living wage campaigners, suggested a living wage based on 2010 figures should be at least £7.60 an hour - based on the needs of a couple, both working full-time with two children - subject to regional differences.

'Egotistical factionalism'

He also said he wanted a High Pay Commission to investigate wage "excesses" in the public and private sectors. He said everyone suffered from the gap between rich and poor and the "more equal countries" were more healthy, happy and secure.

"This is not a one year, not a five year - but a much longer term project. But I do think it needs to be a central objective of any Labour government," he said.

Mr Miliband was asked about former Business Secretary Lord Mandelson's memoirs - which are being serialised in the Times - but said he had not read them yet.

Start Quote

I think if you talk to people around Tony Blair and Gordon Brown they will all say that I was one of the people who actually, if you like, tried to bridge some of the nonsense that there was”

End Quote Ed Miliband

He was also asked about comments by his leadership rival Andy Burnham on Sunday - that there had been too much "egotistical factionalism" at the top of Labour and he wanted to offer a "complete break".

Former deputy PM Lord Prescott also told the BBC on Sunday: "We lost the election when we started attacking each other internally about Brown and Blair, now being reiterated in Peter's [Mandelson] book and then some of the people on the sides coming in and blaming somebody else. Can we forget all that?"

Mr Miliband said Labour had to "move on from some of the psychodramas of the past, some of the factionalism that there was" but anyone who thought that "personalities" had lost Labour the election was "profoundly wrong".

Instead he said people had "lost a sense of who we were and what we believed" - saying Labour had become associated with ID cards and defending bankers' bonuses.

He added: "I think there was too much factionalism, I always considered myself one of the least tribal people, and still do, in Labour politics and whoever wins this leadership election needs to realise that they need to be the leader of a party which uses all of the talents at their disposal - and that's certainly what I would do if I was the leader."

"I think if you talk to people around Tony Blair and Gordon Brown they will all say that I was one of the people who actually, if you like, tried to bridge some of the nonsense that there was and tried to stop some of the factionalism."

Party members, trade union members, MPs and MEPs will be balloted on the Labour leadership and the result will be announced on 25 September.

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