UK Politics

Justine Miliband: I'm up for election fight

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Media captionJustine Miliband: Attacks to get 'really vicious'

Justine Miliband, the wife of the Labour leader, has said the personal attacks her husband has faced will get "really vicious" during the election.

In an exclusive BBC interview, she said she feared criticism of her husband would get "really personal" but that she was "totally up for this fight".

She said she wanted to defend the "principle of decency in public life".

She revealed her husband's biggest regret about the job of leading Labour was "not seeing the children enough".

In her first major TV interview, Mrs Miliband told the BBC's deputy political editor James Landale, in the second of his profiles of the party leaders, that she believed personal attacks on her husband would get worse in the coming weeks.

"I think over the next couple of months it's going to get really vicious, really personal, but I'm totally up for this fight," she said.


This, she added, was "because I think this goes way beyond Ed as an individual, I think it's about whether decencies and principle count for something in political life, wherever you are on the political spectrum.

"If you ask my why I am up for a fight, I am fighting not just for Ed but I am fighting for a principle of decency in public life."

Image caption Justine Miliband was speaking exclusively to the BBC's deputy political editor James Landale
Image caption Family time is vitally important to the Labour leader, his wife says
Image caption The Milibands share the family chores, such as loading their dishwasher

Mrs Miliband, a barrister who married the Labour leader in 2011, said the nature of the attacks on her husband had come as no surprise to her.

"If I am really honest, I would be a lot more worried if quite a lot of the people who were attacking him were supporting him. I think if you are going to stand up to some powerful people in this country and declare a pretty serious intent to bring about change, you are going to get attacked."

Deputy political editor James Landale

Labour want to have a debate about character, portraying Ed Miliband as a decent man trying to bring change to Britain. And so if they want to make that case, then they hope Justine Miliband will prove a huge asset.

The hope is that she might knock the edges of his public image, and perhaps help him connect with voters. This is, however, a well-trodden path. Many parties promote their leader's spouses in the search for votes. And it doesn't always work.

Read James' full blog

To help their sons Daniel and Samuel understand what their father does, she said the couple have explained that their Dad leads the red team and at home "there's quite a lot of chats about what the red team's doing and who the red team's helping...I hope they get a sense that he is doing something worthwhile."

She added: "Probably his biggest regret about the job is not seeing the children enough or worrying he does not see the children as much as he would like."


Asked what it was like to be the spouse of a prominent politician, she said it was "daunting" to begin with as "there is no rulebook".

She said she was not modelling herself on any other politician's wife or husband and was "picking her way through" and "occasionally popping in and out of focus" while continuing with her professional career.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Justine Miliband said she "popped in and out of focus" on the public stage

"The only reason I first gave a speech to Labour Party members at a Labour Party conference was because I was so worried that by about three years in all they knew about me was a dress I wore to Ed's speech. I thought I really want to reassure people that I am in fact more than a dress".

Mrs Miliband said her husband had not changed much since he became Labour leader four years ago. "I don't think he has changed as much as he has been tested and probably what I saw before more people see now.

"The characteristics that people see now, the values, the determination to stand up to people, to force through change. None of that is a surprise to me - because I saw those characteristics before."

Asked if people underestimated her husband to begin with, she replied: "I think they probably have done, definitely. Whether they do now, I don't know."

Life at home

When not engaged in politics, Mrs Miliband said her husband likes to watch TV, read his children stories and "liked a good Chinese takeaway".

Image caption The BBC comedy Episodes is among the Milibands' TV treats

In the evenings "we talk about the day with each other - I tell him about my day, my work, he tells me about his day - but quite often we talk about the kids".

Among recent box sets that the couple were working their through, she revealed, was the BBC comedy series Episodes and Scandinavian crime drama The Killing.

Although the couple "shared the chores", she said they were "equally as bad" at DIY.

She said she had not thought about what life would be like in Downing Street should Labour win power, insisting that as a working mother with a husband in a high-profile job she largely operated "on a 48-hour" timeframe.

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