Newly-elected Labour leader Ed Miliband insisted today that he would be “my own man” amid Tory claims his union backing would push the party to the left.
Mr Miliband won the race to succeed Gordon Brown in dramatic fashion yesterday, beating his brother David by just 1.3% of the vote after a hard-fought four-month contest.
Older brother David won the support of a majority of Labour’s MPs at Westminster and grassroots activists, but crashed to defeat due to Ed’s dominance among the trade unions.
In his first interview since the vote, the new Leader of the Opposition played down union bosses’ post-result claims that their man had been elected.
“I am nobody’s man, I am my own man. I am very clear about that,” he told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show.
He said he believed strike action “always have to be a last resort” and insisted that the unions were showing a “sense of responsibility” over the need for public spending cuts.
Mr Miliband revealed that he had enjoyed a “brief chat” with his brother but that it was too early to know whether David would play any role in his shadow cabinet.
“We had a brief chat yesterday. He has shown extraordinary generosity and graciousness to me both in public and in private and he now wants me to get on with the job of leading the party.”
Amid speculation he could make his older sibling shadow chancellor, he said: “He needs time to think about the contribution he can make. I think he can make a very big contribution to British politics.
“He needs the space to do that and we’ve got shadow cabinet elections next week, after this conference, so there is a bit of time for all that.”
Mr Miliband indicated however that he wanted to employ “all the talents from across our party” in his top team, including his defeated leadership rivals.
“There is absolutely no business here of any kind of sense of ’who supported whom’. The past is another country as far as I am concerned,” he said.
He pointed out that he received more individual votes in the contest than any of his rivals and defended his high proportion of support from the unions.
“Why did union members vote for me in large numbers? Because I think I was talking about things that matter to working people in this country.
“Not just issues of low pay...or inequality but issues around tuition fees and how people can get on and their kids can get on in life, housing.”
The pair’s mother was “relieved that the contest is over”, he said.
“She is certainly not cross. I have spoken to her. She is obviously pleased for me and disappointed for him.”