Interview: Top Labour donor slams "policy light" and "not compelling" Miliband
JML chairman John Mills tells us that the Labour leader lacks a “credible” economic message
Labour leader Ed Miliband has come under attack from one of his party’s top financial backers over his failure to adopt a “credible” economic message.
In an interview with LondonlovesBusiness.com, John Mills, the party’s largest individual donor so far this year, warned that the Labour Party does not have a “clear idea on how to get the economy growing again at a reasonable speed and how to get the deficit down to a much more sustainable proportion”.
“The whole political spectrum is policy light and this includes the Labour Party,” Mills said. “I’m not sure anybody has a compelling message.”
In backhanded praise for Chancellor George Osborne, Mills added: “I’m not sure George Osborne is policy light. I think he’s very determined to implement the policy that he is putting forward [but] there are increasing doubts everywhere that this policy just isn’t working.”
Asked why Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls had failed to fashion a compelling message, Mills replied: “That’s a very good question, but patently this hasn’t happened”.
Mills, boss of the shopping giant JML, has donated £1.65m in shares this year to the Labour Party, more than twice the amount given by the party’s next biggest contributor, the Unite union.
He praised Miliband for doing a “lot better than most people thought he would, including me”, saying that the Labour leader was a “very nice person and a very capable speaker”.
“The problem is that anybody who is in opposition always looks like a pygmy - this is just a fact of life. Anybody who is in power looks much bigger and more powerful than people want,” he added.
In response to Mills’ comments, Tory vice-chairman Bob Neill MP said: “Even one of Labour’s biggest donors knows that Ed Miliband offers no leadership and that his party only stands for the same old Labour answer of more borrowing, more spending and more debt – exactly what got us into this mess in the first place.”
Mills is also the chairman of the Business for Britain group, which is lobbying to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU. He warned that Miliband’s opposition to offering an EU referendum pledge could lose Labour votes at the next general election.
“Refusing to have an EU referendum is not a vote-winner on the doorstep and the Labour leadership has to weigh that up,” he told LondonlovesBusiness.com.
“At some stage, Britain has got to make up its mind on whether it’s going to make a go of EU membership or not, and the only way to decide that is a referendum.”
However, Mills insisted that his disagreement with Miliband over offering an EU referendum did not jeopardise his financial support for the party.
“I’ve been a Labour supporter for the last 40 to 50 years and I’ve never been in a situation when I’ve agreed with everything that [the Labour Party] is doing.”