North East MPs show loyalty to Ed Miliband amid speculation about his leadership

Labour MPs dismiss calls for former Home Secretary Alan Johnson to stand as "stupid talk" and say they have the right man

Labour leader Ed Miliband in the Grainger Market
Labour leader Ed Miliband

Labour MPs across the North East have backed Ed Miliband after reports emerged that party figures are hoping for a leadership challenge.

It has been reported dissenters want Home Secretary Alan Johnson to run against Mr Miliband.

The leader has consistently polled as unpopular with voters while the party overall has enjoyed a solid lead over the Conservatives for months.

While it is unlikely Mr Johnson would make a move to replace Ed Miliband, Lord John Prescott was among the leader’s critics last week, saying his conference speech lacked passion.

Writing in the Sunday Mirror, he said: “Ed seems to be pursuing a core vote strategy of getting 31% of traditional Labour supporters with a few ex-Lib Dem voters.

“He might as well have said at the end of his conference speech: ‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for coalition’.”

But MPs from this region dismissed the speculation as “stupid talk” and showed loyalty to Mr Miliband.

Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle North, said: “Ed Miliband is the right person to lead the Labour Party into the next election, and hopefully into Government.

“He has set out a clear vision for the type of country we would rebuild under a Labour Government - one that doesn’t abandon people struggling to get by, but supports them to get on in life.

“That’s what my constituents want from a Prime Minister, and that’s what they would get under a Labour Government led by Ed Miliband.”

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Ronnie Campbell, MP for Blyth Valley, said the party’s election campaign was about more than the leader, adding: “This is stupid talk from people who are not interested in winning the election.”

A poll by Lord Ashcroft showed Labour on 37%, with Conservatives on 31%, Lib Dems on 8% and UKIP on 15%.

Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, also remains supportive. He said: “The key thing for the Labour Party is to concentrate on winning next May.

“One important factor is that we are a united party and we need to continue that if we are to win next May. Anything else is a diversion.”

Labour peer Jeremy Beecham added: “Time and again Ed has shown decisive leadership: on the banks, energy prices, the excesses of the press and the Leveson report, the living wage, the NHS, the bedroom tax.

“He has a vision of the shared society, where responsibility and rewards are fairly shared.

“I admire Alan Johnson and would like to see him as a member of Ed’s Cabinet next May.”

Hexham’s Conservative MP Guy Opperman, however, said even Labour supporters had questions about Mr Miliband’s future at the top of the party.

He said: “I think the moment Ed apparently forget to mention the deficit in his conference speech was a real watershed moment.

“I think for many people, even Labour supporters, it highlighted that he had no real plan for dealing with our debts and growing our economy.

“At the next election the big question in the country, and in the North East, will be have you got a plan to financially secure the future for our children and grandchildren. I genuinely don’t think Ed has an answer to that.”

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