Ed Miliband has hit back at criticisms that a series of awkward photo ops have damaged his chances of being elected prime minister.
In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with The Huffington Post UK, the Labour leader insisted voters did not care about Westminster village chatter about bacon sandwiches and accusations that he is seen as too 'weird'.
Miliband insisted if voters "want someone who will put their principles first, who thinks they are more important than photo opportunities" then "I am that person".
Miliband also used the interview to step up his attack on David Cameron for ignoring warnings about the suitability of Andy Coulson for a job in No.10 and putting "photo ops before principles".
On Tuesday Coulson was convicted of phone hacking while editor of the News of the World. Cameron was forced to apologise for hiring him. Asked whether Cameron had brought the office of prime minister into disrepute, Miliband replied, "Yes".
"I think it’s very serious what [the prime minister] did. I think he’s got some very serious questions to answer," he said. "People will judge at the next election what they think of somebody who brought a criminal into Downing Street and it goes absolutely to the heart of the leadership choice at the next election," he said.
He added: "I think it's fair to say [Cameron] was far better at photo ops than me [as leader of the opposition]. I’ve been far better when it comes to principle."
The Labour leader was judged by many to have fluffled his attack on Cameron during prime minister's questions on Wednesday, as the prime minister was able to point to Miliband's decision to pose with a copy of The Sun and then apologise as an example of weak leadership.
In the interview with HuffPost UK, Miliband said he would not do it again if he had the choice and admitted photo ops had not gone his way recently. "It was a mistake," he said, reiterating his earlier apology to the people of Merseyside.
"I wasn’t intending to promote Murdoch’s paper," he added. "It was about England’s World Cup bid… I’ve apologised to those who’ve I've caused offence to."
And he dismissed accusations that his press aides were to blame. "I take full responsibility for all the decisions that I make."
David Cameron puts 'photo-ops over principles', Ed Miliband has said
Miliband also hit back at criticisms that he is seen as too 'weird' by voters to be elected prime minister next year. "Ideas do matter in politics more than bacon sandwiches," he said referring to the other infamous photograph that has dogged him in recent weeks.
"I think principles do matter more than photos ops. I think if people want somebody who will put good press coverage, good photo ops, before their principles, than David Cameron is clearly that person," he said.
"If they want someone who will put their principles first, who thinks they are more important than photo opportunities, then I am that person. And, in a way, this week of all weeks is a week when you see the difference."
"There are some.. people who are desperate for me not to win the election. First of all, they said I was ‘Red Ed’. Then they said I was weak. Then they said it’s back to the 1970s. They’re desperate to find a point of criticism."
However it has not just been his conservative critics in parliament and the press that have harsh words for him. Several Labour politicians, both on and off the record, have been critical of his leadership.
"I think that what the reality is that I won a close leadership. I think the party is a united party, and I think that’s true right across the board," he said.
"I genuinely believe one of the reasons we are in a position to win the next election is because actually, in the end, the British public do judge people on their ideas and what they stand for and what difference they’ll make to the country. And I think principled leadership matters a lot, a lot more than all this other stuff."
Read Mehdi Hasan's full interview with Ed Miliband on, among other things, his leadership style, his chances of winning the election, Tony Blair and Iraq, the 2015 TV debates, posing with The Sun, England's World Cup exit, being 'weird' and bacon-gate.