Ed Miliband has said he will tour the country over the next six months in order to personally sell his message to voters, following a worrying poll for the Labour leader that suggested an overwhelming number of people did not think he was ready to be prime minister.
In a speech designed as a fightback against internal and external critics, Miliband said he would not "buckle under the pressure" and insisted Labour could win the general election in May. Targeting the Conservatives, Ukip and the Lib Dems, he said: "We can take this lot apart and it is time we did."
Over the past week Miliband has been forced to deny his leadership was in crisis amid Westminster rumours of plots to oust him, as unhappy Labour MPs anonymously complained about the party's direction. Miliband said today: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, as leader of the Opposition over the last few days I've learnt what that really means."
He said: "I am willing to put up with whatever is thrown at me, in order to fight for you. That’s my duty, that’s my responsibility. That’s our duty, that’s our responsibility. Not to shrink from the fight."
A Ipsos Mori poll for the Evening Standard on Wednesday revealed that just 21% of people are satisfied with his performance as leader, with 65% dissatisfied. The survey leaves him wit ha net satisfaction rating of -44%. The poll also showed just 13% of those surveyed agreed Miliband was "ready to be prime minister", while 73% thought the opposite.
However Miliband insisted today he would not hide from the electorate. "The lesson I learnt most from the last four and half years or so, is about going out more and engaging more, spending less time in Westminster and more time out in the country," he said. "You learn more. It makes you a better politician and it engages you with people directly."
"That's what I am going to spend the next sixt months doing. Going out and making the argument, as I see it, for what I believe, is the best thing I can do."
The Labour leader also pledged to take on "vested interests" if he made it into Downing Street, although declined to name specific organisations or people. Miliband added that he was "not in the whinging business" and that the election would be a "big fight".
Miliband also took a tough line on Nigel Farage and Ukip, the insurgent eurosceptic party that is in course to secure its second MP next week in the Rochester by-election.
"We will be talking more about immigration as a party," Miliband said. "But always on the basis of Labour values, not Ukip values. We know that the deep discontent with the country gives rise to those who suggest false solutions. But unlike the Tories, what we will never do is try to out-Ukip Ukip."