By-election 'crucial to Miliband'
Ed Miliband's leadership will be tested at a parliamentary by-election later this month if Labour fails to put in a credible performance, it has been claimed.
The party leader was urged to "refocus" Labour following days of intense speculation about his position and start showing he can make a difference to voters' lives.
A Labour source warned that a poor performance at the Rochester and Strood poll on November 20 would raise questions about his ability to win over middle-ground voters, according to the Guardian.
Ukip is on course to take the Kent seat - which was largely held by Labour under a previous constituency boundary - with the Conservatives expected to come second.
Mr Miliband made it clear last night that he intends to lead the Opposition into the general election following questions over his leadership.
He insisted Labour could win in May and would fight "street by street, house by house" to tell voters how "we are equal to the challenges of the time in which we live".
Former Downing Street adviser Patrick Diamond, who helped write the 2010 Labour general election manifesto with Mr Miliband, told the Guardian: "Endless speculation about the leadership is utterly self-defeating.
"Labour has to refocus on how it can win the next election. What Labour needs is a message and policies that chime with a broad coalition of voters, one reason why it is essential the party performs well in the Rochester and Strood by-election later this month.
"The leader should initiate a 'road to the manifesto' process - publishing as soon as practical an early draft of the party's programme for government which can be taken out into the country, debated and discussed with the British people.
"Voters don't just want to be 'listened' to, they want to know Labour has credible and economically responsible policies that can make a difference to their lives and offer them hope."
Some of Labour's most senior figures were forced to deny holding secret talks about what to do if Mr Miliband quit as party leader, following a wave of criticism and claims of a plot to oust him.
Andy Burnham earlier issued a plea for Labour to pull together as he dismissed as "complete and pure fiction" a claim he was involved in talks about a new leadership.
The shadow health secretary angrily denied claims that he had been in talks with Yvette Cooper about a deal to present a joint platform in the event of a leadership vacancy.
A spokesman for Ms Cooper dismissed the suggestion as "lies ... complete and utter garbage" and insisted there was "no foundation whatsoever".
In a post on Facebook, Mr Miliband wrote: "I relish the fight for the future.
"And the difference here in Britain is that the Labour party is within months of an election we can win so that we can begin the business of changing our country for the better.
"Four and a half years into this parliament, I am proud to lead a party with this plan for Britain's future.
"We have six months to go out and show the difference Labour's plan will make.
"Together, that is what we will do."