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Miliband: I'll lead party into poll

Ed Miliband has made clear that he intends to lead the Opposition into the general election following intense speculation about his future.

The Labour leader said he is "proud" to be in the party's top job and insisted he relishes the fight they face to return to power.

It comes after 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.

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."

Mr Miliband insisted Labour can win in May and will fight "street by street, house by house" to tell voters how "we are equal to the challenges of the time in which we live".

"I know we can beat all our opponents at the next election because of our Labour values, our passion and our plan for government," he said.

Shadow cabinet minister 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.

He said: "The stories in today's newspapers are complete and pure fiction. There is not a shred of truth in them.

"What I think it's part of is a deliberate and desperate attempt to destabilise the Labour Party and to divide us. But I can say this: it won't work. We are a united team, we are united behind Ed."

Asked whether he would stand if there was a vacancy he told Sky News: "My focus is on the NHS, exposing the damage that this Government is doing and working hard to deliver the Labour government that this country needs and certainly that my constituency needs.

"That is where my focus is. I'm working hard to support Ed Miliband in every single way I can."

Shadow home secretary Ms Cooper and Mr Burnham - among the leading candidates to take over in the event of a vacancy - were reported by The Times to have struck a "non-aggression pact" in the event of a contest to choose a new leader.

A spokesman for Ms Cooper dismissed the suggestion as "lies ... complete and utter garbage" and insisted there was "no foundation whatsoever".

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna - often tipped as a future leader - said Mr Miliband had brought the party "within touching distance" of power and warned Labour should not be distracted by "nonsense" about his position.

Election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander said Labour must "pull together", warning: "Divided parties lose elections," while veteran Peter Hain told "mutterers" in Labour ranks to stop feeding speculation.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said Mr Miliband would be an "innovative, reforming, radical prime minister and he is more than up to it".

Writing on the Politics Home website, Mr Umunna said the rumblings were "nonsense which some in the Westminster bubble want to distract us with".

Mr Umunna added: "The simple fact is that because of Ed Miliband's leadership we are now within touching distance of being what many thought impossible four years ago.

"We have a leader who has kept us united and overseen the renewal which so eluded us at the end of our time in government. Ed is an honest, sincere man of deep beliefs."

Mr Hunt defended Mr Miliband's leadership style, telling BBC Radio 4's World At One: "We have a framing of what we think a prime minister should and shouldn't be, which is about getting out of a Daimler car with a nice quiff and moving swiftly.

"What Ed is about is really innovative and pioneering ideas that are going to deliver for working people across Britain."

Mr Miliband's prospects were given a boost by a Survation poll in the Daily Mirror, which put Labour four points ahead on 31%, with Tories slumping to 27%.

But another survey, by YouGov for LBC radio, found that nearly half (49%) of people surveyed believed Labour's chances would be improved if he was replaced.

Ian Austin called on the party to toughen its policy on immigration and claimed senior Labour figures had told him he "sounded like the BNP" when he complained about the number of people settling in Britain.

The Labour MP refused to comment on claims he is one of the backbenchers who has called for Mr Miliband to stand down.

In an article for the Daily Mail, he wrote: " I stood up in the Commons and said people in Dudley don't think people should be able to come to Britain and be unemployed.

"They think people should have to work and pay taxes before they can claim benefits. They certainly don't think it's fair that child benefit can be claimed in the UK for children living abroad.

"Judging by the emails and letters I've received since, most people think that's plain common-sense. Lots of people said they were really pleased to see a Labour MP saying it.

"I'm afraid it didn't go down so well in Westminster."

Mr Austin said the "left-leaning Guardian accused me of standing up to 'add his jackboot to immigrants".

He added: "I knew some people would not agree with the question, but I didn't anticipate being called a Nazi."

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