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Exclusive interview: Ed Miliband

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Before Ed Miliband was announced the new leader of the Labour party on 25 September, Stylist exclusively interviewed all five leadership candidates, asking them how they'd tackle some of the biggest issues facing working women, what inspires them, and how they cope with stress. Here's how they responded...

Ed Miliband

Q: What's your biggest personal achievement to date?

A: Being a dad to Daniel and a partner to Justine, whilst also managing to hold down my day job

Q: How would your closest friends describe you in 3 words?

A: Quite often late

Q: In 15 words or less why would you make the best leader for the Labour party?

A: I’m the candidate that best understands the scale of change required for Labour to win

Q: What would you like the history books to say about you?

A: That I knew that politics has to be based on real values and that I had the courage of my convictions

Q: What needs to happen to get more women into prominent positions in politics?

A: Sarah Brown is a great person, but Labour must never again have a General Election campaign where the wife of the leader is the most prominent women to feature. We need to support more young women to come into politics and give them the backing to occupy senior positions in the future. But we must also work towards making sure that at least half of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet is made up of women MPs

Q: Chartered Management Institute data shows that there is a still a huge gender pay gap and equal pay isn’t likely until 2067. How would you tackle this as leader of the opposition?

A: We have to stand up for fairness at work. It's unfair when women are paid less than men for doing the same work. The best way to tackle this is transparency, which is why we've called for pay audits, and greater responsibility from businesses across Britain

Q: The National Childbirth Trust has found one in three women feels their promotion prospects have been affected by maternity leave. What will you do as leader of the opposition to address this issue?

A: Employers need to be held to their legal responsibilities to give women proper time off , but they also need to understand that it is in businesses' interest not to lose the talent of women in their workforces by disadvantaging them. But we also need to change the culture of workplaces more profoundly - which is why I am in favour of flexible working arrangements to be available to everybody, not just a few

Q: How do you deal with work stress?

A: I don’t have a special technique, but the thing I look forward to most is coming home to see Daniel and Justine

Q: What or who is your biggest inspiration?

A: I suppose that given that my brother and I are both in politics means that our family must have had an influence on us both. I think that the fact that my parents were both refugees from the Nazis made me realise that politics really does matter

Q: Finally, if you had to vote for one of the other leadership candidates?

A: I’ll give my second preference vote to David, who I think will always be a great asset to Labour, whatever role he serves in

More about Ed Miliband at edmiliband.org

Ed Balls

Q: What's you biggest personal achievement to date?

A: Bringing up 3 great kids

Q: How would your closest friends describe you in 3 words?

A: Loyal, determined, late

Q: In 15 words or less why would you make the best leader for the Labour party?

A: I’m radical and credible – with an alternative to the coalition’s unfair and economically dangerous cuts

Q: What would you like the history books to say about you?

A: That I stood up for what was right – like not joining the European single currency and a national insurance rise to pay for a better NHS – even if it was unpopular with some of my own party at the time and meant being castigated by the right-wing press. And that, having spoken about my own stammer, I did my best to get proper support for all children who stammer wherever they live

Q: What needs to happen to get more women into prominent positions in politics?

A: As the only progressive party in Parliament, Labour must lead by example. I support the aim of half of Labour’s shadow cabinet being women. I went further than all the other Labour leadership contenders in voting for the most radical option on the table this month – women to have at least 40% of shadow cabinet positions straight away. But we need to go further with a goal that half our parliamentary party are women too. That means keeping all-women shortlists which have made an important difference, but it also needs a change in culture in our party and in Parliament too

Q: Chartered Management Institute data shows that there is a still a huge gender pay gap and equal pay isn’t likely until 2067. How would you tackle this as leader of the opposition?

A: Though Labour narrowed the pay gap it is still far too big and we must do more. That means defending Labour’s Equality Act from Tory back-sliding and extending the requirement to promote equality to the private sector, starting with those on government contracts and publishing every large company’s pay gap. We also need more union-negotiated collective settlements, pay audits and group legal actions. The National Minimum Wage did a lot to improve women’s pay and it should rise above £7 an hour. I also support the Living Wage and was the only Cabinet minister to implement the Living Wage for all my staff and contracted staff

Q: The National Childbirth Trust has found one in three women feels their promotion prospects have been affected by maternity leave. What will you do as leader of the opposition to address this issue?

A: Too many mums are forced to take a pay cut or go into lower skilled jobs after they return from maternity leave, often because they need to work part-time. So we need many more good part-time jobs and flexible working opportunities, plus good, flexible childcare. There are attitudinal issues to tackle too among some employers. More broadly, the more men share bringing up the children as well as earning the family income, the better women's career prospects will be - and the faster we'll close the gender pay gap too

Q: How do you deal with work stress?

A: I play choral music on my iPod in the office

Q: What or who is your biggest inspiration?

A: Margaret Thatcher - I grew up and studied economics at school in the shadow of 1980s monetarism and mass unemployment. I always wanted to show there could be a better way

Q: Finally, if you had to vote for one of the other leadership candidates?

A: They’re all great candidates - but I've decided my supporters should make their own minds up about who they put as their second preference without a steer from me

More about Ed Balls at edballs.co.uk

Diane Abbott

Q: What's you biggest personal achievement to date?

A: My son

Q: How would your closest friends describe you in 3 words?

A: Outspoken, honest and fun

Q: In 15 words or less why would you make the best leader for the Labour party?

A: Never been a New Labour minister, a Blairite or a Brownite. I’m my own woman

Q: What would you like the history books to say about you?

A: That I was an excellent mother and good politician

Q: What needs to happen to get more women into prominent positions in politics?

A: We need to encourage more women to get involved at higher levels, throughout the party. Part of the reason I put myself forward for the leadership is because I felt it would not have been right to have this contest without a woman in it

Q: Chartered Management Institute data shows that there is a still a huge gender pay gap and equal pay isn’t likely until 2067. How would you tackle this as leader of the opposition?

A: By using my position as a professional woman in a traditionally male job to highlight the unfairness of the gap. In opposition we are limited with what we can do, but we can put pressure on the government to make changes. I have already held them to account on the freeze to the public sector which will hit twice as many women as men

Q: The National Childbirth Trust has found one in three women feels their promotion prospects have been affected by maternity leave. What will you do as leader of the opposition to address this issue?

A: We need to make work more flexible. I returned to work when my son was just 8 days old but I was able to make my job work around him. Many women are not so lucky and taking time out is viewed as a weakness, a pressure I certainly felt. We work some of the longest hours in Europe. We need to change our working culture and adopt a better work/life balance

Q: How do you deal with work stress?

A: Listen to loud music

Q: What or who is your biggest inspiration?

A: Nelson Mandela. I was lucky enough to be in South Africa when he was elected. It was humbling to see people queue from dawn to be able to cast their vote for the first time. It really brought back the importance of democracy

Q: Finally, if you had to vote for one of the other leadership candidates?

A: They are all extremely good candidates. I couldn’t possibly choose between them

More about Diane Abott at dianeabbott.org.uk

David Miliband

Q: What's you biggest personal achievement to date?

A: Introducing Building Schools for The Future. The government’s scrapping of it is a tragedy

Q: How would your closest friends describe you in 3 words?

A: A loving father

Q: In 15 words or less why would you make the best leader for the Labour party?

A: I can unite the party and beat Cameron to get Labour back into power

Q: What would you like the history books to say about you?

A: That I was a great Prime Minister

Q: What needs to happen to get more women into prominent positions in politics?

A: Encourage and support more women to stand at all levels of political representation - you can’t just change things at the top. Make politics a more family friendly career and get rid of the macho culture in Westminster

Q: Chartered Management Institute data shows that there is a still a huge gender pay gap and equal pay isn’t likely until 2067. How would you tackle this as leader of the opposition?

A: It is a scandal that women earn on average 22% less than men, despite over thirty years passing since the Equal Pay Act. Direct discrimination must be confronted head on, using the law where necessary. But we must also tackle the occupational segregation and wage inequality that drives the gender pay gap. I support a living wage, paid for out of management bonus pots, which would make a big difference here because so many low paid workers in this country are women

Q: The National Childbirth Trust has found one in three women feels their promotion prospects have been affected by maternity leave. What will you do as leader of the opposition to address this issue?

A: We will not achieve real gender equality until patterns of work and care shift among men as well as women. We should increase paternity leave and pay and to allow parents to transfer part of their leave between them. This would help allow mothers and fathers to make the choices about earning a living and bringing up their children that are right for them

Q: How do you deal with work stress?

A: Being with my children

Q: What or who is your biggest inspiration?

A: My wife Louise and our two boys

Q: Finally, if you had to vote for one of the other leadership candidates?

A: The only one I love – my brother

More about David Miliband at davidmiliband.net

Andy Burnham

Q: What's you biggest personal achievement to date?

A: Bringing forward the NHS Constitution, which cements the rights of patients and staff within the Health Service

Q: How would your closest friends describe you in 3 words?

A: Determined, honest and late

Q: In 15 words or less why would you make the best leader for the Labour party?

A: I can reconnect Labour and put the heart and soul back into the People’s Party

Q: What would you like the history books to say about you?

A: That I was the Labour leader that reinvigorated the Party and brought forward some of the biggest policies of the 21st century

Q: What needs to happen to get more women into prominent positions in politics?

A: In 1997, there was a great picture of Tony Blair surrounded by over 100 women MPs. Thirteen years later and many of those women have left politics. That’s in no small part because of the ‘sink or swim’ attitude that faces those coming into frontline politics, regardless of gender. I want to establish a mentoring programme for those coming through, whether in local or national politics, so that the support is there. But we also need to tackle the working hours of Parliament, which are still very much those of the professional man. I would like to look at the possibilities of remote voting so that politicians, male or female, don’t have to choose between a political career and family life

Q: Chartered Management Institute data shows that there is a still a huge gender pay gap and equal pay isn’t likely until 2067. How would you tackle this as leader of the opposition?

A: The legislation on equal pay for work of equal value has been there for decades, yet the disparity continues. To tackle this, there needs to be much more transparency in pay, in both the public and private sector, to put the information in the hands of staff and to bring about pay revolution from within organisations

Q: The National Childbirth Trust has found one in three women feels their promotion prospects have been affected by maternity leave. What will you do as leader of the opposition to address this issue?

A: This is an issue which is close to home, as my wife has experienced it during her own career. We did a great deal to improve maternity and paternity leave during Labour’s time in office, but there is still more to be done to make sure that women who take career breaks – whether for bringing up children or for caring for elderly relatives – are given the right support to keep their work life on track. It will require an investment of time on the part of employers, and I would want to work with groups like the CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses to make that happen

Q: How do you deal with work stress?

A: I have a fantastic, supportive family – and my Everton season ticket

Q: What or who is your biggest inspiration?

A: My children – Jimmy, Rosie and Annie

More about Andy Burnham at andyburnham.org

Picture credit: Rex Features

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