“We are making the weather,” Ed Miliband smiles as he lists the issues on which he says Labour has set the election agenda – zero-hours contracts, non-doms, fiscal responsibility, the NHS.
Yet a cloud hangs stubbornly over the man who could be prime minister: he might need to rely on the Commons votes of the Scottish National Party to win power. Here are eight things we learned from an interview with the Labour leader by our sister paper i.
1. He thinks Cameron is using desperate tactics
If the Conservatives get their way, the “SNP factor” will block Mr Miliband’s path to Downing Street. But Mr Miliband is adamant that what he calls David Cameron’s “desperate” scare tactics about a post-election Labour-SNP deal will not work.
2. His spin doctors are keen to counter Cameron's SNP narrative
As we travel on the Labour leader’s battle bus from Preston to Manchester, his spin doctors do battle with the broadcasters on their phones. Labour does not want Sir John Major’s speech, warning that the SNP could hold Labour to ransom, to dominate the morning bulletins. The spinners fight for Mr Miliband’s speech on the NHS to get top or equal billing.
3. Miliband has a really obtuse insult for Cameron
Mr Miliband describes Mr Cameron as a “one-club golfer” who will not talk about the choice facing voters on 7 May, only about what might happen in a hung parliament afterwards.
4. He expected attacks from Rupert Murdoch
He was not “surprised” by the revelations that Rupert Murdoch berated journalists on his tabloid papers for not doing enough to stop Labour from winning the election. “I think they are worried", he said.
5. He admits that Labour has a problem in Scotland
Could the SNP surge deprive Labour of power? He comes close to saying it. “It is true that one less Labour MP in Scotland makes the danger of putting the Conservatives back in more significant… If you want a Labour government, you should vote Labour.”
6. But he doesn't want to talk about it
Mr Miliband would rather talk about health. But is Labour’s performance on its home ground being hampered by the Tories’ pledge to inject another £8bn a year into the NHS by 2020? Mr Miliband argues he is “incredibly comfortable” with his party’s position.
7. And he doesn't want to talk about a pact with the SNP either
Mr Miliband declines to go further than his cautious formula of saying Labour would not join a formal coalition with the SNP – which Nicola Sturgeon is not seeking in any case. He deflects questions about an unofficial pact, arguing that it would be up to the SNP to decide whether to support a Labour Queen’s Speech.
8. Finally, this is what he has to say about his newfound status as a sex symbol
“I always thought that once we got to this campaign, it would be a chance to speak in a direct way to the British people about how I wanted to change the country,” he says.
He will let others judge his apparent transformation. “I am the same person I was three months ago,” he says.