Ed Miliband says Labour will take on vested interests

Ed Miliband wants to "show Britain's hard working families that Labour is back as a party of them"

Labour will take on those "interests, however powerful" that are holding back families, Ed Miliband has vowed on the eve of his party's conference.

Mr Miliband said the party was discussing how to "take on" train and energy firms who were overcharging passengers and ripping off customers.

He said he was determined to show "Britain's hard-working families that Labour is back as the party of them".

Some 11,000 delegates are expected at the five-day conference in Liverpool.

Arriving in the city earlier, Mr Miliband told a group of delegates gathered outside the conference hall to greet him that "Labour was back" and his focus for the week ahead would be the economy.

He said: "What I'm interested in doing this week, and what I'm determined to do, is show to Britain's hard working families that Labour is back as the party of them. Because they are families who are worried about the economy, who are seeing their living standards squeezed and who are worried about their kids.

"And we're going to take on interests, however powerful, that are holding them back. Today we're talking about how we're going to take on the train companies that overcharge them for fares and the energy companies that are ripping them off."

Analysis

The squeezed middle is a phrase that is central to Labour's strategy. It's the idea that there are people who work very hard but, nevertheless, are seeing their living standards eroded by rising prices, by pay freezes, by cuts to their pensions and increases in VAT.

The difficulty Ed Miliband has got is that everybody recognises there is a squeezed middle but how do you alleviate that pressure? And then you get into the bigger economic arguments about how to stimulate growth.

I'm not sure whether we will get that sort of detail.

All we have had from Labour so far is the suggestion of a temporary cut in VAT and a bank tax. Those may be measures which alleviate some of the squeeze but I don't think anyone is pretending that they are suddenly going to stimulate growth.

Mr Miliband, who will address the conference on Tuesday, is expected to tell delegates that powerful energy firms should be forced to pool all the electricity and gas they produce to encourage smaller operators to join the market and force down rising domestic bills.

'Economic credibility gap'

The government has accused the Labour leader of seeking a return to a system abandoned by Tony Blair's Labour government in 2001 after it failed to reduce prices.

Last week Energy Secretary Chris Huhne told the Liberal Democrat conference that energy suppliers would in future have to pay customers unlimited refunds to compensate for "bad behaviour" and said it would be made easier for customers to switch suppliers.

Meanwhile, a report by left-leaning think-tank the Fabian Society has warned that Labour suffer from an "economic credibility gap" and will find it difficult to regain the electorate's trust on this issue.

It said Mr Miliband needed to establish a clear plan for how his party would cut the deficit and stimulate growth.

Writing in the Guardian, shadow chancellor Ed Balls said Labour should use the conference to persuade voters it has a "credible and compelling" plan for the economy beyond opposing coalition austerity measures.

He argued that "stop all the cuts" placard-waving Labour supporters risked undermining public trust in the party, adding that it would be equally damaging to accept Tory-led policies and hope they worked.

Mr Balls wrote: "Successful opposition is about tackling the big questions and not being afraid of the answers".

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