Labour conference: Miliband urges U-turn on economy

Ed Miliband Ed Miliband admits his party faces a big challenge to win back votes

David Cameron must "start showing some leadership" and "change course" on the economy, Ed Miliband has said.

Speaking as his party gathered for its annual conference in Liverpool, the Labour leader said the coalition's austerity programme was "not working".

And he again called for a temporary VAT cut to kickstart growth: "You can't leave an economy flat on its back."

He also called for a £6,000 cap on university tuition fees to ease the debt burden on students.

Labour is expected to use its week in Liverpool to set out an alternative economic vision, ending what Mr Miliband has called the "fast-buck" economy.

'First step'

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls is expected to step up attacks on the coalition and urge David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne to change course in his speech to conference on Monday.

Labour remains committed to halving the deficit in four years and concedes there would be spending cuts if they were in power.

Start Quote

Ed will lead the party in the way that he sees fit, with conviction and purpose - and that's right”

End Quote David Miliband Labour MP

But Mr Miliband, who makes his big speech on Tuesday, and Mr Balls say money should be pumped into the economy at the same time to boost growth.

Mr Miliband told the BBC: "As a first step we say cut VAT. Keep to a plan to cut the deficit over four years but do it with growth because that's the only way you are going to achieve what you need to achieve.

He added: "There is an absence of leadership and I say to the prime minister 'put the politics aside, start showing some leadership'."

Brother's backing

Mr Miliband admitted the party faced a big challenge in winning back support at the ballot box.

But he insisted: "We are a party on the way back. There's a long way to go and I, more than anyone, know the scale of task.

"But, you know what's most important? I know who I am and I know where I want to take this country and that's what I'm going to be talking about this week."

And he received a vote of confidence from older brother David, who he beat to the party leadership by the narrowest of margins at last year's Labour conference.

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People will not trust us with power if they don't trust us with money”

End Quote Liam Byrne Shadow work and pensions secretary

Arriving at the conference centre, in Liverpool's rejuvenated dockside area, David Miliband told BBC News: "Ed will lead the party in the way that he sees fit, with conviction and purpose - and that's right."

David Miliband confirmed he would be in the US when his brother makes his leader's speech to the conference on Tuesday.

He said it was important he was here on Sunday evening - speaking at a fringe meeting - because "it's very important that all members of the Labour Party rally behind our cause and I'm here to support the leadership".

'Fiscal realists'

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne, who is in charge of the party's policy review, said Labour needed to seize the centre ground of British politics - and regain economic credibility.

He told a fringe meeting organised by Labour group Progress: "People will not trust us with power if they don't trust us with money.

"We have to be fiscal realists. We have to be a party, like the government, that says we want to bring the deficit down, but the fiscally realistic thing right now is to get our country back working."

Shadow communities minister Caroline Flint said Labour had "not been comfortable talking about efficiency and saving money".

She said people had come to associate the Conservatives with talk about value for money, adding: "We need to reclaim that ground."

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell told the meeting people were "just not listening" to Labour because they were focused on "the financial anxieties of managing from one day to the next".

She also said the party had to understand that "people are much more sceptical and much more hostile about the idea of the state spending money on their behalf".


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  • Comment number 73.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Coming from someone with no political allegiance, I think that Ed and Balls responce on the economy is nothing short of lame.

    A U turn now would plunge the stock markets, lead us to another recession and a return to the massive lending we saw under Brown.
    Plus, lowering tuition fees won't make a difference on how many people go to university.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    You have to say, we have to live within our means eventually. Delaying it would just make things worse. I applaud the current government for that at least. It would be easy to carry on borrowing, pretend everything is ok, and win easy votes. But they aren't. They are taking the hard decisions (for long term prosperity) on the chin. They deserve credit for that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    We need to get back to the old socialist principles and support those who really need help, not the so called "squeezed middle" who don't really know what poverty is. New Labour did some good things but was not sufficiently radical. About time the Party realised it is supposed to be supporting the working classes and not ashamed of them. Milliband must go!

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    How would Ed Milliband feel if he was PERSONALLY responsible for any extra debt that the UK undertook?.Would he be so willing to waste money
    The reason Cameron is having to take the tough decisions he is taking is because Brown etc and thankfully not Miilband are happy to spend on anything as they know as someone else will pay for it

    Wake up GB if you spend more than your income = Bust

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    I am not a NL supporter, and like all politicians Millibrand is probably an opportunist, and NL was in part responsible for the mess., But putting politics to one side, I think he is right. To address the deficit over a longer period while promoting growth sounds alot more constructive then letting the economy fall over, which is a real danger left to our Dave and George.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Public deficit=Private surplus

    An accounting fact!

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Just spending money for public benefits to the borderline of bankruptcy is not a political merit.

    The truth is that there is no alternative for ED to bring the deficit DOWN his LABOUR party caused.

    That is something ED can´t speak out with this clarity - OF COURSE!

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Ed Miliband must remember why Labour lost the last election. This is a big week for him, in fact the most important week. Its crucial he shows himself to be a good leader and people may regain faith in labour. Reducing tuition fees and cutting down VAT is a good start but more is needed this week............

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    @Del, BlythKeith

    I think it's hysterical that any criticism of Ed Millibland is automatically assumed to be related to the tories, such is the fanaticism of Labore's supporters they refuse to accept any other party is available.

    And fantastic, after 10 years of Labour before the economys inevitable meltdown and it's still the tories' fault? Labour distracted helping the scroungers all that time?

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Ed Miliband. What on Earth is he doing in politics? Sure he's a nice guy, and I wish him well, but who in their right mind would see him as a political leader. His election as leader was a disaster for Labour (following a long list of other disasters).

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    It beggars belief that any political party believes that you can spend your way out of a recession. Here's the bottom line: Even if you cut VAT to 5%, I WILL NOT be spending money on non-essentials.

    You've just demonstrated why you can't cut your way out of a recession

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Tories only know how to call people names - they certainly don't know the difference between economics and macroeconomics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.


    Today I bough 2 tatties...and the cost.....80p

    Yes 80 bloody p.

    Any comment.?

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Labour has only one solution: spend money the country does not have and encourage everyone else to do the same.

    Labour just want to delay the inevitable, get us in more debt while transferring even more wealth from the poor to the rich.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    How can he talking about kick starting the economy and then also talk about reducing student fees by hiking up taxes?

    It seems the Milliband way is to just ignore the deficit and go back to spending.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Milliband's a slimey snake who does everything he can to score political points. Labour got us into this mess so they're hardly likely to get us out again.

    Snakes aren't slimey. Labour did not create the mess it was caused by the sub-prime mortgages crisis in the USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    As from a personal point of view,i would agree with a cut in VAT,My business has had to absorb the VAT increase like many other businesses.
    This would also helping spending on the high street and keep businesses on the high street,as alot are currently closing down,less business = less vat reciepts for the coffers

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    How quickly the sharks forget ... it was the banks, not Labour who put this country and the world into financial chaos. When people have experienced years of a coalition with no u-turns, no ears and no heart, they will realise that Labour are talking a lot of sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    It's not possible for the country to be a "nation of savers" without the government running a deficit sufficiently large to enable it.


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