UK Politics

Ed Miliband: Labour leader warns party on spending

  • 10 January 2012
  • From the section UK Politics
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Labour leader Ed Miliband has insisted he can still "deliver fairness" in tough times by taking on vested interests and rebalancing the economy.

He said a more unjust society was not inevitable and that a "changed" Labour Party would make better choices than the coalition on public spending.

Mr Miliband also promised to deal with energy and rail firms to help people struggling with rising living costs.

But the Conservatives said he still did not have a credible economic plan.

In his first major speech of the year, the opposition leader said that while David Cameron offered "more of the same", Labour would reform the economy and tackle "big vested interests" to ensure rewards are "fairly shared".

'Failure'

He told an audience of community groups that economic conditions were far worse that those which had faced the party when it won successive elections in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

He said that in order to win the next election - scheduled for 2015 - Labour would be "a different party from the one we were in the past".

Mr Miliband argued that the "failure" of the government's economic policy would ensure that whoever wins the next election would inherit a budget deficit, spending constraints and a "different landscape" from that which they might have once expected.

"We will have to make difficult choices that all of us wish we did not have to make," he said.

"Labour knows what fairness means. It always will. But we must rethink how we achieve it for Britain. The ideas which won three elections won't be the ideas which win the election in 2015. So we will be a different party from the one we were in the past."

Mr Miliband said economic circumstances meant he could no longer promise to reverse "coalition government cuts" to the winter fuel allowance for pensioners.

Instead, he revealed he would change the law to require energy companies to automatically place everyone aged over 75 on the cheapest available tariff.

'Inner belief'

He also said he would "take on" train companies, insisting that a Labour government would ensure that a cap on rises would apply to every regulated train fare - not just less busy routes.

And he said he wanted to encourage as many Labour councils as possible to pay all staff the living wage.

Amid claims the public is unconvinced by Labour's economic strategy, Mr Miliband argued he had led the debate in his call for "responsible capitalism" and for action to tackle the pressure on living standards for low and middle earners.

"Everyone is now joining us talking about the 'squeezed middle'. But it is not enough just to talk about them. Suddenly David Cameron is falling over himself to say he too is burning with passion to take on 'crony capitalism'. Now he has accepted this, the battleground of politics. I say 'bring it on'."

Labour has dismissed speculation about Mr Miliband's leadership, saying the party is united behind him.

Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme if he was affected by criticism, he replied "No" and said: "This is what happens... you get noises off.

On recent criticism from Labour peer Lord Glasman - who argued his party seemed to have "no strategy, no narrative and little energy" - Mr Miliband said: "I don't agree with him when he says it's all crap."

A number of senior party figures, including former Home Secretary Alan Johnson and shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy, have said Labour cannot oppose all the government's spending cuts and must put forward a credible programme for reducing the deficit while protecting the most disadvantaged.

Mr Johnson - who quit as shadow chancellor in January 2011 - has suggested Labour's message on the economy is "not getting through" and the public "remained suspicious" of the party.

Meanwhile, Conservative deputy chairman Michael Fallon said: "If Ed Miliband was serious about taking tough decisions, he'd set out a credible plan for cutting the deficit as Alistair Darling, Alan Johnson and half the shadow cabinet have demanded.

"If he seriously accepts there's less money to spend, he would stop making billions of new unfunded spending promises and instead tell us what Labour would cut."

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes said: "Ed Miliband's said almost nothing new at all... This makes absolutely no difference to the doubts about the Miliband leadership."

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