Labour conference: Ed Miliband sides with 'wealth creators'

Ed Miliband, Labour leader Image copyright Reuters
Image caption This is Ed Miliband's second autumn conference as Labour leader

Opposition leaders - whether Labour or Tory - declare that they are on the side of hard working people who do the right thing.

Ed Miliband's version of this is to promise to stand up for "the people who don't make a fuss, who don't hack phones, loot shops, fiddle their expenses, or earn telephone number salaries at the banks".

So far, so unsurprising. What makes the extracts of the speech we've been given more interesting, though, is the suggestion that a Labour government would use the tax system and government procurement rules to reward "good" companies - those he calls "the real wealth creators" - and to punish bad ones - "asset stripping predators".

The Labour leader is set to ask: "Are you on the side of the wealth creators or the asset strippers?

"For years as a country we have been neutral in that battle. They've been taxed the same. Regulated the same. Treated the same. Celebrated the same. They won't be by me."

Similarly, he will promise to reward benefit claimants who have made "a contribution" - as good tenants, neighbours or members of their community - and punish bad ones. Already Manchester and Newham councils include this in their assessment of who gets a council house.

All this he will sell as "a new bargain".

An early test of this positioning may be his attitude to the public sector strikes in protest at higher pension contributions.

Will the strikers be treated as good workers who have contributed and done the right thing or bad strikers who are behaving irresponsibly and doing the wrong thing?

Neil Kinnock faced precisely this dilemma during the miners strike.

The pensions strike may not happen and, even if they do, are unlikely to be on the same scale or produce the same divisions but the choice Ed Miliband will face will be no easier.