New leader of Britain's Labour promises fresh start

28th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

The new leader of Britain's Labour party said Tuesday he came from a "new generation", signalling a break with ex-prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in his first major speech.

Ed Miliband also paid tribute to his "extraordinary" brother David, whom he defeated in a tight race for the leadership of the main opposition party in results announced Saturday ahead of this week's annual conference.

The 40-year-old, who was energy secretary and a former aide to Brown, has been given media nicknames ranging from "Red Ed" -- for his supposed left-wing policies -- to "Forrest Gump" for his geeky manner.

But he stressed a centrist approach in the speech, warning trade unions that widely supported his leadership against "irresponsible" strikes and saying he "strongly" believed cuts were necessary to trim Britain's record deficit.

"Let the message go out, a new generation has taken charge of Labour," Miliband told the audience at the conference in Manchester, northwest England.

"I relish the chance to take on (Prime Minister) David Cameron. We may be of a similar age but in my values and ideals, I am of a different and new generation.

"The new generation is not simply defined by age but by attitudes and ideals.

"And there is a defining difference between us and David Cameron... and that is optimism."

Miliband defeated his elder brother David, the former foreign minister, in a race dominated by debate over whether the party should build on the years of New Labour under Blair and Brown or move away from it.

Ed Miliband was seen as urging change while David was seen as more accepting of New Labour.

In his speech, Ed Miliband said that while Blair and Brown had had the "courage" to change Britain, it was no accident that the party had lost five million votes between 1997 and 2010.

"I stand before you clear in my task: to once again make Labour a force that takes on established thinking, doesn't succumb to it, speaks for the majority and shapes the centre ground of politics," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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