Opposition Labour leader calls time on 'fast buck' Britain

27th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

British opposition leader Ed Miliband told his Labour party Tuesday he was determined to smash the "something for nothing" culture that he blames for the country's economic and social ills.

Seeking to establish his credentials as a possible future premier, Miliband sought to convince the centre-left party that he had an alternative to the spending cuts of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government.

Speaking at Labour's annual conference in Liverpool, northwest England, Miliband positioned himself as a values-driven leader with a vision for a remodelled 21st century Britain.

The 41-year-old, who beat his elder brother David to the Labour leadership a year ago, has so far struggled to make his mark.

He admitted Labour needed to take responsibility for some of the things that went wrong during 13 years in power from 1997 to 2010 under prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as Britain's budget deficit grew during the boom years.

"People need to know where I stand. The Labour party lost trust on the economy," Miliband said.

"I am determined we restore your trust in us on the economy. I am determined to prove to you that the next Labour government will only spend what we can afford. That we will live within our means. That we will manage your money properly."

Attacking the "fast buck" culture built up in recent decades, he said the newspaper phone-hacking scandal and the August riots in cities around England pointed to "something deep in our country -- the failure of a system".

"An economy and a society too often rewarding not the right people with the right values, but the wrong people with the wrong values," he said.

He added: "It's my job, it's our job, it's our party's mission to say: no more. It's all got to change. We need a new bargain based on Britain's values -- Britain's values in our economy, in our society, and in the way our country is run.

"So let's confront head-on the big challenge we face of building a new bargain in our economy. Built on values of hard work, something for something, in it for the long-term."

Saying he was neither Brown nor Blair -- whose name was met by boos from some delegates -- Miliband said: "I'm my own man. And I'm going to do things my own way."

He often referred to "my party" as he set out his plans for "when I am prime minister". The next general election is slated for 2015.

Miliband took to the stage against a backdrop of poor opinion polls.

A ComRes survey for The Independent newspaper showed 37 percent of the 1,000 voters questioned backed Cameron's Conservatives, with Labour on 36 percent and the Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in the governing coalition, on 12 percent.

Only 24 percent thought Miliband was a credible prime minister-in-waiting, against 57 percent who said he was not. Only 54 percent of Labour voters agreed.

Tapping into student anger, he promised to cut the maximum annual tuition fees in England from £9,000 ($14,130, 10,370 euros) to £6,000.

And on soaring energy prices, he vowed to break up the dominance of the big six providers, saying: "Let's call a rigged market what it is."

He also pledged reform of Britain's giant welfare bill so it rewarded the responsible rather than those who "abuse the system".

Defending Britain's "wealth creators" against asset-stripping "predators", he said the banks and financial services "must change so that they are part of the solution to our economic future, not part of the problem".

"Britain's future will be built not on credit default swaps but on creative industries."

© 2011 AFP

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