UK opposition leader makes pitch for election victory

23rd September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Labour Party opposition leader Ed Miliband on Tuesday laid out his pitch to become Britain's next prime minister, offering a 10-year plan to "restore people's faith in the future".

At the final party conference before the May 2015 general election, Miliband set out six key goals he hoped to achieve in office within a decade, to build a "world-class Britain".

"In the next eight months the British people face one of the biggest choices in generations," he told delegates at the centre-left party's conference in Manchester, northwest England.

"A choice between carrying on as we are, on your own, for the privileged few, or a different, better future for our country.

"We are ready. Labour's plan for Britain's future -- let's make it happen together."

His main pledge was a big state health service recruitment drive -- funded by a clampdown on tax loopholes, a tax on the most expensive homes and a levy on cigarette manufacturers.

He wants to recruit 20,000 nurses, 8,000 doctors, 3,000 midwives and 5,000 care workers to the National Health Service (NHS).

The Labour leader hopes that the "mansion tax" alone on properties worth more than £2 million will generate £1.2 billion a year ($2 billion, 1.5 billion euros).

Protecting the NHS is a traditional Labour battle cry.

Opinion polls of voting intentions indicate Labour enjoys a slight lead over the centre-right Conservatives led by Prime Minister David Cameron, although Miliband is unpopular with voters.

He has struggled to overcome an awkward public image as something of a political nerd, and his lacklustre campaigning ahead of the Scottish referendum was outshone by former Labour leader and prime minister Gordon Brown.

The party, which campaigned against Scottish independence and considers Scotland a bastion of support, said Monday it would have to work to win back Labour voters who plumped for independence.

"People are fed up of politicians who come along and say 'Vote for me and things will be transformed'," Miliband said, accepting that some things would be difficult.

"People won't believe it."

- Commitment to EU -

The 44-year-old party leader, who has promised to hike the minimum wage by 2020, tried to convince voters that Labour can be trusted to run the world's sixth largest economy, arguing that a strong economy can be created without big spending.

Opinion polls indicate that Labour are less trusted on the economy than the Conservatives, who have cut public spending and overseen a burgeoning economic recovery.

Miliband pledged to halve the number of people in low pay in a decade and build an extra 500,000 homes to help first-time buyers.

He said Britain's future was in the European Union, saying Cameron's bid to renegotiate the terms of Britain's membership was doomed to fail because other EU leaders "think he has got one hand on the exit door".

The former energy minister added: "There is no more important issue for me when I think about my children's generation and what I can do in politics than tackling global climate change.

"We are going to commit to taking all of the carbon out of electricity by 2030."

The speech went down well in the hall.

Janet Rothwell, a Labour activist from nearby Cheadle, told AFP: "The fact that he has some very clear policies now is good because the Labour Party has been accused of not having real policies lately."

In a statement, Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: "Ed Miliband puts himself forward to be prime minister, but he failed to offer any serious plan to grow the economy -- he didn't even mention once how he would reduce the deficit.

"All Ed Miliband offers is more wasteful spending, more borrowing and more taxes."


© 2014 AFP

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