Britain's Miliband bids to overturn image on economy

11th December 2014, Comments 0 comments

British opposition leader Ed Miliband will attempt to counter claims he is soft on the economy in a speech Thursday, five months from a national election and as he shrugs off a crisis over his leadership.

Opinion polls show Miliband's Labour party to be neck-and-neck with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives, but indicate the opposition are not as trusted on the economy.

Miliband will seek to overturn this image -- compounded in an embarrassing incident when he forgot to mention the deficit in a keynote speech in September -- arguing that Labour would take a "tough and balanced" approach to the economy in government.

Styling his fight with the Conservative party as "a fight for the soul of our country", Miliband will argue that Labour will be able to control spending while protecting areas such as the national health service.

"There is no path to growth and prosperity for working people which does not tackle the deficit. What we need is a balanced approach which deals with the deficit, but does so sensibly," Miliband will say according to released extracts of the speech.

"Our tough and balanced approach will balance the books through an economy based on high wages and high skills, common sense spending reductions and fair choices on tax."

Miliband has struggled for popularity among voters, and an Ipsos MORI poll in November showed just 13 percent thought him ready to be prime minister.

Discontent within his party came to a head last month, as polls indicated Labour could face electoral wipeout in its former stronghold Scotland and newspapers reported Miliband could be challenged by an internal party coup.

However the plot failed to materialise and he has retained his hold on the leadership for now.

A YouGov poll this week commissioned after finance minister George Osborne announced plans to slash state spending found he and Cameron were trusted by 41 percent of respondents to tackle the deficit, compared to 22 percent who trusted Miliband and shadow finance minister Ed Balls.

The Conservative party responded to the release of Miliband's speech by saying that Labour would continue to rack up national debt.

"Labour's policy is to run deficits forever - more borrowing that would add to the national debt every single year," said Conservative business minister Matthew Hancock.

"This risk to the economic recovery is exactly why Ed Miliband simply isn't up to the job."

© 2014 AFP

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