Miliband launches quest to return Labour to power in Britain

26th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Newly-elected Labour leader Ed Miliband goes straight into the British opposition's annual conference Sunday facing a huge task to rebuild a party demoralised by losing power.

Miliband defeated his better-known older brother David, the former foreign secretary, in a knife-edge result on Saturday, winning the leadership battle by 50.65 percent to 49.35 percent.

"My aim is to show that our party is on the side of the squeezed middle in our country and everyone who has worked hard and wants to get on," Miliband said.

"My aim is to return our party to power. This is a tough challenge. It is a long journey. But our party has made the first step in electing a leader from a new generation," he wrote in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

Labour suffered a heavy defeat in a May general election, prompting former prime minister Gordon Brown to resign as party head and triggering the four-month contest for a new leader.

David, 45, won the majority of votes of lawmakers and party members in the three-way ballot, but 40-year-old Ed got over the finish line with big support from the trade unions, who provide most of Labour's funding.

Ex-climate change secretary Miliband promised to unite the party after the bitter rivalry between former premiers Tony Blair and Brown that characterised Labour's 13 years in power from 1997.

That will involve accommodating his brother's support base among party members and fellow lawmakers, with no certainty that David will serve under his kid brother.

"It's for him to set out his intentions about what he wants to do, but I think he has got an enormous contribution to make to British politics," Ed Miliband said.

"My relationship with David is excellent and it will remain excellent. We are united as a family and united as a party."

He pledged to take the fight to Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government and its plans for slashing public spending quickly in a bid to tackle the record deficit run up under Labour.

Cameron congratulated Miliband, but Conservative party chair Sayeeda Warsi said Labour appeared to be abandoning the centre ground, with their new leader "put into power by union votes".

And having reached out to Labour's traditional working-class supporters in his leadership campaign, several conservative newspapers dubbed Miliband "Red Ed", saying he would sweep Labour to the left.

In his acceptance speech, Miliband said he did "get it" that the party had lost public trust and needed to revive itself.

Three other candidates stood in the leadership race but were eliminated over several rounds of voting.

A long-term Brown aide, Miliband became a member of parliament in 2005 and was appointed Brown's energy and climate change secretary.

The Londoner will set out his vision for creating an alternative government on Tuesday in a speech to the party's five-day annual conference in Manchester, northwest England.

Sunday's opening day looks back at the general election defeat, the lessons that can be drawn from it and reforming the party to win the next election, slated for 2015.

"Our journey will be hard and it will take time. To succeed we will need to do three things," Miliband wrote in The Sunday Telegraph.

"We will need to learn the right lessons about our record in government; we will need to be a responsible opposition and we will need to set out a constructive alternative to the government."

The race is now on for places in Miliband's front-bench team, with members of parliament voting among themselves for who will form his shadow Cabinet to scrutinise the government.

Would-be shadow cabinet members have until Wednesday to stand, with the results expected on October 7.

© 2010 AFP

0 Comments To This Article