British opposition launches policy rethink

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British opposition leader Ed Miliband on Saturday launched a wholesale review of the Labour Party's policies, saying it was starting with a clean slate.

Ousted from power in the May general election after 13 years in office, the party had to move "beyond New Labour", new leader Miliband said.

New Labour was the project of former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to make the party an electable, centre-left, modernising force. Despite its success, it was never deeply popular with the party hardcore.

Addressing the party's National Policy Forum in Gillingham, southeast of London, Miliband said Labour had to become a "campaigning force".

"We have to show again we are the people who are the idealists, we are the people who are the optimists, we are the people who can represent the hopes, the dreams, the aspirations of the British people," he said.

"Join us on this journey which makes us once again the people's party, the party of people's hopes and aspirations, back on people's side, back in power making for the fairer, the more equal, the more just country we believe in."

Miliband, 40, was elected Labour leader two months ago, thanks to trade unionist votes, with lawmakers and party members preferring his older brother David, the former foreign secretary.

Miliband, Brown's climate change secretary in the last government, defined himself Friday as a "socialist" who wanted to speak up for the "squeezed middle" -- despite criticisms that the term was too vague and ill-defined.

Michael Fallon, deputy chairman of Cameron's governing Conservative Party, said Miliband's relaunch had "fallen flat".

"He says Labour has lost its way, but he wrote the party manifesto that lost the general election," Fallon said.

"Until he stops dithering, comes up with a credible plan on the economy and sorts out the divisions in his own party... he won't get people to take an interest in Labour," Fallon said.

© 2010 AFP

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