Steady Eddie's Ready! New Labour Leader's Vision for the Party - and Britain

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Byline: Torcuil Crichton

ED MILIBAND planted Labour firmly in the centre ground of UK politics yesterday.

In a confident first outing as Labour leader, he made a direct appeal to the party to be the changemakers of Britain once again. The 40-year-old showed the Labour conference he can make the party a force for optimism.

He pledged to be serious about reducing the deficit - but attacked the Tories for slashing the state for ideological reasons.

He demonstrated that he wasn't in the pocket of union barons by warning against wildcat strikes.

And he made a massive play for disgruntled Lib Dems to come into the Labour fold.

Miliband, who won a dramatic victory in the leadership election on Saturday, put considerable distance between himself and Labour's recent past.

He showed the same ruthlessness he showed in standing against his brother to dump the unwanted baggage of the Brown and Blair years while claiming credit for Labour's record in office.

Out went the Iraq war and boasts about abolishing boom and bust.

And out came apologies for not listening to voters' concerns on mass immigration and their fury about bonuses for the bankers.

Ed Miliband introduced himself as the responsible opposition leader and future prime minister.

But first he dealt with his brother David. He thanked the ex-Foreign Secretary for his graciousness in defeat - and he involved him in retelling the story of their refugee parents fleeing Nazi Europe.

He also put his "Red Ed" label to bed with an easy joke about the media having to grow up.

Miliband promised that the ConDem coalition would be a "one term government" - but said for that to happen, Labour had to learn some painful truths.

He said: "The world changed around us - from global finance to immigration to terrorism. New Labour, a political force founded on its ability to adapt and change, lost its ability to do so.

"We should not blame the electorate for ending up with a government we don't like, we should blame ourselves."

The new leader used the big themes of change and a "new generation" - which he mentioned over 30 times - to show how he wants the party to reconnect with the values and concerns of voters.

On the economy, he said deficit reduction had to be made and that the painful process of cuts would not be opposed for the sake of it. …