BRIGHTON, England (Reuters) - Britain’s opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband warned on Sunday that voters face a cost of living crisis as he sought to rebuild economic trust and overcome dire personal poll ratings before taking on Prime Minister David Cameron in the 2015 election.
Miliband said he will use his party’s annual conference in Brighton, a seaside resort on England’s south coast, to argue that the recovery is helping the rich more than the poor and that Cameron’s policies have squeezed millions of Britons.
Three years into his leadership, Miliband is under pressure to reassert his authority, lift party morale and convince sceptical voters that he has a clear vision for government.
“For generations in this country, when the economy grew the majority of people got better off,” Miliband told the BBC.
“Now that vital link between the growing wealth of the country and people’s family finances has been broken and the question is, for the British people, is there a party that’s going to tackle that?”
Labour’s lead over Cameron’s Conservatives has dwindled as the economy has returned to growth, with one poll this month putting them on level terms.
Worse for Miliband is the stark polling message that voters think the Conservatives will do a better job on the economy than Labour and see Cameron as a stronger, more capable leader.
Asked about his poor personal poll ratings, the 43-year-old Oxford-educated son of a Marxist intellectual said: ”Polls go up and down, one thing that goes up and up is the cost of living of ordinary families.
“It’s going to be a tough fight but I believe it’s a fight we can win, and I‘m up for that fight.”
Miliband said his party would not borrow more for day-to-day spending, but repeatedly said it was too early to give details of Labour’s plans on taxation and spending.
However, he said Labour was looking at raising the minimum wage in some sectors and wants to cut the number of low-skilled immigrants coming to Britain. He also pledged to give families more help with childcare and scrap part of an unpopular welfare reform on public housing.
On the European Union, Miliband said he would not match Cameron’s promise to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the 28-nation bloc by the end of 2017.
“We think it’s wrong now to commit to an in/out referendum in four years’ time... because the issue for the British people is about jobs and living standards,” Miliband said. (Reporting by Peter Griffiths and William James; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)