We are on our way back, but Labour still has a long way to go, says Ed Miliband
Labour leader Ed Miliband has admitted he had “a long way” to go to convince voters to back his party at the next General Election.
On the opening day of the party's annual conference in Liverpool, he insisted Labour was “on the way back” but said it would take time for people to “tune back in”.
He and other senior Labour figures acknowledged the party's failings in Government on the economy, immigration and welfare.
In an interview with BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Miliband said: “When you lose an election, and we had our second worst result since we were founded in 1910, it takes time for people to tune back in to you.”
He went on: “We are a party on the way back. There's a long way to go and I, more than anyone, know the scale of the task. But, you know what's most important? I know who I am and I know where I want to take this country and that's what I'm going to be talking about this week.”
He admitted the former Labour administration — in which he and shadow chancellor Ed Balls were Cabinet ministers — got “some things wrong” on immigration, had failed to shift the emphasis of Britain's “fast buck economy” and had not shown enough financial discipline.
His message was reinforced on the conference platform by shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne, who said he had heard from ordinary voters that Labour had grown “out of touch” and “got it wrong on issues close to their heart — on immigration, on welfare, on control of banks”.
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett warned that Mr Miliband's political message was not being heard by voters and that Labour would not win if an election was held today.
Mr Miliband, who has been accused by the Tories of failing to stand up to the unions who effectively sealed his election as leader last year, said it was a “complicated set of issues” but that Labour was committed to “open up as a party”.
On the economy, he said Mr Balls — who has said he no longer wants to be leader himself — would be announcing proposals to boost growth in his keynote conference speech.
Mr Miliband also unveiled plans to reduce the cap on student tuition fees in England from £9,000 to £6,000.
The £1bn move would be paid for by requiring graduates earning more than £65,000 a year to pay higher interest on their student loans and by cancelling the Government's cut in corporation tax for the financial sector.
He said the pledge may not form part of the party's manifesto at the 2015 General Election — it was instead what the party would do if elected tomorrow — but he held out the possibility that by the time of the next election the cap could be cut even further.
Mr Miliband also sought to pressure the coalition over the struggling economy, urging |David Cameron to “change course” and admit the Government's austerity measures were “not working”.
But the Tories accused Mr Miliband of having “a total lack of answers” on the economy.
Economic Secretary to the Treasury Justine Greening said: “Ed Miliband says he has a plan to cut the deficit and then suggests a VAT cut costing £12bn and a cut in tuition fees paid for with bank taxes he has already spent.
“He has completely abandoned the Darling plan which was judged by the markets to be insufficiently credible.
“His total lack of answers on the economy shows how weak a leader he is.”