Labour conference focuses on leader's speech
Britain's opposition leader Ed Miliband cast himself as a humble man of the people in a confident speech at party conference
Britain's opposition leader Ed Miliband cast himself as a humble man of the people on Tuesday in a confident speech, seeking to win over doubters and portray Prime Minister David Cameron as the product of a snobby education who has hurt the economy. Hoping voters will punish the coalition government for a recession and hand Labour power in an election in 2015, Miliband is grappling with polls which show he is far less popular than his own party and is seen as a worse leader than Cameron. He used the speech to try to silence muttering within Labour's own ranks about his geeky image by attacking the government's economic record in a 65-minute speech without notes that supporters and foes alike said was his best to date. "They think they are born to rule," Miliband, dressed in a purple tie, told the party's annual conference in the northern English city of Manchester. "Have you ever seen a more incompetent, hopeless, out of touch, U-turning, pledge-breaking, make-it-up-as-you-go-along, back-of-the-envelope, miserable shower?" he asked as his words were drowned out by a standing ovation. His speech was light on policy specifics, especially on how to deal with Britain's big budget deficit or how to rescue a recession-hit economy, but is likely to be seen as a crucial thematic staging post in Labour's struggle to win back voters. With references to his Jewish immigrant parents and his state school education, the speech was an attempt to rebrand the 42-year-old Oxford-educated son of socialist intellectuals as a more down to earth alternative to Prime Minister Cameron. Cameron's government has been haunted by accusations of snobbish elitism, a damaging perception to British voters who are struggling with a contracting economy, government spending cuts and tax increases. Miliband tried to ditch his image as a distant intellectual by stressing the fact that, unlike Conservative Cameron, he did not attend Britain's most prestigious fee paying school, Eton. His own state school had taught him "how to look after yourself", he said.