New British Labor Party leader calls for change

16:20, September 29, 2010      

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The newly-elected leader of Britain's Labor Party said on Tuesday that his party needed "humility" if it wanted to change and win the next election, and pitched himself toward the middle ground of the British politics.

Ed Miliband told a packed meeting on the final day of his left-of-center party, held in the northern industrial city of Manchester, "We need to learn some painful truths about where we went wrong - it won't always be easy, but you elected me leader and lead I will."

The defeat at the May 6 general election saw the end of 13 years of rule under prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. They had re-branded the old socialist Labor Party as New Labor, and focused policies on pleasing middle-ground voters, but it ended with the second heaviest Labor defeat in 80 years.

"A new generation has taken power in Labor," said Miliband. He branded the May 6 defeat "a very bad result," and said the party needed "humility" to change into a party which could challenge at the next election.

The political battlefield will be dominated by the coalition government's principal policy of cutting the public spending deficit, currently a record 153 billion pounds (about 240 billion U.S. dollars), by 111 billion pounds (175.4 billion dollars) over the next four years.

Miliband said he supported cuts, but not of the speed and depth the government wanted, and called for halving the deficit in four years. "There will be cuts and would have been if we had been in government. I will not oppose every cut they make."

It was his first keynote speech as leader, and Miliband's task after just four days in the job was to define himself and his brand of politics for the voters, who largely do not know him. At the same time, he had to maintain his appeal to party members, most of whom did not vote for him, and keep the unions, who supported him heavily.

The unions have already set themselves on collision course with the government over public spending cuts, with many of the largest unions representing workers who will lose their jobs over the next four years. These unions were the principal Miliband supporters.

They have threatened coordinated strike actions, and Miliband was keen to outline where he stood on strikes. "We need to win the public to support our cause and we must have no truck with overblown rhetoric about waves of irresponsible strikes."

He criticized strikes and told his party that "the public won't support them, I won't support them, and you shouldn't either".

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