John Woodcock: Miliband fleshes out central themes

Being in opposition can be a tough gig. When you don't have your hands on the levers of power, there is always a question of how to break through to the public.

John Woodcock: Miliband fleshes out central themes
John Woodcock: Miliband fleshes out central themes

Ed Miliband has eschewed the press stunts that David Cameron used to cut through in the early days of his leadership. If Miliband has any interest in sledging in the Antarctic, he is determined to keep it a private pursuit.

Instead, we are rightly focusing on effectively scrutinising the Government and setting out an alternative to the damaging course that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have set.

Four years away from the probable date of a general election, any detailed programme for government would have been overtaken by the time it could be presented to voters for decision. But if we refrain from putting any flesh on the bones of the big themes we set out, our thoughts risk sinking without trace.

Labour struck the right balance at its annual conference in Liverpool this week.

On the economy, Ed Balls showed we will take a tough approach to getting the deficit down alongside essential steps to restore jobs and growth.

And Miliband evoked the change he will seek to bring to Britain and showed his priorities for action. Labour will reward people and businesses who behave responsibly and take action against those who do not. And the government he leads will be on the people's side.

Our proposal to reduce tuition fees to £6,000 falls short of the full abolition some want. But it shows that we will be credible in difficult economic times. Government can't do everything, but assuring young people and their families that they will not face the full cost of higher education alone is important.

There is a long way to go. But Labour leaves Liverpool stronger than when it arrived.

Now all eyes will be on the Conservatives in Manchester. With unemployment up, borrowing up, and growth down, the Tories must explain what they will do about the fact that the economic prescription they have imposed is making things substantially worse.

John Woodcock is Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, and a former spokesman for ex-prime minister Gordon Brown.

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