Labour cannot sit back and wait for the Coalition to ‘screw up’ and must reconnect with the ‘hopes and aspirations’ of the British people.

That is the message party leader Ed Miliband delivered at Labour’s National Policy Forum in Gillingham, Kent.

There is anger at ‘what is happening to our country about the broken promises we see’, he said. However, the next election is as much about Labour as it is about the Coalition.

“The strategy that says wait for them to screw it up, simply be a strong opposition, is not a strategy that is going to work for us,” Miliband said.

After 13 years in power Labour had ‘lost its way’, and got many things wrong, such as the 90 days limit for detaining terror suspects.

In the 25-minute speech he:

  • said Labour needed a new approach to the economy
  • stressed the party must look at long-term issues such as climate change, which should be ‘at the core of everything we do’. “We’ve got to take this seriously. It’s not just a case of going off to the North Pole with a bunch of huskies.”
  • criticised many aspects of New Labour. Sometimes the party was too hands on and took targets, audits and the reorganisation of public services too far, he said
  • pledged to achieve further gender equality within the party

The Policy Forum saw the launch of 22 policy reviews in areas such as the economy, public service reform, defence, security, political reform and families and carers.

To win again the party must change and ‘move beyond’ New Labour. It must become a movement again, and become rooted in people’s lives. ”We have to show again we are the people who are the idealists, we are the people who are the optimists, we are the people who can represent the hopes, the dreams, the aspirations of the British people.

“So please join us on this journey. Join us on this journey which makes us once again the people’s party, the party of people’s hopes and aspirations, back on people’s side, back in power making for the fairer, the more equal, the more just country we believe in.”

Miliband criticised the Coalition, accusing the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats of ‘arrogance’ and casually breaking promises.

“The thing I found out this week is the arrogance of this government. It came over the issue of school sport. It was something that without any consultation they decided to end with the stroke of a pen. That tells you something about the arrogance of this government.

“This is a government that is widening the gap between the dreams that are apparently on offer in Britain today and people’s chances of realising them.

“It’s not just about the poorest in society, that’s why I make no apologies for talking about the squeezed middle, because people are feeling squeezed. They were feeling squeezed before this government and much, much more squeezed now that this government is in power.”

Labour should reclaim David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ mantra, Miliband said. “It sticks in our throat when David Cameron tries to claim that he’s the man for the Big Society because he has an old-fashioned view about the Big Society. His is essentially a view that if government gets out of the way then society will prosper. None of us believe that, because the evidence doesn’t support it.”

Miliband also indicated there will be changes to the mechanism that elected him as party leader instead of his brother David in September.

A system where members had multiple votes should ‘probably be a thing of the past,’ he said.

Ed Miliband: Labour cannot sit back and wait for the Coalition to 'screw up'