LONDON (Reuters) - Labour leader Ed Miliband said on Saturday his party had to reconnect with voters who deserted it at the May election as he launched a review of policy to become once again the “people’s party.”
Miliband said just waiting for the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition to “screw up” was not a viable strategy for a return to government.
“We should not mistake the anger we feel about what the coalition is doing to the country for a sense that is isn’t as much about us as it is about them,” he told party members gathered at a national policy forum in Gillingham, Kent.
With the next general election not due till 2015, Labour will spend the next two years reformulating its policies, adopting an opposition strategy successfully employed by Conservative leader and now prime minister David Cameron.
Miliband said Labour had to persuade voters it was the party of idealism and optimism as Britain enters four years of tough spending cuts to tackle a record budget deficit.
“Deficit reduction is important, but deficit reduction cannot be your only economic policy,” he said.
“We are not the people like David Cameron, who says: ‘All I can promise you is an age of austerity’.”
Miliband, a former environment minister, was elected party leader in September, beating his brother David to the post.
Labour, ousted in May after 13 years in power, is now running neck-and-neck with the Conservatives in opinion polls but critics say Miliband needs to raise his profile with voters.
Miliband said the party had to go beyond the “New Labour” reforms of the party under its leader Tony Blair which broadened its appeal away from working class voters.
“Join us on this journey which makes us once again the people’s party,” he said.
He admitted Labour had made mistakes in government, ignoring voters’ concerns over immigration, civil rights and local issues such as the closure of rural post offices.
The party had to reclaim the middle ground where the Conservatives were championing community activism under the slogan “the Big Society.”
“We need to think really hard in our policy review about how we are the people who stand up for strong communities and strong society ... we’ve got to take that term ‘Big Society’ back off David Cameron.”
Editing by Maria Golovnina