Ed Miliband says a Labour government would champion the 'anxious middle classes'

Party strategists know they cannot rely on the 'cost of living crisis' to carry them to victory in next year's general election

Ed Miliband has launched an attempt to reposition Labour as the champion of Britain's “anxious middle classes” as he seeks to broaden the party's appeal beyond its traditional working class base.

In an important speech on Friday, the Labour leader will answer Conservative jibes that he has “no long term economic plan” for the country. In a foretaste, he invaded the Conservatives' natural turf by writing an article for The Daily Telegraph which produced a rare positive for Labour front page headline in the “Torygraph” declaring: “Miliband: I can save middle class.”

Just as Labour needs to reach out beyond its media comfort zone, it also needs to target voters beyond its natural supporters. Its new year strategy is designed to address the criticism that Mr Miliband's successful campaign on the “cost of living crisis” has often focused on issues affecting those on low incomes - such as a living wage; a higher national minimum wage; the bedroom tax; zero hours contracts; payday loans and fixed-odds betting terminals in bookmakers.

“We have looked more interested in the squeezed bottom than the squeezed middle,” one Labour wag quipped.

Miliband aides point out that he was quick to highlight the plight of the “squeezed middle” after becoming Labour leader in 2010.  He is now determined to remind them he is not only interested in those at the bottom.

It makes perfect political sense. The middle classes tend to decide elections. There are a lot of them in the key Con-Lab marginal seats. They are more likely to vote than working class people.

Labour strategists know they cannot rely on the “cost of living crisis” to carry them to victory in next year's general election. There are signs that Labour's lead in the opinion polls is narrowing as the economic recovery takes hold, and after years of falling behind,  wages are expected to rise by more than inflation later this year. 

Mr Miliband will argue that the recovery must be “for the many, not the few” at the top. He believes the Tories are clinging to a relic of Thatcherism - “trickle down economics” in which the rest must hope for a few crumbs from the rich man's table when the country can afford it.

While he will welcome a real terms rise in wages, he will argue that an upward curve on a graph will not suddenly transform the lives of millions of people struggling to get by.

The Labour leader will say that people on low incomes are not the only victims of the “cost of living crisis”.  He will argue that the post-war trend of each generation being better off than the last, which he calls “the promise of Britain”, has been broken. Today's anxious middle classes worry whether their children will be able to get a decent job; get a foot on the housing ladder and afford to start a family. For themselves, they worry whether they  can afford a holiday and will be able to afford  their care costs in old age.

For his internal critics, Mr Miliband's pitch to the middle classes is long overdue. Blairites are worried that he has sent a negative signal to the millions in the middle wooed by Tony Blair by distancing his One Nation Labour from New Labour. They maintain it is an odd political strategy to turn your back on a man who won three general elections.

Patrick Diamond, a former Downing Street policy adviser to Mr Blair and Gordon Brown, said: “To have a realistic chance of victory in 2015, Labour has to reach out to and engage with the concerns of the struggling middle class in Britain. First and foremost, that means demonstrating that Labour has the competence to manage the economy in tough times.”

Blairites want Labour to address head-on middle class fears that Labour could wreck the recovery - which will be the thrust of the Conservatives' campaign in next year's election. Another fear on which the Tories will play is that Labour would raise taxes.  Even if Labour promised to target the very rich, any talk of higher taxes might frighten those in the middle.

Another challenge for Labour is to convince the middle classes that it would ensure value for money in public services. Miliband critics say Labour cannot  allow the Tories to suggest they are better placed to stand up for  the people who depend on health, education and other services.  This could also become a crucial electoral battleground.

Team Miliband insists that Labour cannot re-run the campaign which delivered a landslide for Mr Blair in 1997. Then Labour figures used to joke about becoming the “conservatory party” as they appealed to the aspiring middle classes. “Today people are anxious. Their priority is security or  even survival in the economic jungle,” said one Miliband ally.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea