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.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
News
An Apple iPhone 6 stands on display at the Apple Store
businessRegulators give iPhone 6 and 6 Plus the green light
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britain's internet habits have been revealed in a new survey
tech
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Arts and Entertainment
film
News
news
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

Pricing Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style