Ed Miliband speech: Labour leader takes on tax avoiders as he fights for political life – and this time he used an Autocue

 

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Ed Miliband promised a new crackdown companies and individuals who avoid tax today as he tried to silence criticism of his leadership.

Speaking in London, Mr Miliband sought to switch the spotlight on to policy and away from sniping about his performance by Labour MPs who fear voters do not see him as a prime-minister-in-waiting.

In his speech, the Labour leader demanded loyalty from his MPs, saying: “Our task, the task for every person in this party, is simple: to focus our eyes on the prize of changing this country.” He added: “We're in a fight but it is our fight to win.”

Mr Miliband today appeared to be reading from a teleprompter, following criticism in September when he forgot to mention how Labour would tackle the deficit in his keynote speech delivered without notes at the party's conference.

Rejecting criticism that people do not know what Labour stands for, today he defined it as changing a country that is “too unequal.”

His message to workers struggling on zero hours contracts was: “I am willing to put up with whatever is thrown at me in order to fight for you.”

He said: “There is a saying which goes 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. Being leader of the opposition, particularly in the last few days, I know what it means. You need resilience in this job. You need thick skin. But above all, you need belief in what you are doing.”

The tax avoidance crackdown will  form part of his attack on what he called a “zero-zero economy” which he pledged to  reform. “People are asking why they are on zero hours contracts while those at the top get away with zero tax,” Mr Miliband said. “This zero-zero economy is a symptom off a deeply unequal, deeply unfair, deeply unjust country, a country I am determined to change.”

Mr Miliband said Labour would talk about immigration “but always on the basis of Labour values, not Ukip values.” He added: “We know that the deep discontent with the country gives rise to those who suggest false solutions. But unlike the Tories, what we will never do is try to out-Ukip Ukip.”

His Labour critics dropped plans to force him to stand down to boost the party's general election prospects, after his most likely successor Alan Johnson said he did not want the job.

After a combative speech Mr Miliband won an ectastic response from an audience of Labour supporters at the University of London. In a question-and-answer session, he was asked whether he was “paranoid” about the “vested interests” who opposed him.

He replied: “There are vested interests in this country like the banks, like the energy companies, and we need to change Britain. That is what my project is about. I am showing a willingness to take on those forces and make reform. I make absolutely no apology for that.

"Where there are powerful vested interests, we need a prime minister who will stand up to them. That is what I have done as leader of the opposition. That is what I will do as prime minister."

Asked about his poor opinion poll ratings, Mr Miliband replied: “I believe that if we go out and fight for what we believe in, we will win the election. You don't declare the result of the match until the final whistle.”

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