In a lacklustre speech at the Labour conference in Manchester, he retreated to his party’s comfort zone with attacks on bankers, Tories, energy companies, the media and the super-rich in what he described as his ‘job interview’ to become Prime Minister for a decade.
The centrepiece of his pitch to voters was a promise to tax tobacco companies, mansion owners and hedge funds to pay for 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 extra GPs, 5,000 careworkers and 3,000 midwives, so NHS staff are not ‘rushed off their feet’.
But during his 68-minute long address without notes, in which aides were seen actively encouraging standing ovations, he ditched a planned section on tackling the deficit and immigration, despite trailing behind the Tories on both issues.
Instead he sought to impress with increasingly bizarre anecdotes about meeting ‘ordinary people’ on his travels around the country, in offices, pubs, parks and hospital beds.
Mr Miliband took to the stage of the Manchester Central conference centre under pressure to persuade voters he is ready to run the country. A new YouGov poll shows just 15 per cent of people think he has provided an effective opposition to the government and 20 per cent say he has made it clear what he stands for. Just 18 per cent think he would be up to the job of Prime Minister, according to the survey for The Sun.
While Labour is ahead in the overall polls, it lags behind the Tories on the economy by up to 25 points.
During his long and ponderous speech, he failed to mention the deficit at all. Speaking without notes, Mr Miliband occasionally seemed to lose his way, as he repeatedly used the word ‘together’ to emphasise how he thinks government intervention can solve the country’s problems.
But Mr Miliband said he wanted to ‘restore people’s faith in the future’. He added: ‘I’m not talking about changing a policy, or simply a different programme. But something that is bigger: transforming the idea, the ethic, of how our country is run.
He said it was a ‘choice between carrying on as we are, on your own, for the privileged few.
‘Or a different, better future for our country. We are ready. Labour’s plan for Britain’s future. Let’s make it happen. Together.’
Mr Miliband made clear his intention to fight the next election on the NHS, despite it being one of the key issues on which Labour already has the trust of the majority of voters.
Setting out six goals for a Labour government to achieve by 2025, he said one of them would be to ‘create a world-class 21st century health and care service’.
The focus on the NHS suggests Labour has adopted a core vote strategy, hoping its popularity on the health service will outweigh voters’ fears about Mr Miliband’s credibility on the economy.
He also needed to address the mounting evidence that voters do not see him as a future Prime Minister.
In a section of Mr Miliband’s speech posted on the Labour website stressed that: ‘There won’t be any money after the next election.’
Mr Miliband was expected to echo Ed Balls’ promise that there will be ‘no proposals for additional borrowing’. ‘We will get the deficit down,’ the extract added. However, despite delivering more than 8,000 words during his speech, he did not mention the deficit at all.
Mr Miliband also failed to deliver a section on the economy which stated: ‘Immigration benefits our country but those who come here have a responsibility to learn English and earn their way.’
Mr Miliband stressed that the money for his NHS Plan will not be raised through taxes on working people, but instead take aim at wealthy homeowners and tobacco firms who have helped cause some of the health problems putting pressure on the NHS.
He went on: ‘We built the NHS. We saved the NHS. We will repeal their Health and Social Care Bill and we will transform the NHS for the future. ‘That’s what the next Labour government will do and we will do it together.’
Labour’s proposed Mansion Tax would be imposed on properties worth more than £2million. London will be hardest hit by the Mansion Tax, with more than 6,000 homes selling for more than £2million each year.
The latest attempt to clamp down on tax avoidance would target hedge funds avoiding millions in tax on shares, close a Eurobonds ‘loophole’ allowing firms to move profits out of the UK to avoid corporation tax, and preventing Umbrella Companies being used to avoid tax and National Insurance on expenses.
There would also be a fee imposed on tobacco firms, relative to their share of the market.
Mr Miliband said he wanted the plan was part of six national goals, ‘not just for one year or one term of office, but a plan for the next ten years: Britain 2025’.
He set out plans for as many school leavers to do an apprenticeship as go to university, double the number of first-time buyers to 400,000 to halve the number of people on low wages to 2million.
Mr Miliband also outlined an ambition for wages to rise in line with growth in the economy and the creation of 1 million more hi-tech jobs.
However, it is surprising that with eight months until the election the pledges did not cover crime, immigration, schools or Europe.
Mr Miliband is making a clear pitch to younger voters, promising them better training, more jobs and a chance to buy their own home.
On housing, Mr Miliband seeks to position Labour as the party of home ownership, in a bold move to emulate Margaret Thatcher’s vision of Britain as a property-owning democracy. Labour says that by building at least 200,000 homes-a-year by 2020, the number of first-time buyers will hit 400,000 by 2025, twice the current number.
Mr Miliband said the ‘confidence and security’ of home ownership was now beyond many people in Britain today.
He said Labour’s goal was to ensure that by 2025 as many homes as are needed are being built in Britain and the number of first time buyers is doubled.
Mr Miliband added: ‘It’s going to require a massive national effort.’
Land-banking will be stopped and a new generation of towns and garden cities will be be built, creating an extra 500,000 new homes.
‘We will also make housing the top priority for additional capital investment in the next parliament. This party will get Britain building again.’
It is the first-time that Labour has set an ambition for more home ownership, and will be seen as an attempt to woo middle-class voters who worry their children will never get on to the property ladder.
Employers who land government contracts will be forced to take on apprentices, as will large firms who hire skilled workers from outside the EU.
Mr Miliband has set an ambition that by 2025, there will be an extra 1million people in Britain working in hi-tech jobs.
In his speech Mr Miliband vowed that the next Labour manifesto would not contain any unfunded spending promises, or any new commitment to extra borrowing.