ED MILIBAND claimed he was ready to be Prime Minister as he unveiled a manifesto including a pledge to accelerate increases to the minimum wage to take it beyond £8 an hour by 2019 today.
The Labour leader promised voters as Prime Minister he would confront powerful interests, claiming David Cameron was “strong standing up to the weak and weak standing up to the strong”.
And he insisted after being “tested” for four years, he was ready for power: “Ready to put an end to the tired old idea that as long as we look after the rich and powerful, we will all be OK. Ready to put into practice the truth that it is only when working people succeed that Britain succeeds.
“If you elect me as your prime minister in just over three weeks’ time, I will work for that goal. I will fight for that goal. Every single day. In everything I do. In every decision I make.
“I know Britain can be better.”
Confronting the Conservatives’ claims to be the only party that can be trusted to manage the nation’s finances, he promised voters a “budget responsibility lock” including pledges that no policy in the manifesto will require extra Government borrowing and that a post-election Labour Budget would open with a promise to cut the deficit every year.
This plan shows there is no trade-off between being disciplined and making a difference.Ed Miliband
The manifesto includes commitments to increase the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2019, earlier than previously suggested, a freeze on rail fares next year and the creation of a national childcare service.
The Labour leader said the manifesto was for the “working people of Britain” and “shows Labour is not only the party of change but the party of responsibilty”.
And he claimed pledges made by the “panicked” Conservatives in recent days, such as increased NHS funding, show it is David Cameron and George Osborne who pose the real risk to the nation’s bank balance.
He joked the Conservatives were “making the Greens looking fiscally responsible”.
The Conservatives have made the argument that good public services need a strong economy central to their campaign and Labour today put its own twist on that formula, describing its manifesto as “a plan to secure the nation’s finances so we can improve family finances”.
Mr Miliband accused the Tories of being “the party of sums that do not add up and commitments that cannot be kept”.
Urging voters to back a change after five years of “failed” coalition austerity, he said the manifesto “does not do what most manifestos do. It doesn’t offer a list of promises ... a shopping list of proposals.
“Instead it seeks to answer the questions people are asking.
“This plan shows there is no trade-off between being disciplined and making a difference.
“The plan we lay before you is no less ambitious because we live in a time of scarcity.
“It is more ambitious because it starts from a clear commitment to balance the books and because it does not stop there.
“This is a plan to change our country. And it is a plan which shows Labour is not only the party of change but the party of responsibility too.”
While the party has nudged ahead in recent voting intention opinion polls, it remains well adrift of the Conservatives on economic competence.
Despite the pledge of a “budget responsibility lock”, unlike the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who launch their manifestos later this week, Labour offers no timetable for clearing the deficit, saying only that it will get national debt falling and a surplus on the current budget “as soon as possible in the next parliament”.
Chancellor George Osborne said: “Today Ed Miliband failed to provide a credible economic plan and nobody will be fooled.
“There were no new ideas for Britain, and if you read the small print independent experts like the IFS have confirmed he would run a deficit every year.
“That means more borrowing, more debt and higher taxes.
“Britain doesn’t want to go back to the chaos of the past, and tomorrow the Prime Minister will set out a clear plan full of new ideas for a brighter future.”
IN FULL: OUR YORKSHIRE MANIFESTO...