‘Counsel of despair’: Miliband offers gloomy new year’s message

By Ian Dunt

Ed Miliband has called for "profound change" in Britain to stop the slide into "despair", in a decidedly gloomy new year's message.

The Labour leader argued for "responsible capitalism" to prevent the country going further in "the wrong direction".

Criticising the coalition government, he said: "Having failed in their promise to make Britain a safe haven, they now say that there is no alternative to rising joblessness and years of falling living standards for working people. It is a counsel of despair.

"To address these challenges we need a more responsible capitalism, a new approach to our economy and our society."

The opposition leader promised a vigorous political response from Labour in the new year, as he seeks to dispel questions around his leadership.

Arguing that Labour's goal in 2012 was to show "that politics can make a difference", Mr Miliband promised to "rebuild on the basis of our ideals".

"I believe this country needs profound change, not small change," he continued.

"Throughout our country's history, tough times have seen us not lower our sights but raise them. We need equal ambition for the future if we are to avoid our country heading further and faster in the wrong direction: a lost generation of young people, Britain struggling to compete in the world, and greater inequality.

"These are the stakes facing my generation. This is the challenge to which our politics must rise. This is the challenge to which Labour is determined to rise in the year ahead."

The Labour leader endured more whispers about his leadership after a particularly understated final PMQs session in the last parliament, although he won some breathing space after Labour increased its majority in the Feltham and Heston byelection with a 8.56% swing from the Tories.