Ed: I don’t give a damn if people think I’m weird

By DAVID WOODING

ED Miliband insisted he’s a “pretty normal guy” today as he scoffed as suggestions he is “weird”.

The Labour leader said he “doesn’t give a damn” about what people think of him – it’s what he does as a politician that counts.

Mr Miliband spent the morning doing a round of TV and radio studios after criticism of his speech to the Labour conference in Liverpool.

On Radio 4’s Today programme, he was asked bluntly if he feared his chances of winning power were doomed because many voters think he is “weird”.

He hit back: “Other people make their own judgments. I think I’m a pretty normal guy. It’s in the eye of the beholder.

“I don’t give a damn about that. The times are too serious and the issues are too grave for us to say it is not about substance.

“It is about substance. It is absolutely about substance. The problems our country faces are so serious that substance matters, and I have got an old-fashioned view – substance wins out.”

In his speech yesterday, Mr Miliband pledged to break up the system “take what you can” system that has dominated British politics for a generation.

He stood by the message of his address, declaring: “The words I said yesterday were the words I came to say.”

He told Eamonn Holmes on Sky News he wanted to set out the “big argument” about how Britain must change.

He also claimed to be on the side of ordinary families facing a squeeze in living standards.

Asked if he wanted to move Britain into a post-Thatcher-Blair era, he answered:  “Definitely. Definitely. Tony Blair was elected leader 17 years ago. He was dealing with different challenges. It is a new era, it has got to be a new era.

“The Prime Minister is the last gasp of an old era, because he doesn’t want to face up to these big changes.”

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Ed pledges a “new bargain” for Britain – but had voters switched off?

By DAVID WOODING in Liverpool

ED Miliband got one of the biggest cheers of the afternoon when he told the Labour conference: “I’m not Tony Blair.”

Then he set out to prove it by unveiling his plan to change the face of Britain by lurching his party to the Left.

His hour-long speech was a hit in the hall as he set out his personal mantra of building a society where people get out what they put in.

But there was little in this plodding speech to inspire the millions of struggling  voters he needs to win over.

The Labour leader signalled a return to socialist basics with an attack on “predatory asset-stripping” firms and curbs on fat cat bosses.

He vowed: “I’m my own man. And I’m going to do things my own way.”

Mr Miliband told supporters  he would “rip up the old rules” so that the country works for them.

His used the word “change” 17 times and “values” 30 as he outlined how he would completely re-draw the nation’s rule book.

He attacked “predatory asset-stripping” firms, warning the would pay more tax than producers – but didn’t explain how he’d achieve it. He promised to fight for a new bargain in our economy so reward is linked with effort”.

And he vowed to end “cosy cartels” which set top wages by putting a worker on board every pay committee.

Mr Miliband admitted: “It will be a tough fight to change Britain. But I’m up for the fight. The fight for a new bargain – a new bargain in our economy so reward is linked to effort.”

He added: “I aspire to be your Prime Minister not for more of the same but to write a new chapter in our country’s history.”

The Labour chief argued that previous governments had left a society where vested interests like energy giants and banks prospered and the wrong people – such as Royal Bank of Scotland boss Sir Fred Goodwin – got most rewards.

He earned loud cheers from delegates for attacking Britain’s “fast buck” culture – saying “growth is built on sand if it comes from predators and not our producers”.

The workmanlike speech was well received in the Liverpool conference hall – ticking all the boxes by attacking the Tories and praising the NHS. But it probably left the non-committed cold.

Those who tuned in on BBC or Sky News missed a chunk when the live feed broke down – if they hadn’t already switched off.

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Why Ed must make the speech of his life

By DAVID WOODING in Liverpool

ED Miliband makes the most important speech of his career tomorrow – and must convince Labour doubters he is the man to lead their party back into power.

Talking to delegates in the conference hotel bars, I’ve reached the conclusion that he’s still got some way to go to win over even his own supporters.

Many still wonder whether they made the wrong choice when they picked him ahead of hot favourite and big brother David just a year ago.

Their mood echoes opinion polls which show Ed (pictured) still lagging behind Prime Minister David Cameron in personal ratings.

Even when asked publicly whether they picked the right Miliband, grass roots members are reluctant to say “yes”.

This was illustrated to dramatic effect during a Radio 5 Live show live from the bar of Jury’s Hotel in Liverpool.on Sunday night.

I was a guest on the lively show Pienaar’s Politics when, for a final flourish, presenter John Pienaar grabbed a microphone, waded into a group of delegates and asked them for their views on Ed.

Of the four people he asked, not one was willing to give their own leader a full endorsement.

It’s gob-smacking that support is so tepid among a group of paid-up party activists. John tried several times to coax a word or two of approval from the bar but all he got was a mood of uncertainty.

If that’s the view on his home turf, what do the “silent majority” of ordinary voters he needs to win over think?

So when he stands up to make his second speech as leader tomorrow, Mr Miliband must outline his vision of Britain under a future Labour government. He needs to think not only of those doubters in the conference hall, but the millions outside.

He must do some straight talking on the economic crisis – and give a clear idea on what he will do to boost growth, create jobs and improve law and order.

With the coalition suffering problems of its own, now is the time for Ed to step up to the plate. And show us what he’s made of.

Hear it for yourself: Listen to John Pienaar trying to get find an Ed Miliband supporter at the Labour conference: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/pienaar

Labour’s “cheap” plan to boost membership

By DAVID WOODING

LABOUR party chiefs will today invite members of the armed forces to join the party – for just a pound.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy will announce a new cut-price level of membership for brave service men and women who fight for their country.

It is part of a drive to boost grass-roots membership which slumped along with the party’s popularity over the dying months of the last government.

Normal full-membership costs £41 a year but under the new plan, serving soldiers, sailors and airmen will be able to sign up for the same annual fee as a “Young Labour” members. Mr Murphy (pictured) will announced the move at the Labour party conference in Liverpool later today.

The bargain basement fee was dreamed up during the review of the party’s future being overseen by Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain. Its main aim to to reach out to ordinary voters by becoming more relevant. Insiders believe the new £1 membership will help establish Labour as the party of the armed forces.

An insider said: “We welcome service men and women into our ranks and hope this will provide added incentive during these tough times for more of them to come on board.”

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