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Ed Miliband disowns Blair on Iraq and civil liberties, promises slower deficit reduction

By Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-09-28 at 14.47.50It was a speech that contained many clichés - such as a commitment to a "new politics" and to oppose "irresponsible" strikes. Who, exactly, is in favour of "irresponsible" strikes? It was most notable, however, for committing Labour to a slower pace of deficit reduction and for disowning Tony Blair on Iraq and civil liberties. He also committed Labour to even more public spending by promising a living wage for public sector workers.

He began his speech by paying tribute to his brother and listing Labour's achievements in office. The full speech is on LabourList.

He opposed "embarking on deficit reduction at a pace and in a way that endangers our recovery". The Coalition will hit Ed Miliband hard on this. Slower deficit reduction means higher interest rates and more debt interest. Higher interest rates mean slower economic growth because it will be more expensive for businesses to borrow to invest. More debt interest means lower spending on schools and hospitals or even higher taxes.

Screen shot 2010-09-28 at 15.10.44 Ed Miliband used his speech to disown the Iraq war and also Blair's counter-terrorism laws. The Iraq war was "wrong," he said, "because that war was not a last resort, because we did not have sufficient alliances and because we undermined the UN."  The Cabinet ministers who supported that war - including his brother David - sat stony-faced during this section of the speech. The new Labour leader said he would not allow the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to own the issue of civil liberties. He promised to back Ken Clarke on reducing prison numbers and Theresa May on reviewing stop-and-search. Earlier in the day Alan Johnson had warned the new Labour leader against changing New Labour's tough approach to crime.

He promised to vote yes in the AV referendum.

He addressed his reputation as "Red Ed". "Come off it," he said, "let's have a grown up debate about the future of this country". That and his line that it was wrong for bankers to be paid as much in a day as care workers received in a year received the warmest, loudest response. Mike Denham at Burning Our Money has exposed the nonsense that envy-based taxes on "the rich" can close the deficit.

Mr Miliband ended his speech, delivered at a lecturn proclaiming "a new generation for change" with a claim that "we are the optimists and we will change Britain".

There was no attack on Nick Clegg in the speech. The wooing of the Liberal Democrats appears to have begun.

Overshadowing Mr Miliband's speech might, however, be news from The Sun's Trevor Kavanagh that David Miliband is certain to walk away from the shadow cabinet. It has to be confirmed but it will be huge if true.