'I'm ready' says Miliband as he launches UK election manifesto
MANCHESTER - Agence France-Presse
Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Labour Party, launches his party's general election manifesto in the Old Granada Studios in Manchester, northwest England on April 13, 2015 ahead of the May 7 vote. AFP PhotoOpposition leader Ed Miliband insisted he was ready to be Britain's next prime minister as he launched a manifesto April 13 designed to boost his party's reputation on the economy.
Miliband sought to reassure voters that his centre-left Labour party would manage the economy responsibly while handing more wealth to low and middle income families during a speech in Manchester, northwest England.
Labour has been virtually tied with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives in opinion polls for months in an election race which many experts predict will yield another coalition or minority government.
But with 24 days to go until the May 7 general election, the economy remains one of the party's main weak spots and polling suggests voters trust Labour less on the issue than the Conservatives.
Labour's record on the economy while in government between 1997 and 2010 under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown is also frequently attacked by the Conservatives, who blame the party for running up a budget deficit of some 90 billion (124 billion euros, $130 billion).
"I'm ready. 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," Miliband told activists.
"If you elect me as your prime minister in just over three weeks' time, I will work for that goal... I know Britain can be better."
In a bid to signal fiscal credibility, Labour is promising to cut the deficit every year until it is eradicated and detail how each manifesto pledge will be paid for, with no extra borrowing.
It says its plans for reducing the debt would hurt ordinary, middle-income families less than those announced by Cameron's Conservatives, in power as senior partners in a coalition government since 2010.
Instead, it intends to make wealthier taxpayers shoulder more of the burden by policies such as the "mansion tax" -- a tax on homes worth 2 million or more which would help fund the state-run National Health Service (NHS) and increasing income tax for those earning more than 150,000 a year.
But some business leaders warn that a Labour government could damage Britain's economic recovery.
Earlier this month, over 100 signed an open letter backing the Conservatives, including some who had previously backed Labour under Blair and Brown, who took a more business-friendly approach.
Commentators say Miliband -- who has struggled with a geeky public image since defeating his brother David to become Labour leader in 2010 -- has turned in some strong personal performances on the campaign trail.
But his hopes of moving into Downing Street after the election could be dashed by an expected collapse of support for the party in Scotland, one of its traditional strongholds, due to surging support for the Scottish National Party (SNP).
The pro-independence SNP is expected to take the majority of Scottish seats and its leader Nicola Sturgeon is talking up the prospect of a post-election deal with Labour to prop it up in a minority government.