Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Labour 'has learned from defeats'

Foreign Secretary David Miliband
Labour has listened to criticism, David Miliband believes

Labour has responded to criticism of some of its policies and learnt the lessons of "traumatic" by-election defeats, David Miliband has said.

The foreign secretary told the BBC that Labour had built the platform for a future election victory by "defining" its mission over the past year.

Labour was winning the battle of ideas and that the Conservatives had been "found out" over key issues.

Meanwhile, the Tories have accused Labour of economic irresponsibility.

The two parties continue to trade blows over the economy, setting the tone for the likely debate in 2009.

'Sense of purpose'

In a new year message to supporters, Tory leader David Cameron said Labour has lost its "moral compass" and its borrowing and tax cutting plans had pushed the country to the "brink of bankruptcy".

But Mr Miliband responded by saying Labour was in a stronger position than a year ago, while acknowledging the economic situation would make 2009 a difficult year for governments around the world.

Labour MPs and supporters see the government going into 2009 recognising the very difficult challenges but also with a clear sense of purpose
David Miliband

"2008 was the year that the government defined its mission," Mr Miliband told Radio 4's World at One programme.

He added: "Labour MPs and supporters see the government going into 2009 recognising the very difficult challenges but also with a clear sense of purpose to protect people in the downturn, to give people more control of their lives and, above all, to build a fairer Britain."

The Tories had "surfed various waves" of popular discontent in recent years, Mr Miliband said.

Bu the opposition had been "found out" when faced with key issues such as supporting the economy and welfare reform, he claimed.

"Their recipe, in the end, has been the old Tory mantra that you should leave it to the market even when it has been market failures which have caused the problem."

Electoral defeats

Mr Miliband acknowledged that policies such as the abolition of the 10p tax band had led to a public backlash and contributed to by-election losses in Crewe and Nantwich and Glasgow East this summer.

"What is important is, has the government listened to the message of Crewe and Nantwich and to the message of Glasgow East, on 10p tax and other matters? Yes."

What matters was not the current state of the opinion polls but the battle for ideas which Mr Miliband said Labour was "dominating".

"Despite 11 years in government, the big ideas are coming from Labour," he said.

Mr Miliband was seen as a possible contender to replace Gordon Brown earlier this year.

A newspaper article he wrote in August - at a time when Gordon Brown's future was being openly debated by Labour MPs - was interpreted as a veiled bid for the leadership.

Mr Miliband said he did not regret writing the article - which listed the challenges facing Labour without mentioning Gordon Brown - adding that the prime minister had backed him for doing so.

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