Ed Miliband is to insist he does not intend to “gloat” over Labour’s defeat of the Liberal Democrats in Thursday’s Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election.
But Mr Miliband will say the result – which saw Labour extend its majority from 103 to more than 3,500 despite having its former MP thrown out for lying – showed that Nick Clegg’s party had made a “tragic mistake” in joining the Conservatives in coalition, leaving the field clear for Labour to re-establish itself as the sole “standard-bearer of the progressive majority”.
The Labour leader will call on his party to rebuild itself as the voice of voters in “the real centre ground” of politics, who feel squeezed economically and are frustrated at bankers “rewarding themselves for failure”.
In an indication that he is not ruling out warmer relations with the third party in future, Mr Miliband will say that he hopes that in time Liberal Democrats will come to realise they blundered by agreeing to join a Tory-led Government.
Speaking to the left-leaning Fabian Society think-tank in London, Mr Miliband will insist that he wants Labour to stick to the political centre ground and represent voters from the mainstream of society.
“Labour over the next four years must become again the standard-bearer of the progressive majority,” he will say. “We must rebuild ourselves as a broad movement of the British mainstream that politicians have talked about for decades but often not understood.”
Spelling out where he sees the centre ground in the current period of austerity and cuts, Mr Miliband will say: “I want to become the voice and hope of those who feel squeezed by an economic system that promised to liberate them. I want us to articulate the frustration of people who are fed up with bankers taking vast public subsidies and then rewarding themselves for failure while the rest of the country struggles.
“I want us to be the party that answers the call for a fairer sharing of the nation’s wealth, strong and responsive public services and a different kind of politics. This is the real centre ground of British politics and it is our duty to speak up for it.”
And he will add: “Forgive me if I decline to join those of you who are gloating at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. Their decision to join a Conservative-led Government was a tragic mistake, and I hope they come to see that in time.”