Brown makes class the issue as he launches Labour's manifesto
MORE people will become middle class under Labour, Gordon Brown claimed yesterday as he launched an election manifesto built on "fairness and the future".
Pledging that Labour was now the party of "middle and modest incomes", the British prime minister outlined a vision of a home-owning democracy where "everyone has a chance to get on".
"Under my leadership we will always be in the future business, building a fair future for all," he said. "Our policies at their best can bring hope alive, make dreams come true, and meet the aspirations of all those who want to rise.
"This is the Britain of our commitment and our vision . . . It's a Britain not of limited room at the top, but one where all young people can go on to university, college or an apprenticeship.
"A Britain where we have more homeowners, more apprentices, more students, more professionals and a bigger middle class than ever before."
Mr Brown's emphasis on the middle classes has become an election theme. When he launched the campaign last week from the steps of 10 Downing Street, his first words referred to his own upbringing within an "ordinary middle class family".
Asked yesterday whether Labour was now the party of the middle classes, he said: "We are the party of everybody of middle income and modest incomes in this country."
A senior Labour figure confirmed that the party had shifted its emphasis from the early days of New Labour, when everything possible was done to woo wealthy voters to the cause.
In a briefing following the manifesto launch in Birmingham, he said that while in theory Labour governed on behalf of all classes, the "overwhelming" focus was now on representing "the large swathe of the population who rely on public services, who rely on a good economy". Labour has been accused of seeking to "soak the rich" with policies such as the introduction this month of a new 50pc tax rate for top earners, and a levy on banking bonuses.
The Conservatives have claimed that the party is running a "class war" strategy against their leader David Cameron.
After the launch, Peter Mandelson, the business secretary, described the manifesto as "Blair plus", adding: "The spirit of Tony Blair smiles down on New Labour today." He denied that Labour was engaged in a "class war".
"We are a party of aspiration," he said.
"People want to get on. What's most important for people is to have a decently paid, secure job that will enable them to raise the standard of living of their family and to get on in life. That's what New Labour stands for and that's what's at the heart of the manifesto."
The launch also saw the return of the phrase "New Labour", which Mr Brown had largely eschewed since succeeding Tony Blair as prime minister three years ago.
He began his speech by saying: "In 1997, New Labour asked the country for the opportunity to renew Britain -- our hospitals, our schools, our towns and cities. Now, in a changed time, New Labour is once again ready and equipped to answer the call of the future."
And he ended it by saying: "New Labour is in the fight of our lives -- and it is the fight for your future."
His words were in contrast to his speech to the Labour Party conference in 2003, which was widely interpreted as rejecting Mr Blair's vision of New Labour when he said that the party was "best when we are Labour". (© Daily Telegraph, London)