The Iron Ed: Miliband ready to be Britain’s next Thatcher

Ed Miliband cast himself in the same light as Margaret Thatcher this afternoon, by suggesting he is the man to lead a transformative change in British politics after the next general election.

The Labour leader, who explained he struck an admiring tone of the Iron Lady in the last fortnight because "it was right to show respect", told the Scottish Labour party conference the UK once more faces the need for the same scale of fundamental reforms achieved by Thatcher – and he is the man to make that change.

"Back in the 1970s, it was clear the country needed a new way of doing things – a new settlement – and so too today," he told delegates.

Miliband challenged many of the orthodoxies of British politics established under Thatcher's government which led David Cameron to conclude before Thatcher's funeral "we are all Thatcherites now".

The man Cameron will fight at the next general election outlined a shopping list of policies barely questioned across 13 years of New Labour government.

"The old way of running our economy just doesn't work anymore," he declared.

Policies now coming under question include "deregulation; the dominance of finance over industry; allowing large private sector vested interests to flourish; government getting out of the way in the economy; the promise that the majority would always do well from an in-it-for-yourself, laissez faire, deregulated economy just isn't working for most working people".

In its place he declared the need for a "new settlement" which only the Labour party can deliver, rejecting the "heartless" coalition government and instead building a society where ordinary people "do well".

"We succeed not when a few at the top do well, but when everyone contributes to our country," Miliband said.

"Understanding the principle that we have always believed: that our success depends on the forgotten wealth creators, the people who do the hours, put in the shifts, struggle to pay their bills, and just want a government on their side, a government that brings us together as One Nation.

"It's not going to be easy. And we have to be clear about that. It's not just a question of waiting for a little bit of growth or hoping to return to how things were. It is about new, credible, concrete answers to the new problems our country faces. Not to the old problems that blighted Britain in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s – but the problems that define our age."

Much of Miliband's rhetoric in the last three years has centred around challenging some of the biggest scandals to have emerged, including Libor and phone-hacking, by calling for major reforms.

That approach is now being tied together with an attack on the status quo which seeks to provide a new unity around economic recovery. GDP figures out next week will confirm whether Britain has narrowly escaped falling back into a triple-dip recession – or not.

Regardless of the growth figures for the second quarter, Labour supporters will be growing concerned by the inability of their leader to make progress in opinion polls.

Just 24% of voters believe Miliband is capable of being prime minister, according to an Ipsos Mori poll for the Evening Standard.

In other news, Ed Balls was forced to deny reports Labour plans to outspend the Tories if it wins the general election.

"It's an exclusive, but it's wrong," the shadow chancellor said of today's Independent front page.

"It's not Labour Party policy, it's nothing I've even discussed," he added.

"Is it the policy of Ed Miliband and me Ed Balls that we will decide now to bet the house with a pledge to outspend the Tories? No that is not our policy, that is not our position."

Labour is in an impossible position over spending plans: if they match them, they lose the ability to set out a robust criticism of the government's deficit reduction programme, but if they reject them David Cameron and George Osborne will attack them for planning to increase spending.

Labour's local elections broadcast, Made By The Many, airs tonight.