[LONDON] British opposition leader Ed Miliband sought to overturn an image of being soft on the economy on Thursday, as he shrugs off a leadership crisis five months from a general election.
Opinion polls show Mr Miliband's Labour party to be neck-and-neck with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives, but indicate the opposition are not as trusted on the economy.
Arguing that the Labour party would take a "tough and balanced" approach to the economy, Mr Miliband promised to balance Britain's budget in an attempt to convince voters ahead of the May 2015 election that he could be trusted with the nation's finances.
"We will build a strong economic foundation and balance the books. We will cut the deficit every year while securing the future of the NHS (national health service)," Mr Miliband said in a speech in the City of London financial district.
"None of our manifesto commitments will require additional borrowing." But figures within his own party expressed reservations that the emphasis on spending cuts could alienate Labour's traditional left-wing electorate.
"It's really important that we set out an offer which is an alternative to Tory austerity," said Labour lawmaker Diane Abbott, who was sacked as a member of Miliband's shadow cabinet in October.
"People are not going to vote Labour in order that we can cut just a little bit more kindly than the Tories." Conservative finance minister George Osborne said Mr Miliband's plans would increase borrowing and mean higher taxes and "economic chaos".
Mr Miliband has struggled for popularity among voters, and an Ipsos Mori poll in November showed just 13 per cent thought him ready to be prime minister.
Discontent within his party came to a head last month, as polls indicated Labour could face electoral wipeout in its former stronghold Scotland and newspapers reported Mr Miliband could be challenged by an internal party coup.
However the plot failed to materialise and he has retained his hold on the leadership for now.
A YouGov poll this week commissioned after Mr Osborne announced plans to slash state spending found Mr Osborne and Mr Cameron were trusted by 41 per cent of respondents to tackle the deficit, compared to 22 per cent who trusted Miliband and shadow finance minister Ed Balls.