Huge hikes in energy charges, falling real wages, job losses, zero-hours contracts, lower benefits, people with disabilities denied the support they need and the spread of food banks across the country – the attack on living standards now defines the political debate.

This is down to Ed Miliband’s focus on the cost-of-living crisis over recent weeks. It demonstrates a way forward that can both reconnect Labour with lost voters and mobilise activists and supporters to deliver a victory in 2015.

Polling before Labour’s conference indicated failure to differentiate from the Tory agenda weakened Labour’s standing. By opening an attack on the effects of austerity for ordinary people that Labour has recovered its lead.

The energy price freeze announcement has broken new ground. A recent poll showed that 74% of voters, including 86% of those intending to vote Labour and even an astonishing 60% of those planning to vote Tory, support government powers to control gas and electricity prices. So successful has it been, that the Tories have been forced to change their rhetoric on the economy. David Cameron has had to acknowledge that Ed has ‘struck a chord’ with the public.

While announcing a proposed freeze of energy prices has had the greatest impact commitments on the bedroom tax and work capability assessments have helped force the Tories onto the back foot. Mark Ferguson says ‘Miliband’s message was always meant to be about cost of living in general’ and rightly urges him to develop the cost-of-living narrative beyond the energy price freeze.

Such a narrative must offer an alternative to austerity. As we approach the General Election and the cuts bite further, more questions will be asked about the alternative Labour will offer to the Tory austerity agenda, after that election.

Intervention in a runaway market, whether they be on controls on energy prices, or if the party can develop proposals to control transport and housing costs, will play an important role but the Tory spending envelope and the cuts that Osborne has set out for 2015 and 2016 would further immiserate those already living in enforced poverty.

Protests are on the increase. Attacks on local hospitals and the NHS more generally are generating real opposition, drawing in local Labour activists, councillors, MPs and our front bench. Industrial action is also on the rise, and drawing in young workers from across all sectors taking action in defence of services and living standards, including in the public sector where the government is holding down pay.

We need an activist government that intervenes in the public interest. The government intends to deepen and extend the attacks on living standards, with on-going cuts proposed by the Coalition. Labour needs to counter with a plan to invest for growth and jobs which scraps Tory proposals to further shrink the state. Public investment is necessary where business is failing to do so. We also need the controls on prices which take services out of ordinary people’s reach.

Having taken the political fight on to the best terrain, with the energy price freeze commitment, Labour needs to extend this approach with proposals to tackle the cost of living crisis across the board. Amongst the policy areas that need addressing is the the Living Wage which we should propose to legislate to guarantee it would be delivered. Also we should challenge the Tories ongoing pay freeze in the public sector.

And as bailed-out banks and businesses like INEOS and private construction firms refuse to investtheir huge profits, we will need to plan for a Labour government intervening to ensure our house building commitments are delivered.

Ed Miliband’s cost-of-living approach is setting the anti-austerity agenda we need to fight the Tories on in order to win, and. Labour’s alternative framework should be for prosperity with a robust plan to deliver that in government.

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