Miliband’s comments came as he set out Labour’s first plans for cuts to the welfare system, ending out-of-work benefits for roughly 100,000 18- to 21-year-olds and replacing them with a less costly means-tested payment dependent on training.
The move is designed to symbolise Labour’s determination to reform welfare, making it more closely linked to what people pay in, as well as cutting the benefits bill by about £65m a year.
Miliband rejected Conservative claims that the changes would cost money, saying Labour was offering “big changes, not big spending”. It has been welcomed by many Labour MPs but worried some on the left.
Neal Lawson, chairman of the left-leaning pressure group Compass, said Labour would never “win on who kicks down hardest on the poorest”.
“In a world of increasing job insecurity and precariousness, conditionality makes less sense,” he said. “More means testing just erodes the notion of universal social security when we need it more than ever. The young are the victims of this insecure, low-wage economy – now they are its double victims.