Thursday 13 November 2014 7:07 am

Ed Miliband fights for his political life in comeback speech focused on inequality and cost of living

Ed Miliband has staged his latest fightback to salvage his embattled leadership after a series of dire opinion polls and rumours of plots on Labour's backbenchers.

In a speech at Senate House, Miliband took the wise step of using an autocue, presumably so as not to repeat the mistake of thedisastrous party conference speech where he forgot to mention the deficit.

The leader of the opposition entered Senate House to cheers from the audience, beginning his speech saying a life in politics requires "a thick skin" – something he understood, given events this week.

He quickly moved onto his critique of the coalition government and the state of modern Britain.

"People are asking why they are on zero-hours contracts while those at the top get away with zero tax. This zero-zero economy is a symptom of a deeply unequal, deeply unfair, deeply unjust country; a country I am determined to change" he said.

The speech was peppered with attacks on the "failed ideas" of the past, and barbs aimed at the Tories, Lib Dems and Ukip. This time he managed to remember the deficit, referring to it not once, not twice, but three times.

There was no new policy in the speech, but plenty of crowd-pleasers for Labour activists, including more spending in the NHS and higher taxes on the rich. He ended on a high notem telling the audience:

Millions of people in this country are resting their hopes on us. We can’t let them down. We must not let them down. We will not let them down. Let’s fight for a fairer, more just, more equal Britain. That’s what I am going to do. That’s what you do, day in, day out. That’s what every person in this party must do. That’s the way we’re going to fight and win this general election.

Over the weekend, it was reported that were as many as 20 shadow ministers had said they would be prepared to oust Miliband if veteran Labour MP and former minister Alan Johnson would lead the party into the next election. However, Johnson completely ruled out any intention to stand for the Labour leadership in an op-ed for the Guardian.

A poll for the Evening Standard on Tuesday showed just 13 per cent of the public thought the Labour leader is ready to be Prime Minister. Miliband even failed to command the confidence of Labour voters, with 58 per cent saying they were "dissatisfied" with his leadership.

Things have got so bad for Ed Miliband, his approval ratings are below those of Nick Clegg and are the worst of any leader in recent times, including Michael Foot who went on to to lose by landslide to Margaret Thatcher.