"One Nation Labour" can win the next general election by showing it will unite Britain, Ed Miliband has said.

Branding David Cameron a "divider" who has sought to drive a wedge between north and south, public and private sector and rich and poor, Mr Miliband said that his party was best placed to bring the country together in difficult times.

The Labour leader won plaudits for his bravura no-notes speech to Labour's annual conference in Manchester, in which he laid claim to the One Nation watchword first coined by Tory prime minister Benjamin Disraeli and associated ever since with centrist Conservatives.

He made clear he intends to attach the slogan firmly to his own party, repeatedly referring to One Nation Labour as he sought to explain how his approach would differ from earlier leaders.

"One Nation is incredibly important to us as a country and us as a party. Old Labour is not going to answer the challenges we face because it can't stand up for the whole country," Mr Miliband said.

"But nor is New Labour, because it was too silent about the responsibilities of those at the top and too timid when it comes to the vested interests of our country.

"One Nation Labour offers us a chance to say that we are a country where everyone can play their part, where there is responsibility going right to the top of society, where no vested interest is too powerful to be taken on.

"And crucially it is a country where everyone can advance, an economy that works for all working people, not just a few."

Mr Miliband took to the stage in Manchester for the second time in 24 hours to answer questions from delegates who were visibly buoyed by his speech, which aides were hoping had dispelled doubts about his suitability as leader and potential prime minister.

In a round of media appearances, he had some uneasy moments, as interviewers tried to pin him down on specific policy details which were absent from his speech, such as what he would do to hold down petrol prices and whether he would promise the return of the 50p income tax rate in Labour's election manifesto.