03/10/2012 14:34 BST | Updated 03/10/2012 14:40 BST

Ed Miliband Thanks Mitt Romney For His 'North Korean Mr Leader' Greeting

During Mitt Romney's visit to London in July, critics of Labour leader Ed Miliband were delighted to hear that the Republican candidate for president greeted him simply as "Mr Leader", suggesting it meant he did not know Miliband's name.

Miliband, who devoted much of his speech to the Labour Party conference yesteday laying claim to the centre ground of British politics, has been keen to shed the "Red Ed" image that he is too left-wing to become prime minister.

"You may have noticed that doing this job, you get called some names – some of them nice, some of them not so nice," he said.

"Let me tell you my favourite – it was when Mitt Romney came to Britain and called me ‘Mr Leader’. I don’t know about you but I think it has a certain ring to it myself, it’s sort of halfway to North Korea.

Miliband, who taught economics at Harvard, added: "Mitt, thanks a lot for that."

It is not just the Labour leader who has been less than impressed with Romney. During his in-depth interview with The Huffington Post UK, shadow chancellor Ed Balls said the Republican candidate's economic plans were wrong, but held out hope he may change his mind.

"I desperately hope Obama will win," he said. But it is important to remember that when FDR won the 1932 election and then embarked upon the New Deal jobs programme he ran against Hoover on a ticket of austerity. So maybe even Mr Romney might see the light."

Miliband and Balls' criticisms come ahead of the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and Romney on Wednesday evening.

But it seems it is not just Labour, the traditional friends of the Democrats, that will be cheering on the president.

During Romney's ill-received trip to London in July, a Tory cabinet ministers told HuffPost UK: "our head is with Romney, but our heart is with Obama."

And David Cameron is said to have told a recent gathering, including Americans, that: "Mitt Romney has that unique distinction of uniting all of England against him with his various remarks."

As well as probably being a wise geopolitical move, it is traditional that British governments do not express public support for either candidate in a US election - there is always the danger of backing the wrong horse.

Although this did not stop Lib Dem president Tim Farron, whose party is in coalition with the Conservatives, from declaring Romney's campaign so far to be a "failure". He added last month: "We can only hope it continues."