Alistair Darling has warned the Labour party it will not win back power if it shifts its economic policies to the left, in what he suggested was his final speech to the autumn conference.
The shadow chancellor gave a strong defence of his approach to spending cuts to delegates in Manchester, as the Labour government's plan of halving the deficit in four years came under pressure.
Defeated leadership candidate Ed Balls is the figurehead of those arguing for a more bold approach to the issue arguing that cuts are not necessary.
New leader Ed Miliband, whose success in the campaign was partly based on positioning himself to the left of his elder brother David Miliband, is yet to establish the party's new direction on the issue.
Mr Darling told delegates he found addressing them hard because of the "tension" which existed "between what I know you as a party would like to hear - and what I know I have to say".
He told them "we cannot ignore the deficit" and said the government's "tough plans" to halve borrowing in four years did not mean there is "no difference" between the party's policies and those of the coalition government.
"Our approach is measured - and balanced," he argued.
"What we did over the last two years has worked. That's why our economy is growing, why borrowing is coming down.
"To abandon that balanced approach, as the Tories and Liberals are doing, will put tens of thousands of jobs at risk, and hit the living standards of millions of families."
Mr Darling suggested it could put votes for the Labour party at risk, too.
"We know what we need to do. And we should have the confidence to get out and do it," he concluded.
"We need to stay in the centre ground of British politics. We must be credible and confident to regain the people's trust... we should be proud of our record in government."