Ed Miliband – 2011 Speech in Newcastle-upon-Tyne


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Miliband at a campaign event in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 2011.

One year ago the Liberal Democrats told voters in Newcastle that they would fight for the next generation to get fair chances, for families struggling to get by and to strengthen the ties that bind our communities together.

That is what Nick Clegg told the people of Britain exactly one year ago when he looked viewers in the eye during in that first historic TV debate and promised a different kind of politics.

But the Lib Dems have broken their promises.

A year ago the Lib Dems promised to scrap tuition fees. But they trebled them.

A year ago, the Lib Dems promised to oppose a rise in VAT. But they voted to back the Tories in raising it to 20 per cent.

A year ago, the Lib Dems promised to protect the NHS. But they backed David Cameron’s expensive bureaucratic plans which put the founding principles of the heath service at risk.

A year ago, the Lib Dems promised to support measured deficit reduction plans. But they backed Tory cuts that go £40 billion further and faster than those Labour would have made.

What a difference a year makes.

Today I want to make a direct appeal to people who voted Liberal Democrat in past elections.

Some may have voted Labour before, others not.

But day-by-day it’s becoming clearer the Liberal Democrats can no longer claim to represent the values for which so many voted at the last election.

I know that some people in the Lib Dem leadership like to claim they are making a difference inside this Conservative-led Government.

But the truth is that the Liberal Democrats are not front seat passengers or back seat passengers in this Conservative-led Government . They are locked in the boot of a vehicle which is travelling rapidly in the wrong direction.

We may have heard some shouting coming from that boot in recent days. There is, after all, an election on. But it isn’t changing either the speed or the way this Government is headed. Too many people who thought they were voting for a progressive party a year ago have been betrayed.

There may still be three main parties standing candidates but there are only two directions for our country

There is the Labour way: standing up for young people, for students, for sure start, for the next generation; standing up for families feeling squeezed; standing up for strong, safe communities.

And there is the Tory-Liberal Democrat way. Cuts that go too far, too fast. Cuts that are not only unfair on cities like Newcastle but which also threaten the jobs and the economic recovery we need.

Labour is standing up for your values. We would tax bank bonuses, not give the bankers a tax cut. We would not have imposed a VAT rise on families feeling the squeeze. We would have made sensible cuts at a speed which protects jobs and services rather than supporting reckless cuts that go too far too fast. We support  the NHS. We support keeping police on the street. We support giving our young people a fair chance in life.

I believe these are the values of the majority of voters in this country.

If these are your values, let Labour be your voice in these tough times.

Ed Miliband – 2011 Speech at Royal Festival Hall


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, at the Royal Festival Hall on 23rd May 2011.

Thank you all for coming this morning.

I’d like to start, by saying a few words about a big event happening later this week.

Not the visit of President Obama.

But my marriage to Justine on Friday.

The most important people at our wedding will be our lovely boys, Daniel and Sam.

I suppose every father says this, but becoming a parent really does change the way you think about life.

The love you feel overwhelms you.

Like most fathers I was unprepared for that.

It broadens your perspective.

You think about the kind of future you want for your children.

For their health and happiness.

And for the kind of country you want them to grow up in.

I’d like to speak today, not just about them, but about the prospect of their whole generation.

My belief that we can and must create a better life for the next generation.

My concern, like millions of others, is that for the first time for more than a century, the next generation will struggle to do better than the last.

In the past we took it for granted that if we worked hard, if our children worked hard, they would be more prosperous, and have greater opportunities.

But the last few decades have begun to show that the promise to the next generation, the promise to our children, what I call the promise of Britain, cannot now be taken for granted.

Today I want to set out the scale of the problem as I see it, and why it matters – not just to those affected, but for the whole country.

And how I see it as the duty of my generation of politicians to answer this challenge.

As a parent, like all parents, I judge myself on the opportunities my children will have—and the happiness that can provide.

As Prime Minister, I will judge the next Labour government on the opportunities that Britain can provide for all of the next generation.

I believe this issue is so important that it must a key test for the next Labour government.

That promise of Britain is a benchmark against which we will be judged.

Let me start by talking about what I have heard from people about their hopes and fears for the future.

Some of the people I have met agree with us on the big issue that politics has focused on —the pace and scale of deficit reduction.

Others disagree with us.

But what unites everyone I meet is that there seems to be so much that politics isn’t talking about.

That’s why I say people want more from us.

People want more from our politics.

And what is happening to the next generation is one of those unspoken truths that people know about – but somehow politicians seem to refuse to discuss.

I’ve heard it from the young people I’ve met thinking about their options as they leave school or college, fearing unemployment.

I’ve heard it from the young man I met in my constituency who said he wasn’t going to go to university, even though he had the grades, because of the debt he feared he would face at the end of it.

I’ve heard it from the Mums and Dads who don’t understand, because they have done everything right – raised their children well, given them every opportunity – but their kids have no prospect of buying a home until they’re nearly 40.

Since 2007 the average age of first time buyers without assistance has risen from 33 to 37.

I’ve heard it from parents who feel like they are working longer hours than ever before and finding it hard to spend time with their family.

And they’re right because we are the only country in Europe working longer hours now than twenty-five years ago.

I’ve heard it from people in this country of all ages worried about the environmental legacy our generation will leave behind.

That’s why people think politics isn’t delivering.

Now it so happens that David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and I are all about the same age.

Some people have called us the Jam Generation because of the music we grew up with.

But our generation is on course to totally fail in meeting our duty to the next: to uphold the promise of Britain from which we all benefitted.

Which we all took for granted.

The current representatives of the Jam Generation are on course to create a jilted generation.

You won’t often hear a politician say this, but I will.

It’s not all our opponents’ fault.

Some of these are big problems that are rooted in the way the country’s been changing for years, not just over the last year.

But my criticism of this government, of David Cameron and Nick Clegg, is that they are doing nothing to turn things around.

In fact on many of these issues, they are making them worse.

Their only benchmark of success is dealing with the deficit.

It is the over-riding concern.

All others are set aside.

Cutting the deficit matters.

And the argument about how we do it matters too.

But our politics cannot be reduced just to a debate about the deficit without considering the consequences for our country.

Now they claim to be protecting the next generation by making these decisions.

But their claim is blown apart by the evidence because the next generation are bearing so much of the burden of deficit reduction.

They are scrapping the future jobs fund and the investment which gets young people off the dole and into work.

Years on benefits is not just bad for them, it’s bad for Britain

They are piling debts on our students – tens of thousands of pounds – which will put people off going to University.

Those same debts will make it far harder for the next generation to start a business or buy a home.

That’s not just bad for them it’s bad for Britain.

They are making damaging changes in the tax system, with double the burden on families with children compared to those without.

If it’s harder for families to get by, harder to be a parent, that’s not just bad for them but for Britain.

And they are abolishing financial support for children staying on at school.

A disastrous reform to our educational system.

Not just bad for children at school but bad for our country’s future.

They have failed to understand the problem and that risks accelerating the decline.

It is exactly these young people whose talents Britain needs to ensure we continue to lead the world – from culture to science to great businesses.

And wasting the talents of this generation makes it harder to get the deficit down, not easier.

More young people out of work means more money spent on benefits, and less coming in with tax receipts.

It’s the ultimate in short-termism.

So when they claim that they making decisions in the interests of the next generation they’re not.

Parents know it, grandparents know it, and every young person knows it.

Let me be clear: I am not just criticising their deficit strategy, I’m criticising them for having a pessimistic, austere vision for the country.

They have no ambition, no national mission.

Normally, when new governments take power, the public start to believe the country is heading in the right direction.

Not this time.

People still believe, even after a change of government, Britain is heading in the wrong direction.

Unless we turn round the chances of the next generation, we risk being a country in decline.

Ask people whether their kids will find it easier to find good jobs, own a home, balance work and family life, have a secure retirement or fulfil their potential and they will tell you by vast majorities that the answer is no.

In these circumstances, how could people possibly believe the country is heading in the right direction?

And so when people ask me what our task will be, inheriting from this Conservative-led government the kind of country it is creating, my first answer, our first challenge, our greatest task, must be to take head on the decline in opportunities for the next generation.

David Cameron’s benchmark for his government is simply deficit reduction.

The benchmark I set for a future Labour government is much more than that.

It is about improving the chances for the next generation.

We must reverse the sense of foreboding that people feel for their children and their future.

To replace that with hope about what is possible for them and our country.

Doing so will require us, once again, to be a force for major change in Britain.

So the task I am setting for our party and our policy review is to identify how we can turn round these trends.

We already know the areas that matter.

First, we need to act on jobs for young people.

We cannot just stand by when nearly one million young people are out of work.

That is why I have said we should repeat the bank bonus tax and put young people back to work.

We also have to recognise that one in five graduates in work are not doing graduate-level jobs.

In other words they are not being given the opportunity to use the skills for which they have worked so hard.

The pessimistic answer, the apparent answer from this Government, is fewer young people going to university.

Our ambition instead must be to reshape our economy so that Britain’s firms choose a business model rooted in higher skill, higher wage jobs not in so many low skill, low wage jobs.

And for those young people who choose not to go to university we need to construct a better route through vocational training, apprenticeships, and entrepreneurship which give people fulfilling work and chances to get on.

Second, I don’t believe the government’s new university funding plans will leave Britain fit for the 21st century.

Britain will not compete in the world if we put such great burdens on the next generation’s ability to get on.

But I also know we can only meet people’s desire for a better politics if we make promises we know we can keep.

At this stage, I can’t make a promise on tuition fees, but I am clear about our guiding principles.

Genuine access for all, minimising the debt burden on the next generation, and a world-class university system.

I have to say I don’t believe the current policy will achieve these things.

Third, we need to change the way we think about what support families need and have a right to expect.

If we want the next generation to do better than the last we need to make being a parent easier not harder.

That is why our challenge is not just to grow the economy, but also to address something politicians hardly ever talk about – the culture of long working hours, low pay and insecurity at work.

Our family policy needs a better economic policy.

Fourth, all the decisions this government is making on housing – cuts in investment, removing the requirement on local authorities to allow new homes, botching the planning system – will make it harder not easier to provide homes.

Our generation of politicians must act or people will be waiting till their 40s before they buy their first home.

It is a sign of our commitment on this issue that when we said the bank bonus tax should be extended for another year, we said part of it should be used to build homes.

And a task I have set for our policy review is that we must seek to stop the inexorable rise in the average age of home ownership.

Fifth, when I think about my own children, they will judge me in twenty or thirty years time by the extent to which my generation took the environment and climate change seriously.

That is why as part of every aspect of policy – the economy, transport, homes – the environment must be a built in part of what we prioritise.

So these are five priorities which will be central to our work and our next manifesto.

But there’s one other thing.

The overwhelming majority of our young people are decent, and they want to do the best for themselves, their families and their communities.

We owe it to them to paint a fairer picture of young people in our country, and to celebrate what they do.

But it’s a two way street.

The promise of Britain is not just about the promise we make to them, but the promise they must make to themselves and our country to be good citizens.

Let me end with this thought.

When their time comes, future generations will look to our record just as we look to history.

As the child of parents who found refuge in Britain from the Nazis, I owe my life to British decency and democracy, to British freedom.

That’s why the promise of Britain means so much to me.

It’s why I’m so proud of our country, and its people.

It’s why I’m so sure of what we can achieve in the future.

Today my message is a simple one.

I am convinced from listening to people, that the public want more from us.

They want more from our politics.

They want a debate about the kind of country we are now, and the kind of country we could be.

It is our duty as an Opposition to be people’s voice in tough times.

Not just by criticising specific policies, but by setting out a distinct national mission.

To protect the promise of Britain.

A national mission that meets the hopes people have for their children and their grandchildren.

A national mission which ensures Britain’s next generation have a more optimistic future

That is my task.

The task for Labour in opposition.

And in government.

To deliver on the promise of Britain.

Ed Miliband – 2011 Speech Launching Local Elections Campaign


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, on 31st March 2011 to launch Labour’s local elections campaign.

Thank you for those kind introductions.

Thank you Jo, for letting us join you this morning at your fantastic school – and to all of you for coming.

On May the Fifth it will be a year since the General Election.

For many people the local elections are the first chance for people to reflect on whether our country is heading in the right direction.

So I want to talk to you today about what I believe are the big three challenges facing our country.

– The cost of living crisis facing British Families;

– Whether we can meet the British promise by which the next generation should always do better than the last

– And how we build stronger communities.

I wish this Conservative led government was addressing these challenges.

I wish they understood that in tough times, we need to be ambitious about the kind of nation we should to be.

The problem is that because they have decided to cut too far and too fast, they are taking the country in the wrong direction.

1. From Downing Street to your Street.

We would halve the deficit in four years, and so the Tories say that there’s no real difference between us.

The local elections show how wrong they are, because up and country, we can see how Tory values, Tory choices impact our local communities.

Today we published new research that the Tory-led government’s cuts to local government will hit the average family with cuts of £182 per year.

And that’s on top of the cuts to services, the threat of redundancy, the increase in VAT and the tax credit changes which will make the squeeze even tighter, for the squeezed middle.

The scale and pace of these cuts threaten what I call the promise of Britain – the belief that the next generation must do be tter than the last.

Sure Start centres are being closed. Tuition fees trebled. Education Maintenance Allowances and the Future Jobs Fund scrapped.

The safety of our streets in the battle against crime is being put at risk by scrapping 12,000 police officers. While the youth services, leisure centres and after school clubs that help combat the causes of crime are being shut. These cuts threaten to unpick the very fabric of our communities.

No one should be in any doubt: all these cuts are coming direct from Downing Street to your street.

They go too far. And they are coming too fast.

2. Unfairness

But not only are these cuts happening too far and too fast.

We can see the values of this government in the way they make their cuts.

In our most vulnerable communities, in cities like Manchester and Liverpool, the cuts are nearly twice as deep as the national average, and nearly ten times as deep as in places like Windsor.

Communities across England face these threats. Great Yarmouth, Burnley, Corby, Thanet and West Somerset all face the highest level of cuts.

It‘s not about North versus south, it’s about fair versus unfair.

It’s the trademark of this government.

The politics of division.

3. Labour values

We can do something better.

I want us to do more than simply protest.

I want us to be able to protect.

Labour councils are focusing – and will focus – on supporting front-line services. We want to keep communities strong and safe and share the burden of cuts as fairly as possible.

Being a Labour council under this government is not going to be easy.

Labour councillors are being forced to make some hard choices.

But what matters to us is the chance to put our values into action.

We know that means tough decisions.

So Durham, for instance, facing cuts of £266 for an average family, the Labour council asked their residents, what they wanted to protect.

They said adult social care, so Labour protected those services.

But in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat-led Birmingham council, where we are today, adult social care cuts will hurt 11,000 vulnerable people.

The Tories so-called “EasyCouncil” in Barnet, is closing eight children’s centres and cutting sheltered housing wardens for the elderly.

And when it comes to reducing waste, Labour’s Sandwell Council has cut the number of top managers by fifty per cent, so money can go to frontline services.

In Liverpool, ranked by the Audit Commission as having the “worst financial management” in the country under the LibDems Labour’s Joe Anderson and his team found millions of pounds in efficiency savings.

Their reward? Some of the biggest cuts in funding in the country.

So Labour councils will strive to protect what matters most.

Labour councillors will put the communities they serve first.

We will try to make things a little fairer for hard pressed families.

These are our values.

These are the choices we’d make.

If you want a strong first line of defence against cuts that are coming too far, too fast.

If you want the tough decisions taken fairly and openly.

If you want councillors who will be your voice in tough times

Then vote Labour on May the Fifth.

Ed Miliband – 2011 Speech to the Fabian Society


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, to the Fabian Society in January 2011.

We’ve just witnessed our first by-election of the Parliament in Oldham East and Saddleworth.

It was an unusual by-election not only because – I am proud to say – Labour won, but also because of the behaviour of our opponents and the great churning of votes between the parties.

David Cameron became the first prime minister in recent years to campaign in a by-election.

And definitely the first party leader that I can remember to not know the name of his own party’s candidate.

Then we saw Nick Clegg vowing to have more public rows with Mr Cameron just to remind people that the Liberal Democrats still have a separate identity.

That is an unusual, probably unhealthy, way to conduct any relationship let alone one in a government that is having such a profound impact on people’s lives.

I suspect it is a symptom of a having coalition based on political convenience rather than values.

But, as I said, it was also unusual because we saw significant transfers of votes from the Liberal Democrats to Labour. From the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats. And from Conservatives to Labour.

Above all, what the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election shows us is that people are deeply uneasy about where this Conservative-led government is taking the country.

However our party would be deluding itself if we thought that meant that the next election would fall into our lap.

The next election will be as much about us as about them—and our ability to change and become the voice and standard-bearer of Britain’s progressive majority once again.  And that’s what I want to talk about today.

Because I believe that from the very founding of the Labour party as the Labour Representation Committee through to the great reforming Labour governments of the second half of the twentieth century and the early years of this, Labour has succeeded when it has seen itself not as a narrow party of sectional interest, but when through a sense of mission, passion and optimism for the future it has become the voice and vehicle for progressive change.

We need to be honest over 13 years in government we forfeited the right in too many people’s minds to be the natural standard bearers for this progressive majority in Britain.

I want to talk today about the reasons why that happened and about the three ways we need to change and change profoundly if we are to put it right.

The first is to understand why our economy has stopped working for people – and how we can again offer a new economic model for Labour and for Britain. In particular, understanding that simply redistributing taxpayers’ money through the welfare state, important though that is, is inadequate and will not build the more just, more sustainable economy.

The second is to recognise the way our managerialism took us away from the instincts and values of the broad progressive majority in Britain.

That our communities came to see us as the people who put markets and commerce before the common good.

And many citizens came to see us also as the people who did not understand that the state could be intrusive as well as empowering.

We must respond to this by breathing new life into our sense of ideological purpose, drawing on what is enduringly good in the Labour tradition, and reaching outside it too.

And third we must accept that in how we do our politics we came to be not leaders of a broad, open progressive majority built on a coalition of values, but into a political force that was far less than that.

We must respond by putting democratic renewal and a willingness to reach out to others beyond our party at the heart of the way we do our politics.

Understanding that Labour must change the way it works and that no one party can claim to have a monopoly of wisdom in today’s politics. That Labour must earn its leadership of Britain’s progressive majority – it is not ours by right.

The Context

Before turning to my argument, let me set the context.

It’s two years since I opened the Fabian New Year Conference of 2009.

I remarked then that the Tories had never been more on the ideological defensive in my political lifetime.

The financial crash had demolished the Conservative fallacy that markets always know best and David Cameron was busy discovering that there was such a thing as society.

Two years later, we are clearly in a very different place.

David Cameron didn’t win the general election last May.  But he did end up as Prime Minister and he hasn’t let the absence of a mandate stop him from embarking on the most ideologically dangerous assault on our public services in a generation.

These changes will re-shape Britain in as profound a way as Mrs Thatcher re-shaped Britain in the 1980s. I’m sure I speak for everyone here when I say that everywhere I go I see an assault on many of the things I value – from Sure Start to the way in which the trebling of student debt will kick the ladder of opportunity away from a generation of our young people.

The combination of this assault on our institutions, the global economic crisis and the formation of the Conservative-led government has marked a period of change which occurs only once in a generation.

There have been two other moments in my lifetime when economic upheaval has been followed by a dramatic break in the established pattern of British politics.

The first was the IMF crisis in 1976 and the Winter of Discontent two years later, followed by the defeat of the Callaghan government, the formation of the SDP and eighteen years of Conservative government.

The second was Britain’s ejection from the Exchange Rate Mechanism on Black Wednesday, the emergence of New Labour and the election of the first three-term Labour government in our history.

In both cases a fundamental shift in the character and direction of our national politics proved to be enduring.

Facing Up to Defeat

On these two occasions a governing party lost power on the expectation of a quick return to office, and it ended up in the wilderness for a generation.

In both cases that was because they didn’t learn the right lessons about the changing economic circumstances, about what their values meant for their time, and the way they did their politics.

We cannot afford to sit back and wait for this Conservative-led government to fail. That is why we must seize this moment to understand these lessons and to change if we are to ensure that this is a one-term government.

This government is making costly mistakes and will continue to do so.  But it is the changes we make to ourselves that will decide whether we avoid the fate that has befallen parties in the past.

That is why “one more heave” just won’t do.

A party that slumps below 30% of the popular vote has a responsibility to face up to the scale of its loss.

Understanding why we lost touch means learning to see ourselves as the British people see us.

We began learning that lesson after 1983, but it took us far too long.  I am determined that we will not make the same mistake again.

Of course I am proud of the achievements of our last Labour government. The truth is that for a lot of people those achievements are clearer, now that they are under threat from this government.

But let’s not mislead ourselves – aspects of our record in government are also the reason we are now in opposition.

Parties don’t suffer defeats like the one we suffered last May because of an accumulation of small errors.

They do so by making serious mistakes, and that’s why I have said what I have said on issues like Iraq, failing to properly regulate the banks, ignoring concerns about economic security and not doing enough to deliver on the promise of a new politics.

We have to show that we have learnt lessons if the British people are to trust us again.

The Progressive Majority

So that is the scale of the challenge we face.

But if the result of the election showed why we need to change, it also revealed something important about the nature of British politics from which we ought to draw encouragement.

Most people cast their votes for parties that talked about the need to make Britain fairer and more equal, that warned against the dangers of cutting the deficit too early and urged a deepening of democratic reform.

It’s easy to forget today, but that brief bout of Cleggmania was animated by this progressive hunger for change.

So there is a progressive majority in Britain.  It’s just that we failed to attract enough of it to Labour’s cause to return a viable progressive government.

We will rebuild ourselves as a broad movement by understanding where the centre-ground of British politics truly lies.

I want us to become the voice and hope of those who feel squeezed by an economic system that promised to liberate them.

I want us to articulate the frustration of people who are fed up with bankers taking vast public subsidies and then rewarding themselves for failure while the rest of the country struggles.

I want us to be the party that answers the call for a fairer sharing of the nation’s wealth, strong and responsive public services and a different kind of politics.

Over the coming months, I will be talking in greater detail about how we approach the economic challenges, the challenges of renewing our values and the challenge of renewing our politics.

Today I want to set out the direction of that journey.

Economic Crisis

So let me start with the first change we need – on the economy.

The financial crisis shook the world economy, but more specifically it exposed some of the flawed assumptions on which the economic policies of Britain have been based under successive governments.

The last election saw a majority crying out for a party and a government which had learned the lessons of the crisis and could offer Britain a new economic future.  But we must accept that we failed to win the argument that it was Labour that could offer people a better economy working in their interests.

If we are again to offer a vision of hope and change to the majority in Britain it is essential that we learn the right lessons of the crisis. This is the argument that will define this decade and beyond.

The implication of much of what the Conservative-led government say is that it was high levels of public borrowing that caused the crisis. That is just not true.

In fact, it was the crisis that caused high levels of public borrowing.

The deficit rose from manageable levels of around 2% of national income to above 10% because of the global financial crisis.

And when the Tories and the Liberal Democrats are trying to propagate this myth about the past we must not let them get away with it.

The reason is not simply because of desire for truth about the past but because they are using it to shape our future.

They want to tell people that the only lesson to learn from the crisis is that as long as we simply cut back spending far and fast enough, we will contain the deficit and reach the sunny uplands of economic prosperity.

But just as we need to counter their myth about the past, we need to acknowledge what we got wrong.  Along with other national governments, we didn’t get banking regulation right.

And our economy was too vulnerable to the crisis because we were too reliant on financial services.

These are two important lessons of the crisis. But there is a deeper issue about why the crisis happened and what it teaches us about the economy we need to create.

Freer markets combined with ‘light touch’ regulation were sold to middle Britain on the basis that they would guarantee economic freedom, rising living standards and a fair reward for the hard working majority.

For the best of reasons, New Labour signed up to this vision precisely because it spoke to the hopes of aspirational voters.

Our period in office was marked by notable successes: record levels of employment, a decade of continuous growth until 2008, low inflation, low interest rates and the minimum wage.

What is more we used the proceeds of growth to both rebuild public services and tackle poverty.

Whereas before 1997, relative poverty had trebled and the public realm had crumbled, we comprehensively changed the direction in which our country was headed.

But economic growth and productivity masked a hidden truth: that life in the middle was getting harder not easier.

Real wages in the middle may have been rising but they weren’t keeping pace with the rest of the economy.

And they were wildly outstripped by the gains made by those at the top.

And though Labour did a lot to offset this with tax credits and other forms of public support, we found ourselves swimming against stronger economic currents.

The “squeezed middle”, a phrase some people might have thought I would never use again, is not a marketing concept but a reality of life for millions of people as the result of the economy we have.

It speaks to families working hard for long hours, stretching a limited family budget and who found the only way to increase their living standards was to increase their personal debt.

The lesson we must draw is that there is a connection between the inequality of a system that distributes wealth unfairly and the economic imbalances of a country that became too reliant on personal debt and financial services.

Put these parts of the argument together—about regulation, about the need for a broader industrial base and about inequality – and I come to this conclusion: we can’t build economic efficiency or social justice simply in the way we have tried before.

It won’t be enough to rely on a deregulated market economy providing the tax revenues for redistribution.

New Labour’s critical insight in the 1990s and 2000s was that we needed to be stewards of a successful market economy to make possible social justice through redistribution.  The critical insight of Labour in my generation is that both wealth creation and social justice need to be built into the way our economy works.

That’s why I think the living wage, for example, is such a powerful idea.

Because I know that tax credits for all the good they do have their limits.

If we can build an economy with more living wage jobs – and well paying jobs – we embed social justice at the heart of the way the market economy is run rather than having to make it an optional extra.

This is important for us not just because it is necessary to create social justice but because it reflects the fiscal climate we will face in the coming decade.

Why was the last Labour government too slow in the language that we used, after the financial crisis had created a big deficit, to acknowledge what our own plans implied, that there would eventually have to be cuts?  Part of the answer is that we hadn’t shown other ways of delivering social justice.

So the first part of the way we must change is to show we can build a fair economy, with wealth creation and social justice for all at its heart.

Our Values

The second part of our challenge is to understand how over 13 years of government we came to seem detached and remote from the instincts and values of families across Britain – families who share our values but saw a party that was out of touch with their daily struggle.

For all our achievements, I know what our biggest problem was – it afflicts all governments.

We became too technocratic and managerial.

But more than that, we sometimes lost sight of people as individuals, and of the importance of communities.

In our use of state power, too often we didn’t take people with us.  That is why over time people railed against the target culture, the managerialism of public service reform and overbearing government.

At the same time, we seemed in thrall to a vision of the market that seemed to place too little importance on the values, institutions and relationships that people cherish the most.

We turned a blind eye to the impact of out of town retail developments and post office branch closures on our high streets. We knew all about the benefits of a flexible and mobile labour force, but we didn’t think enough about its impact on weakening social bonds and squeezing time with our families.

So people began to see a government which looked remote from they cared about. They could see a government doing things they either agreed with or disagreed with, but not a political movement that spoke to their values.

To change, we will look critically at our traditions and why they have led us to become remote.

Among the many strands of the British Labour tradition, two have proved particularly influential.

The first was the idea of socialism as a kind of missionary work to be undertaken on behalf of the people.

I’m sorry to give the Fabians a hard time, but this view is most obviously associated with the early Fabians around Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

The alternative strand, represented by the co-operative movement and the early trade unions, saw Labour as a grassroots, democratic movement to enable people to lead the most fulfilling lives.

As we seek the right traditions to draw on as a political party in the 21st century, it is so important that we understand the appropriate role of each tradition.

The Webb Fabian tradition was born of an era where the challenge of the Left was meeting people’s basic needs for health, housing, education and relief of poverty.

That need will always remain.

But people rightly expect more out of their lives than simply meeting basic needs.

The New Labour tradition which embraced dynamic markets is also important for our future and creating wealth.

But people don’t just care about the bottom line, there is so much more to life.

So the bureaucratic state and the overbearing market will never meet our real ambition as a party, that each citizen can be liberated to have the real freedom to shape their own lives.

To do that, we need to draw on that other tradition based on mutualism, localism and the common bonds of solidarity that captures the essence of our party at its best.

The belief in those common bonds means we should also be defenders of the things that people value and which are threatened – sometimes by market, sometimes by government.

When we say we care about the closure of a Sure Start, it isn’t just about the supply of a service to individual families.  Sure Start is a place where community is built, as families get to know each other and form friendships.

The same is true of local libraries.

The same is true of ways of life which are deeply ingrained in our country and which we should understand.

Just before Christmas, I went with Jon Cruddas to Billingsgate fish market and met a porter there who told me that the best day of his life was when he got his porter’s badge and that there has not been a day since when he has not woken up feeling proud to be doing the job he does.

That is why politicians should not shrug and walk away when they hear that traditional ways of life are under threat. We should seek to defend ways of life which give people self-respect.

And a Britain of respect and decency demands obligations from all of us.  What offends me most about the outrages in the banks is the sense that some of the bankers apparently feel little obligation to the society and country in which they are located.

It isn’t enough to say this is what the market will pay me – societies are built on deeper social obligation.

I care about the success of our financial services industry – about the jobs it creates.

But today when we you see some of our leading bankers constantly threatening to leave the country, trying to hold the country to ransom and thinking only of themselves, it makes me angry.

And that is why it makes me so angry that this government is refusing to act.

To be at heart of the progressive mainstream, we also need to draw on values that may not have always been central to our party.  One of our tasks is to learn the lessons of the green movement and put sustainability at the heart of what we do.  Another is to draw on the traditions of liberty.

Progressive politics is not just about meeting economic and social needs.

Those are only ever a means to human flourishing and freedom.

Part of that is about upholding the liberty of the person.

Nobody should pretend there aren’t important and difficult choices to be made about how to uphold security and protect liberty. But we didn’t take the need to uphold liberty seriously enough.

In recent months, we have shown with our willingness to support the reduction of 28 day detention to 14 days, we are determined to take liberty seriously as part of our governing philosophy.

The Way We Do Politics

So we must renew our approach to the economy, and renew our values.

But thirdly, we also have to reform our approach to politics.

Not since the era of the rotten borough has our political system faced such a grave crisis of legitimacy as the one it now faces.

From declining turnout and shrinking electoral rolls to anger over expenses and broken promises on tuition fees, people have lost trust in politics and its ability to offer solutions to the problems they face.

That crisis is a matter of national urgency. It’s a crisis of unreformed institutions, broken promises, remote political parties and a knee-jerk adversarial political culture.

Part of the problem has been the failure of all parties to honour repeated promises to usher in a new politics.

Of course that involves reforming our political institutions.  Our own credibility was undermined by our failure to honour a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on voting reform and the stalling of democratic reform of the House of Lords.

We will take every opportunity to reform the way our political system works.  That is the reason I will be campaigning in favour of the Alternative Vote in the referendum.  I will keep my promise.

But this audience knows that very few people on the doorstop ask about the Alternative Vote or reform of the House of Lords.  They think the reason politics is discredited is because politicians always break their promises.

The reality is that that the broken promises of this government do not just damage their own reputations, but that of all politicians. That is why we have to be careful not to over-promise, either in terms of language or in terms of policy.

But that is just part of the story of how we renew our politics.

Think back to our early days as a political party.

Of course, we fought elections but we did a lot more than that.

We were part of the fabric of community life through our wider movement: not just the trade unions, but the co-operative movement.

Nostalgia for times past is not an answer to the challenges of the future.

But the challenge to us all is to be a genuine movement for change appropriate to our time up and down the country.

That is why as part of our party reform, we want to learn the lessons of organisations like London Citizens to become a genuine community organising movement.

The only way we rebuild the case for politics is from the ground up.

The campaign for the local library, the local zebra crossing, the improvement of a school, must be our campaign.

And not just campaigns for the state to do things, but campaigns that achieve things themselves.

There is one other thing we need to change in our politics.

No party has a monopoly of wisdom or virtue, and it is foolish to pretend that they do.

The decision of the Liberal Democrats to join a Conservative-led government was a tragic mistake, and I hope they come to see that in time.

Forgive me if I decline to join those who are gloating at the expense of the Liberal Democrats.

Because their mistake means they are part of a government attempting to shift politics to the Right.

I am certainly pleased that many Liberal Democrats now see Labour as the main progressive hope in British politics.

Thousands of them have joined us since the election.

I want them to find a welcome home in our party – not just making up the numbers, but contributing actively to the strengthening of our values and the renewal of our policies.

But equally there are many Liberal Democrats who have decided to stay and fight for the progressive soul of their party. Most of them do not want to see their progressive tradition sacrificed for personal ambition.

I respect their choice too and I understand how painful it must be to watch what is happening to their party.

We do not doubt that they hold sincere views and we will co-operate, where we can in Parliament and outside, with those that want to fight the direction of this government.

It is our duty to work with progressives everywhere.


So this is the way we need to seize the mantle of progressive politics and shape the economic, ideological and political landscape of the future.

Building a fair economy.

Rooting our values in traditions and ideas that go beyond the bureaucratic state and the overbearing market

And a different kind of politics

The prize is not simply a Labour government but more than that.

It is about a political movement that in every community up and down this country can shape the politics of the future.

Make our values and our ideas the commonsense of our age.

And shape a country and a world based on our ideals.

Ed Miliband – 2010 Speech to Scottish Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, to the 2010 Scottish Labour Party conference in Oban.

Conference, it is a privilege to be here with you today in Oban.

Can I begin by thanking you for the support and unity you have shown since I became leader.

As we approach Remembrance Sunday let me start by paying tribute to all our troops serving in Afghanistan including those from Scotland.

We owe them and their families an enormous debt of gratitude for their bravery and commitment.

Let me say how good it is to be working alongside Iain Gray.

Iain has led this party in Scotland with a sense of values and purpose.

He has helped rebuild Labour in Scotland and helped the party regain the trust of the public.

I look forward to working with him and you to make sure he is the next First Minister of Scotland.

And I want to thank yo u all for the tremendous result you achieved in Scotland at the General Election.

Let us pay tribute to the great Scottish wins of 2010.

We won seats where the media had written us off.

Like Edinburgh South – and let us pay tribute to Ian Murray MP for his victory.

We won seats back from the SNP and Liberal Democrats.

Glasgow East – and let us applaud the absolute determination and relentless campaigning of Margaret Curran MP.

And Dunfermline and West Fife – let us congratulate Thomas Docherty MP for taking that seat back.

We increased our majority in once marginal seats.

Like East Renfrewshire which has gone from being the safest Tory seat in Scotland to a seat where Labour wins half the vote because of our brilliant former Scottish Secretary, now the Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy.

And let me also say that I will be supporting the Scottish election campaign with Jim’s excellent successor – a woman with grit and determination, Ann McKechin.

In fact, we have a record number of women in the Shadow Cabinet.

And I can tell this Conference I won’t rest until we have true gender equality in our party.

And let me pay tribute to the best fighter for gender equality and equality in every sense that our party has – our fantastic deputy leader Harriet Harman.

Let me also thank our formidable Scottish General Secretary, Colin Smyth and his team for the work they do and the dedication they show.

And I want to acknowledge the excellent work of our councillors all across this country.

We must make sure that as well as winning the Scottish elections in 2011, we also win back control of councils across Scotland in 2012.

Coming back to Scotland reminds me of the many occasions I have come here with the person I worked with for a number of years – Gordon Brown.

He taught me many things about Scotland and about politics.

It was my privilege to work with him to help win those first Scottish Parliament elections.

He has an incredible legacy: he improved the lives of millions of people here and around the world.

I am proud to call him my friend. We should pay tribute today to Gordon Brown for his leadership of our party and our country.

I remember visiting Gordon at his home in Fife and looking over the River Forth where my father served in the Royal Navy during the war.

Along with my mum, he came as a refugee from the Nazis and built a life here.

It was his values – it is my mum’s values – that explain why I am standing on this stage today.

They taught me some basic principles: most of all, a sense of optimism that politics, that people can change our society and be a force for good.

Fundamentally this is an optimism about people acting together, and their ability to change the society in which we live.

The belief that injustice, unfairness, inequality are not immovable facts.

Our world can be what we make of it not simply what we inherit.

That is what I was taught as I grew up.

That is my family’s experience; that is their story.

That too is our story as a labour movement.

It is a story that echoes down the ages.

Keir Hardie believed that getting representation for workers in Parliament could make a difference to the lives of working people.

And it did.

Clement Attlee in the economic ruins of the Second World War had the optimism to believe that we could build a National Health Service.

And he did.

And this month, we mark the 10th anniversary of the death of someone who fought long and hard for a Scottish Parliament, for a voice for the people of Scotland within the United Kingdom, and had the vision to believe it was possible.

And it was.

The man to whom the Scottish Parliament is a living memorial – Donald Dewar.

What ties together all of these struggles is a belief in human progress: that the forces of optimism can defeat the forces of pessimism that would say things cannot change.

What is the nature of this optimism?

It is about acting together so that we can change the world.

But it is about more than that.

It is about a view of human nature which says that we do care about ourselves and our families, but we also recognise that the interests of each of us is served by the flourishing of all of us.

And that politics at its best can unlock new possibilities for our world.

And what about those forces of pessimism?

They tell us that a belief that our world can change is a flight of fancy: unfairness, inequality are facts of life.

That people are best left on their own, and that government is normally the problem not the solution.

And the best thing politics can do, they say is get out of the way.

I’m afraid that is today’s Conservative Pa rty. That is David Cameron.

The fundamental difference between the optimists and the pessimists is that they believe that the greatness of a country lies merely in individual acts.

Whereas we understand that greatness lies in what we achieve as individuals and what we achieve together.

Each generation is called to this fight.

And so as we think about how we rebuild as a party after what was a bad general election defeat, let us be true to who we are.

What is the character of the party I intend to lead?

Let it be true to our values of fairness, prosperity, aspiration and justice – the values that brought me into this party – and you.

As Donald Dewar said of John Smith: “He knew politics was the art of the possible, but on the great principles he would not give ground.”

Let us understand the reasons we lost power across the United Kingdom and show humility: because we lost touch and because people lost a sense of what we st ood for and whose side we were on.

Let us always remember that we had great leaders who held power but too many great leaders who never did: there is no role for this party as one of protest; we must be a party of government again.

Let us ensure that the new generation embraces and responds to the new issues that people face in their lives: from aging to immigration to climate change.

And let us be a movement not a fan club: debating issues, reaching out to the community beyond our own party, linked to the trade unions and all of civil society and above all, a party that people want to join because of our ideals.

In this way, let us fight for optimism in our time.

This task starts with our economy and the financial crisis and the lessons we draw from it.

The pessimists want to tell you that the problem of the financial crisis was government.

That somehow a crisis that began with financial markets out of control should be seen as a cris is of government’s making.

That is why they have spent the last five months telling you that all the problems we now face are Labour’s fault.

Conference, we must stand up for the truth.

We know the story and we must tell it like it is.

There was a global financial crisis affecting every country and every country is having to cope with the consequences.

Remember, our government paid down the debt before the crisis hit.

At the same time we were investing in the schools, the hospitals, the infrastructure which had suffered chronic under-investment under the previous Conservative government.

I remember it – I went to school in the 1980s.

Conference, we didn’t just fix the roof, we built the schools.

And we didn’t just cut the waiting lists, we built the hospitals.

And we didn’t just do it when the sun was shining either, we did it all year round.

My partner is due to have our second child… any minute now actually.

She will do so in a brand new NHS hospital.

It was us, the optimists, that won the argument for the investment in that hospital and made it possible.

Conference, we should all be proud of this record and we should stand up for it – because it made Britain stronger and fairer.

But why did the deficit go up so much?

Not because of this investment.

But because we lost 6% of our economy due to the global financial crisis.

Because Alistair and Gordon used the power of government to stop recession becoming depression and stopped people losing their jobs, homes and savings.

That’s why the deficit rose and we should fight back against the Tory deceit.

The pessimists are trying to rewrite history.

Why? Because they don’t believe in the role of government.

They’re hoping that if they win the argument about the past, they can win the argument about the future.

What is our responsibility as the optimists?

To learn the right lessons of history.

That markets unchecked and unfettered in finance can spiral out of control and must instead be regulated.

That we can’t have an economy based on one type of industry. We need to lead in all of the industries of tomorrow – from bio-tech to creative industries to green manufacturing.

And we must learn the lesson that a more unequal economy is a more unstable economy.

If we don’t properly reward lower and middle-income families, they will rely on ever-increasing personal debt.

And if those at the top feel there are one-way bets worth millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of pounds, they will gamble without responsibility.

We should never let that happen again and have ordinary families paying the price.

The flaw in their plan is this, if we reduce our economic policy simply to deficit reduction, we will not build the strong economy of the future.

Of course we need to reduce the deficit.

Everybody in this room agrees about that and we would have halved it over four years if we had been in government.

We would have made some tough decisions and no doubt some unpopular ones too.

But I have to tell you this: I believe they’ve got it wrong in the pace and scale of deficit reduction.

They’ve got it wrong because they have no plan for jobs and growth.

And they have no plan for fairness either.

Their cuts will mean half a million jobs lost in the public sector over the coming years.

A similar number in the private sector.

One million jobs lost—that’s their plan.

And how will they replace them? By hoping that things turn out OK and that the private sector fills the gap.

The Tories say we want recession or indeed that we are predicting it.

We’re not and it’s nonsense for them to pretend we are.

But there’s no plan to make growth happen and n o plan if things go wrong.

And what do they offer those people who have lost their jobs?

They say wait and see, fingers crossed.

We remember Conference the effects of unemployment which scarred communities for generations here in Scotland and all over the UK.

We have a fundamentally different view about what our economy can achieve for people and how to make it so.

We need to reform our financial system.

We need to invest in the industries of the future. We need to use the power of govt procurement to promote British businesses and we need to provide people with the skills they need.

And we say unemployment is never a price worth paying.

We say never again.

And we have a different view about society as well.

The Tories used to say that there’s no such thing as society

Now they claim they’ve wised up… now they offer something you may have heard of… the big society.

They praise the special cons table, the parent/teacher council, the tenants association, the local charity.

They say they want more of it.

But Conference, what does it really amount to?

They think if government gets out of the way, the big society will miraculously spring up.

They fail to learn the lessons of history.

Today we have more voluntary organisations than ever before in Britain; more people working in the sector than ever before; and the sector’s income is double what it was when we came to office.

Not because government got out of the way but because it supported and encouraged this important part of civil society.

I saw as minister for charities the amazing work that is being done by the voluntary sector but it was based on a vital partnership between the state and citizens.

And what happens now when budgets are being so savagely cut?

When the local day centre closes, it destroys the services on which elderly people depend.

When the local library reduces its hours, it destroys the place at which people come together.

And when people are worried sick about losing the roof over their head and moving their children to another school, how they can be active in the parent/teacher council?

And do you know what has been revealed about this government since the Spending review last week:

It’s not just economically wrong,

It’s not just unfair,

It is grossly incompetent.

And we all know it is families and children who will pay the price.

They announced a child benefit policy which is unfair and now apparently unworkable.

It’s a complete shambles.

Next came a Housing Benefit policy that their own Mayor of London detests.

Why is it fair for someone who has been doing the right thing… who’s been looking for work for a year… to lose 10% of the help with their rent?

Don’t they get it? If you drive up homelessness, families end up in bed and breakfasts, and that costs more.

Why are they showing this incompetence?

Because of ideology – they came into politics to make these cuts;

Because they’re out of touch – they don’t understand the lives and experiences of ordinary people;

And because they’ve made bad decisions in haste and stubbornly refuse to change.

A week from Tuesday we will force a vote in the House of Commons on Housing Benefit.

Our appeal is to all MPs of conscience:

Join us, vote against these unfair and unworkable changes and force the government to think again.

And there will be no better person to lead our attack than my friend of nearly 20 years, someone who really did come into politics to help the poorest in society, our Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Douglas Alexander.

The big society is one big figleaf for an old pessimistic idea: that people do better on their own.

The optimists have a different view of society and the state.

We know – and this is a hard lesson – that government can be overbearing. We know the importance, particularly in the years ahead, of getting more for the money the state spends.

But we also know that the right and the best kind of government can support people to take control of their own lives.

When I visited the Wellhouse project in Easterhouse with Margaret Curran, I saw the difference that it was making to people: improving the health of young and old people, helping tenants have a real say in housing decisions and a fantastic community centre.

We understand that the good children’s centre enables families to go out to work and form bonds with others.

Good neighbourhood policing provides the reassurance and the security that is the foundation for communities to thrive.

And many of the best voluntary organisations have a mix of paid staff and volunteers.

Ours is a view about the good society where we support each other.

Let me tell you also what we understand: the good society depends on the fair economy.

If you are holding down two jobs, working fourteen hour days, worrying about childcare, anxious about elderly relatives, how can you find the time for anything else?

That’s why we need an economy which lifts people out of poverty and supports not just a minimum wage but a decent living wage.

Until we address the conditions that mean that people’s lives are dominated by long hours, then the big society will always remain a fiction.

And I tell you this also: we know the divided society cannot be the good society.

We know that from the 1980s: the last big experiment in the retreat of government.

We know that every major city across the country lost out: economically weakened, socially divided and here in Scotland it took almost twenty years to fully recover.

Two decades on, we know that economic regeneration and social improvement have happened together.

And we know the dangers of going backwards.

Mr Cameron by your deeds not your words shall we know you.

There’s no point in saying you believe in the big society, if by your actions you undermine and weaken the very fabric of our communities.

But let us be the party who always stand for giving our citizens greater control over their own lives

And what greater example is there of us giving people more control than devolution.

The Scottish Parliament is one of our proudest achievements.

When Scottish Labour led the government, it pioneered historic firsts:

Free bus travel for the elderly;

Land reform;

The smoking ban.

And again at these elections ahead of us in May, as Iain will set out tomorrow, it will be Scottish Labour leading the way.

Let me say something about Iain’s leadership.

He learnt the lessons of why we lost power in Scotland.

He’s shown how to reconnect with people’s lives and hopes.

He has shown that values must drive everything we do.

That is why his campaigns on school standards, safer streets and apprenticeships speak to who we are and who we represent.

And what is the alternative?

If there is one lesson that the economic crisis teaches us, it is that we are stronger together and weaker apart.

The collective resources of Britain, the tens of billions of pounds that we invested to protect people’s savings and homes was only possible because we are one United Kingdom.

Where would each of us have been on our own? Scotland, Wales, England, Northern Ireland.

Let’s face it: across the world, the debate has changed since the financial crisis.

And who is left behind? The Scottish National Party.

As problems become more global, the solutions need to be global too.

As the climate change secretary, I saw the impact that Britain could have when we worked together.

We may be 2% of global emissions but we punch above our weight.

Does anyone really think any one of us would have more influence on the climate change debate if we went our separate ways?

Narrow nationalism has nothing to offer the challenges of the 21st century.

While we’re fighting for jobs and hope, they are fighting to break up Britain.

They claim that an independence referendum is a referendum on jobs.

Let us make next May’s election a referendum on the job they have done for the people of Scotland.

Never has a party promised so much and delivered so little…

Like their broken promises on class sizes, student debt and support for first time buyers.

They have let down the people of Scotland. And Scotland deserves better.

And what about the Lib Dems?

What did they used to say?

The progressive alternative to Labour.

It has taken Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander just five short months to undermine 150 years of the Liberal tradition.

Remember what they said: Vote for us to keep the Tories out.

Have they no shame?

Now they have become the cheerleaders for the worst things the Tory government does.

The VAT rise? Send out a Lib Dem.

Child benefit cut? Put up a Lib Dem.

Housing benefit slashed? Get me a Lib Dem.

No wonder Nick Clegg is choosing his desert island discs.

And let’s make sure that coming soon to an election near you is a new hit series:

I’m a Liberal Democrat, get me out of here.

And as they face the prospect of electoral meltdown, what do they do?

They try to rig our electoral boundaries.

Get this, the government that claims to care about localism is now saying local identity doesn’t matter when it comes to boundaries – unless you happen to be Charles Kennedy whose constituency gets a special opt-out.

We all care about endangered species in the Highlands and Islands, but we draw the line at Lib Dems.

Talking about endangered species, what about the Scottish Tories. What about them?

So we are the optimists, we are the only credible alternative to the pessimists who would damage our economy and divide our society.

But this election won’t be won simply by Iain, myself and other MP and MSP colleagues.

Everything we know from our history tells us that it is people that change the world.

This will be a doorstep election, won or lost by us.

It is the hard graft, the dedication, the hours we put in that will decide this election.

It is our chance to show we are back on people’s side – optimists with the right values to change our country.

This election is critical to the people of Scotland.

Four more years of broken SNP promises or a new start under Iain Gray.

And it is a vital moment in Labour’s rebuilding across the United Kingdom.

Britain cannot afford this to be anything other than a one-term coalition.

So let the message go out.

We are ready to take our case to the people of Scotland.

We are ready to take on the pessimists.

There is an alternative.

Based on our values – an optimistic future for Scotland.

Labour’s fight back has begun.

We are ready for the fight.

Let’s fight for the people we came into politics to serve

Let’s stand up for Scotland.

Let’s fight to win.

Thank you.

Ed Miliband – 2010 Speech to CBI


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, to the 2010 CBI Conference.

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to address the CBI Annual Conference as Leader of the Labour party.

I want to pay tribute to the work that the CBI does as the voice of British business and I want to pay particular tribute to Richard Lambert.

He has been an outstanding advocate on many issues for progressive business sense.

As befits a party that lost the election only five months ago and a leader beginning his fifth week in charge, I am not here to give you my manifesto for 2015, but to set out our direction for the future, and begin the process of engagement we need with you, the wealth creators and entrepreneurs of Britain.

New Labour’s insight in the 1990s was to recognise that we needed to be a party that understood wealth creation as well as its distribution, that we needed to be for economic prosperity as well as social justice and that solving our society’s problems could not be done without a partnership between government and business.

With Alan Johnson as Shadow Chancellor, John Denham as the Shadow Business Secretary and Douglas Alexander as the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, we intend to carry forward all of these New Labour insights.

Enterprise and job creation are fundamental to the good economy and good society and I will lead a party that understands that at its core.

The argument I want to make today is that because the world has changed so much since the 1990s and because we need to learn lessons from success and failure, what it means to be pro-business in the 2010s is different to what it meant back then.

The result of the financial crisis is that we have a deficit we need to cut, but the lessons are much deeper.

In tackling the deficit, we need to recognise the fundamental weaknesses in our economy that led to it and which we need to put right if we are to have a stronger economic future.

Let me start with the deficit.

I want to be clear: if we had won power in May, there would have been cuts.

We will therefore be selective about the cuts we will oppose and will support.

On welfare, we have said that we will work with the government on reforms to Disability Living Allowance, sickness benefits and other areas where there is genuine reform.

We will support reforms which bring greater value for money.

Now, this audience will know that we have a difference with the government on the pace and scale of deficit reduction. We do believe that a four year timetable for halving the deficit would be a better approach.

And, I do fear that the path the government is pursuing is a gamble with growth and jobs.

They have a programme which will lead to the disappearance of a million private and public sector jobs but no credible plan to replace them.

And their refusal to accept that a deficit reduction plan has to be sensitive to changing economic circumstances needlessly makes the British economy a hostage to fortune.

Time will tell whether they turn out to be right.

But my wider point is this – we don’t just need to pay down the deficit in a way that ensures growth now: we need to understand the causes of the high deficit and the deeper lessons about our economy to prevent a recurrence of the financial crash and build a strong economy for the future.

There is a view that the deficit arose solely because of spending choices made in the last decade.

In fact, the deficit was 2.4% of national income in 2007/8, broadly the same level as public sector capital investment.

It was what happened next that led to led to a deficit of over 10%: a combination of the loss of 6% of our national income, and the tax receipts that went with them; the consequent rise in benefit spending; and the discretionary decisions to stabilise the economy.

Not everything the last government did was right, but if we misread history we will fail to tackle the big structural issues we face in our economy.

There are important lessons to be learned about why the deficit went up so significantly and we need a wider plan for our economy which understands these deeper lessons.

Without profound change in the way we manage our economy, we are at risk of at best, sleepwalking back to an economy riddled with the same risks as we saw before the recession hit.

First, a new system of financial regulation which avoids a repeat of the crash and creates a banking system that works better in the interests of our economy.

Second, a new approach to industrial policy so we have a more balanced economy.

And third, we need to do more to create an economy which by supporting everyone to make a decent living, whether in employment or a by starting a small business, creates a more stable platform of economic growth.

First, on financial regulation.

British political debate in the last thirty years has been dominated by debate about the dangers of excessive regulation.

Government should always be vigilant about the substance and implementation of regulation.

But as is now widely recognised, the financial crisis revealed the real dangers of the opposite.

If government fails to play its proper role, businesses suffer.

The financial services industry in Britain is a major employer and it is important that it remains strong.

But over time, support for financial services led to competitive deregulation as countries sought to extract comparative advantage.

We need policy-makers and regulators who recognise that we need stronger rules but also that we need a culture that balances the need to support financial services with the need to protect our wider economy.

And, change shouldn’t just be about reducing risk but also about increasing opportunity.

We must also use this moment to tackle the historic problem that we have long faced in the British economy: our financial services industry is a great employer but does not do enough to support small business and industry.

As Richard Lambert said in a speech earlier this month: “One constant complaint I hear from SMEs around the country is that decisions which affect their business are not being taken by people who know anything about it. Instead, they are referred up to the centre, where loan requests are decided against a set of box-ticking benchmarks.”

This has been a decades-long problem and business as usual will not tackle it.

That is why I hope the banking commission and indeed the government looks radically at the structure of the banking system but also at the case for new models of ownership in the banking sector.

Both Richard and Paul Myners have suggested the case for greater public involvement in helping to finance the small business sector, for example through a new small business bank, like the ICFC created after the Second World War.

Others have made the case for mutuals and for public/private structures of banking ownership, as we make decisions about the stakes we have in the banks.

All of these issues should be on the table if we are to get the banking system our economy needs.

Secondly, we should learn the lessons of the financial crisis: that we need to more fundamentally reform our economy if we are to broaden our economic base.

The truth is that over time, Britain became over-reliant on the financial services sector – for jobs and for tax revenues. Financial services became the goose that laid the golden egg.

This is why, in part, the deficit went up so much in the UK after the financial crash happened.

Until late in its time in office, I believe our government did not do enough to support other sorts of industry in this country.

Scarred by the failed exercise in picking winners decades ago, government has been too afraid to support the industries of the future.

Under governments of both parties, we let other countries steal a march on us and I fear the same may happen again: from creative industries to green manufacturing to bio-sciences.

Despite all the talent in engineering and work in our universities, I fear Britain still suffers from an anti-manufacturing bias.

The way to support British businesses who want to lead in the industries of the future isn’t for government to do nothing.

Government action can make a difference, and government inaction can make life harder.

Where do we need to do better?

In finance as I have already said.

As Energy Secretary, I was constantly struck by the risk aversion in relation to new green industries compared to say, construction.

And in the absence of commercial finance, sometimes government needs to step in.

For example, the decision to withdraw support from Sheffield Forgemasters risks our traditional problem: bought by Britain, made elsewhere.

We need to do better in public procurement, where we do not yet do enough to get bang for our buck when it comes to supporting British business.

We need support for infrastructure that provides a platform for new industries, from ports for the wind industry to broadband and high speed rail.

And we need to make sure we have the right skills base, growing the pool of talent in Britain which can attract new industries.

All too often, British success is undermined by one or more missing elements. Too often poor public policy or a lack of action leads to failure.

As an opposition, a focus on the future sources of prosperity and growth will be at the heart of our policy review.

Nobody should pretend these are easy questions to answer but we must not ignore them and continue with business as usual.

Third, we must address a deeper and perhaps the most challenging lesson of the financial crisis.

We went into it with an economy in which rising living standards for too many lower and middle income families, depended on high levels of personal debt and rising asset prices.

Why was this?

We were successful as an economy at creating jobs but not good enough at creating and sustaining well-paying, high productivity jobs.

Indeed globalisation – trade and immigration – had the effect of squeezing out middle-income jobs, and holding down wages in a number of sectors in our economy.

And while for individual companies, this had benefits, for too many families they had no option but to take on higher levels of debt to sustain their standards of living.

In the world after the credit crunch, this is not a credible route to sustaining higher living standards or overall demand in our economy.

So the long-term task we face is to move towards an economy in which good quality jobs attract rising salaries, alongside rising productivity, both for the good of those families and the prosperity of our economy.

This requires the kind of broader industrial base I talked about earlier, but it also requires a shift away from Britain’s competitive advantage being in low paid, low skilled jobs.

As the last government and many of you have rightly said, this depends on having a better skilled and higher productivity workforce.

Government must play a role in this: sometimes through direct support for training, but that does not always make it happen.

We therefore need to find new ways of rewarding those employers who invest in their workforce.

So I have suggested, for example, tax cuts for those employers who pay the living wage as an incentive to develop the skills of the people who work for them.

We also need to do more to support people and local communities to take control of their own economic future.

That means much greater emphasis on small business.

There have been and still are too few in British politics who speak up for small business.

The change Tony Blair brought to our party rightly made us more open to the business community, but we have not yet done enough to understand the real importance of small business as a way of liberating individuals and creating the economy we need.

I want our party to stand up for small business and entrepreneurs.

And I look forward to working with you to help create this high wage high productivity economy in Britain.

Our country faces some big choices in the months and years ahead.

We can accept an analysis that nothing matters bar deficit reduction.

But I fear that is a gamble with growth and jobs.

Even more importantly, it does not address the deeper risks and flaws in our economy.

To think this is the best we can hope for is a deeply pessimistic view.

I believe we need to take a different and more optimistic approach – an approach that sees deficit reduction as a start not an end and is willing to learn the profound lessons of the crisis.

My view is that it is only this that truly serves the interests of British business.

It is only this that will insulate business from the risks that are part and parcel of the financial services industry.

It is only this that will actively support the creation of British industries that can lead in the global economy of tomorrow.

It is only this that can combine fairness, prosperity and economic stability.

That is what I believe it means to be pro-business in the wake of the financial crisis.

It is the pro-business approach I will adopt.

I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead.

Thank you.

Ed Miliband – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference (II)


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Miliband, the then Energy Secretary, to Labour Party conference on 28th September 2009.

Yesterday, I set out why our manifesto needs to be bold. Today I want to talk about what that means for energy and climate change.

Sometimes we think about climate change as a theoretical prospect for the future. It isn’t, it is a reality today.

Earlier this month with Douglas Alexander I visited some of the 2 million people in Bangladesh that live on sandbanks or chars. Their homes were swept away by floods in 2007.

In the village I visited all but four of them were destroyed.

They are at the frontline of the disaster of climate change and that is why it is essential we get a global deal in Copenhagen.

It’s not just in Bangladesh. In 2007, in my constituency, in Toll Bar , there were people canoeing up and down the high street rescuing their neighbours from first floor windows as the waters rose.

I can’t tell you definitively that this was caused by climate change but what I do know is that the floods will be more frequent, the droughts more severe, the heatwaves more deadly unless we have the boldness to act.

So this Labour government has acted.

That’s why we’re one of the few countries to exceed our Kyoto targets.

And we have stepped up the pace.

The first country to have a legally binding plan to do what the science tells us we need: an 80% reduction in carbon emissions.

Now the world leader in offshore wind generation.

A plan for a house by house, street by street refurbishment of British homes.

A commitment to cut our emissions by a third by 2020,

And a transition plan for Britain for how all this can happen.

It’s true at national level and locally too.

I want to pay tribute to Labour councils leading the way on climate change.

Councils like Manchester which have signed up to the 10:10 campaign, along with businesses and individuals, cutting their emissions by 10% next year.

And working with Jeremy Beecham of the LGA, we will work to ensure all Labour councils and Labour groups will follow their lead.

And it’s to support great councils like Manchester that we are announcing a £10m green neighbourhoods programme today so that twenty areas round Britain can be pioneers for green technology.

And I’ve learnt something over the last year.

It came home to me when I was talking about the threat of climate change to a Labour party member.

He was listening to me talking about the dangers of climate change and said.

‘Ed, Martin Luther King didn’t say ‘ I have a nightmare’ .

He said ‘I have a dream’

That’s not just an argument about how you persuade people

That Labour party member was saying that in tackling climate change, let’s not simply set out to avoid calamity;

Let’s make the transition to low carbon part of our vision of a different kind of country: more prosperous, more secure and fair.

And fundamentally, we are the people to deliver on this vision because of the society we believe in because we understand the role of government and markets.

Markets on their own don’t put a price on carbon

Markets on their own won’t ensure low carbon jobs come to Britain

Markets on their own won’t ensure fairness

That’s why we’ve put an end to a markets-only energy policy.

Take jobs and employment.

We know the world is going to move to low carbon. We know there will be jobs.

The question is where they will be?

Take coal. There is no solution to climate change without a solution for coal.

There is a way forward: carbon capture and storage, which traps 90% of CO2 emissions.

It will be a multi-billion pound industry of the future and could create 30,000-60,000 jobs in this country.

But the idea has been around for ages.

The market won’t deliver on its own.

So government needs to act. And this Labour government is acting.

That’s why in the coming session of parliament, we are proposing to raise billions of pounds to invest in clean coal technology.

And so companies can’t just stick with dirty coal, alongside this investment we are proposing tough environmental conditions for new coal.

It’s our approach which says coal can be a fuel of the future, not just a fuel of the past.

Jobs in coal, jobs in nuclear too.

I didn’t grow up in a pro-nuclear family and I understand the strong feelings  about nuclear power in some parts of our party.

But in my view the challenge of climate change is too big to reject nuclear.

That’s why this government ended the moratorium on nuclear, that’s why we’re right to reform planning laws including for nuclear power and press ahead with plans for new nuclear power.

The trinity of clean power is clean coal, nuclear and renewables.

At the core of renewable energy is wind power.

Last week I announced additional funding for offshore wind and now Clipper Wind power are developing the largest offshore wind blades in the world, larger than a jumbo jet, in the North east of England.

And today I am announcing a further £20m to support research and development in low carbon industries, including in renewables, marine, tidal and wind.

But we need to tell the country, all the funding in the world won’t make us a centre for wind manufacturing if Tory local councils around the country stop wind farms being built.

Sixty percent of wind turbine applications are turned down by Tory Councils.

And doesn’t this highlight a broader truth and reflect the difference between ourselves and our opponents.

If you think we need wind power, the Tories wouldn’t build it.

If you think we need nuclear power, the Liberals wouldn’t build it.

If you think we need clean coal, the Greens, if they have ever had any power,  wouldn’t build it.

The truth is we need all the low carbon energy sources.

All of the other parties would put our green energy security at risk, because they would all say no.

So we’re right for the climate, for jobs and for energy security too.

Because what we know also is that when around two thirds of the world’s gas reserves are in Russia and the Middle East, home-grown energy is the way we stop ourselves being ever more dependent on imports.

Our UK transition plan will mean 40% low carbon energy by 2020, saving us a supertanker of imported gas every four days.

Low carbon energy is also home-grown energy.

Jobs and energy security are the benefits of the low carbon transition.

But we know also, that there are costs too.

Our values mean we are determined to ensure British people, and in particular the poor and the elderly, are protected from the costs that we all know will come as we deal with climate change.

That’s why last year government programmes helped insulate one and a half million families.

It’s why a home gets insulated under warmfront every six minutes.

My view is simple: as we face higher energy bills, we need tougher regulation to protect vulnerable consumers.

That’s why we are legislating to be absolutely clear: the regulator cannot rely on markets alone either to protect consumers or to protect the environment.

It was just wrong that people off the gas grid were charged unfairly for electricity. It was wrong and it has been stopped.

It is wrong if people on pre-payment meters were ripped off. So from this month, the licence conditions for energy companies have changed to stop it happening.

And it’s just wrong that the energy companies can bamboozle the most vulnerable customers and don’t provide clear explanations of what the best tariff is. It’s wrong. It will end. And under this Labour government it will.

And it’s also wrong that social tariffs, reduced rates for the poorest in society, are voluntary and that’s why we are introducing a new compulsory system where the energy companies must provide guaranteed support.

So for us being green is about being bold on jobs and fairness and the environment.

And what about the Tories?

David Cameron is good at green stunts.

The huskies.

The bike – with the car and driver following behind.

The wind turbine on the roof.

But I tell you this.

It’s not green to put a wind turbine on your roof when time after time, wind farm applications are turned down by Tory councils, and then refuse to reform the planning laws.

It’s not green to ride your bike to the House of Commons to vote against investment in green industries this year and next which will create the jobs of the future.

It’s not green to visit the Arctic circle, but when you’re in Europe, pal around on the with climate change deniers as  part of your fringe grouping in European Parliament.

For David Cameron, green politics was a way to try and decontaminate his brand.

Other parties will give you green stunts, empty green promises, we’ll give you real, grown-up, green politics.

Labour are the real greens in British politics today.

We know that the stakes are high. It needs substance not stunts.

And nowhere does it need substance more than internationally.

We heard from the Prime Ministers of Spain and Norway what they are doing alongside the UK to get a deal at Copenhagen.

And I can tell you today that the UK will host the next stage of climate talks in London next month. The Major Economies Forum meeting will be a chance for us to push for more progress, where the 17 countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions can work towards getting a deal in Copenhagen.

There are 70 days left to the Copenhagen summit.

The point of Copenhagen is to do what has never been done before: get all countries to play their part in tackling global warming.

Why is it so important that we succeed now? Because the science becomes ever-more urgent, and if the world fails now, when will we get the chance to act again?

But in truth, Copenhagen is in peril.

Pressures all around the world are making it increasingly hard to succeed.

The world needs leadership and that is why it is so important that the Prime Minister has said he will go to Copenhagen.

But we also need you.

So be part of the campaigns around Copenhagen, be part of our Labour party campaign.

This is the lesson of history.

Look at the great advances of the past:

– Rights for people at work

– Equal rights for women

– Equality for gays and lesbians

All of them took progressive government, but none could happen without progressive forces in society.

What makes change happen is popular pressure.

We know that change doesn’t just happen because politicians will it to happen

It happens because people demand it happens

People who believe that change can happen.

People who know that defeatism never won a single progressive advance.

The people who make change happen are people who are optimists and idealists

People who believe that we can safeguard the world for future generations:

– We are those people

– We are the idealists

– We are the optimists

We are the people who can make the world a greener, a fairer place.

Let’s go and do it.

Ed Miliband – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Miliband, the then Energy Secretary, to the 2009 Labour Party conference.

Conference, let’s be honest.

It’s been a hard year to be a Labour party member,

A hard year for our party,

A hard year too for anyone associated with politics,

And it’s been a hard year most of all in our communities as some people have lost their jobs.

The test for us is as it has always been – whether we can triumph over adversity.

A year ago when we met, we faced an unprecedented economic crisis. Many said we were in for another Great Depression, a repeat of the 1930s.

Why didn’t that happen?

Because one person, more than any other, understood the need to be bold:

– he didn’t stand by,

– he didn’t stick with business as usual,

– he stood up to save the jobs, the homes and the hard-earned savings of the hardworking men and women of Britain.

That man is our Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown and we are proud of what he has done at home and around the world.

Conference, we know we are in for tough times on public spending in the years ahead. We know that we will have to be even more rigorous on priorities, efficiency and value for money.

But we know also that Gordon and Alistair were right a year ago to take action, and they are right now to keep spending until recovery is established.

And the Tories were wrong a year ago, they are wrong now, and they will be wrong at the coming General Election to say that before the recovery is established, now is the time to cut public spending.

Make no mistake, and let’s go out and tell the country, recovery, and the Tory risk to recovery will be on the ballot at the next general election.

But our argument at the coming election will be about so much more than that.

Today I want to set out the argument that will inform our manifesto.

And in the coming days my colleagues will set out policy announcements, and on Thursday we will publish our conference document which will feed into the National Policy Forum process.

My central argument is that the events that have made politics so difficult over the last year will not go away: they will shape the next five years.

The implications of the economic crisis, the political crisis caused by expenses and indeed the climate crisis.

Against, this backdrop, business as usual just won’t do.

If we are to create the more prosperous, fairer, greener more democratic Britain we believe in we need to be bold in our manifesto and we will be.

The economy of the future must be different from the past.

What do I say to the kid in my constituency, whose parents are struggling to make ends meet, and he sees people walk off with millions of pounds in bonuses, not for creating wealth in this country but destroying it?

I can’t tell him that’s an economy based on people getting their just deserts.

Being bold means facing up to the fact that irresponsible bonuses don’t just distort our economy, they corrode our society too.

We will reform bonuses, raise the living standards of people like his parents and reform our financial institutions so they properly serve the interests of middle and lower income families.

What do I tell him when he looks around him and asks, “What job am I going to do in the future?”

Being bold means understanding that for him, and for young people in this country, we can’t build prosperity on financial services alone.

That’s why even in tough times, we need to, as we are doing, invest in the industries of the future – like green manufacturing.

And what do we say to his parents, and millions of other people in this country who are worried about their job but also worry about many other things in life too: family time, safety on our streets, caring – all things that make life worth living.

Being bold means doing more in the next Parliament to give parents more time with their kids and our parents’ more dignity in old age.

Anyone who’s been through the anxiety of care for an elderly relative knows our system has to change. That’s why Andy Burnham set out a range of choices of individual and government contributions to reform our system.

Conference, by the time of the manifesto we must complete this process so that we can move, once and for all, from an unfair postcode lottery to a new national service for care in this country.

So we will be bold through the recession and after and we will be bold on politics too.

Conference, one of the most depressing things going out on the doorstep is when people of 30,40, 50 years old tell you that they’ve never voted before. One woman said to me recently, “voting, I don’t do that.”

In those circumstances, business as usual won’t do.

Bold reform starts with MPs’ expenses but it doesn’t end there

We need to make MPs more accountable

It means changing the way Parliament works so we have a system that reflects the 21st century not the 19th  – and that must mean a clear manifesto mandate on democratic House of Lords reform.

And we must debate all the other big issues in relation to our democracy, and we must be the reformers in British politics today.

Boldness in economics and politics and on climate change too.

The single most important lesson that I have learned is that climate change is no longer just an environmental issue.

It’s about how we get our energy, what job your kids are going to do and how we travel around.

And business as usual won’t do here either.

Business as usual says we wait for others to act before we do anything. It’s because we’re bold that we are the first country in the world with a sector by sector Transition Plan to show how we meet our commitments to 2020.

Business as usual gives a veto to the minority who say no nuclear, no wind power, and no clean coal either.

But being bold means reforming the planning system as we are the only party committed to do, and the Tories have refused to do, and standing up in the face of the minority who would say “no” to every form of low-carbon energy.

Business as usual says climate or fairness but not both.

Being bold means being open about the fact that there are costs to the transition to low-carbon, but making sure that the most vulnerable are not ripped off by the energy companies – including those on pre-payment meters.

Boldness in climate, politics and the economy. But to do it we need to reform the state and government too.

It’s the people like us who believe in the role of government who must be its most determined reformers.

Markets need our values, but the state needs them as well.

In the 21st century, public services must be more accountable to the people who use them.

Because of the improvements in our public services, we can offer to people in our manifesto guarantees that were impossible in 1997.

For example, a guarantee that all schools will be a good school.

Sometimes this requires things to change.

For three years I went into a local school and I knew the kids were being failed by the system.

Now because of the changes made by Ed Balls, it’s under new management by another school, and it is starting to be transformed by a change in leadership.

And if it happens to that school why not others: so our manifesto will be one which enables the most talented in the public sector to do more, not less.

That’s what our manifesto is going to be about.

And here’s the difference with our opponents: we want to reform public services because we believe in them and we want maximum quality and value for money.

The Tories’ only vision for the good society is to cut public services.

They would make the wrong choices with scarce resources because they believe in protecting the interests of a different set of people.

And they say they want to spend billions on inheritance tax cuts of £200,000 a throw for the richest estates in Britain

And yet at the same time they say they because of the deficit, they have to cut tax credits for ordinary working people.

What kind of choice of priorities is that?

And they have a completely different view of public services as well.

A Tory council has even given it a name: the Ryanair model of public services:

– lots and lots of queuing and waiting,

– a bare minimum service for the many while the few get to pay their way.

That’s the choice we’ve got to lay before people:

The Ryanair model may be an okay way to run an airline but it is no way to run a hospital, a care home, or any of our public services.

– The 18-week waiting list guarantee – gone under a Tory government;

– The 2-week cancer referral guarantee – gone under a Tory government.

– The guarantee that you can see a GP at the evening or weekends– gone under a Tory government;

So let’s be clear: the Tories would sell Middle Britain down the river, on health, on education, just like they did the last time they had power.

I grew up in the 1980s: an NHS where people died waiting more than a year for an operation, children even in affluent areas taught in Portakabins, our great towns and cities forgotten, a country divided between north and south and rich and poor.

Everyone in this hall knows we can’t go back.

Millions in the country know: we cannot go back.

Everyone in this hall knows and millions in the country know: that was broken Britain.

So don’t let anyone tell you there aren’t big choices at this election.

It’s not a choice between who’s going to be a better manager of the system, it’s about two fundamentally different visions of Britain.

It’s not change versus the status quo, it’s what kind of change you want.

David Cameron used to say ‘let sunshine win the day’. Now what he offers is austerity Britain, pessimistic about Britain today and pessimistic about what can be achieved.

We are the optimists in British politics today.

We are the people who say, despite tough times, we can create a more prosperous, fairer, greener and more democratic Britain.

We won’t  do it with a manifesto for business as usual.

We won’t do it with a manifesto for safety first.

The way we will win is with boldness.

Ed Miliband – 2009 Speech to Students at Peking University


Below is the text of the speech which was made by Ed Miliband at Peking University in China on 4th May 2009.

Thank you for inviting me to the beautiful campus of Peking University.

I have come to China to talk to members of the government and others about climate change because this year is a particularly important year, the year that the world has pledged to come together and reach a global agreement at Copenhagen, Denmark in December.

But I wanted to talk to young people too because on this issue more than any other, you will see its effects, and you need to be powerful advocates for it to be addressed.

And I feel very lucky to be talking to you, students in China, on National Youth Day, and the 90th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement – when students from this university wanted to modernise China and make it strong, and changed the course of this country.

I’ve been learning about Cai Yuanpei, the seminal educator and Chancellor of the university 90 years ago, who was such a leading figure in the New Cultural Movement and modernisation. I can’t claim to be an expert, but I know he

– Opened the doors of this University to women, at a time when it was radical to do so – Transformed the faculty to promote diverse views, even those he didn’t agree with – talking of “broad-minded tolerance” and “freedom of thought” – Encouraged students to be more active, managing their own affairs and forming extra-curricular societies.

And just as I was thinking how much I approve, I learned he also founded Beijing University Society for the Promotion of Morality – which is fine – but to get a higher rank within the society members had to swear not to become a government official or a Parliamentarian – which I have to confess I have failed on.

On this trip, I have seen firsthand some of the efforts that in just twenty years lifted more people out of poverty than the whole population of Europe – 400 million.

It must be one of the most rapid and widespread alleviations of human suffering in human history – and I know that completing the journey, maintaining high growth, remains a top priority.

I have spoken to policy-makers about how they are investing in reducing energy intensity.

And yesterday I saw the results of Chinese engineers working with partners abroad to find new solutions to climate change, at a power station that captures carbon dioxide at source instead of pumping it into the sky.

As the manager said to me, “it has succeeded here, it could succeed in every power station”. And if it does, it could make more difference to the generations that follow us than any other technology currently in development.

And this experience illustrates the points I would like to talk about today:

The growth of China – and the impact climate change could have on that growth

The roles and responsibilities of both developed and developing countries to act on climate change

And how we can work together – on technology, finance, and a global deal.

Growth: a resurgent China

First of all, let me say a few words about Chinese growth.

What will be remembered, and seen as one of the most significant events of my lifetime and yours, is the rise of China.

I welcome it.

My country’s government and businesses support it. We are the leading destination for Chinese investment into Europe, and in return we invest more in China than any other European country.

For all countries, the recent financial crisis has sent shockwaves through our economies and none of us have been immune.

We now know how important it is to rebuild our financial system on a sounder footing.

But what we know also is that just as the financial crisis was a hidden vulnerability which unaddressed has significant consequences, so we face the same situation with the climate crisis.

I’ve seen in my own area in Britain what extreme weather can do. Two years ago we had very bad flooding. I arrived in one of the villages, near Doncaster, to see instead of the normal streets I am used to, people in boats and canoes rescuing people from their houses – people who had lost everything they own.

I am going tomorrow to see the Shiyang River Basin, one of the great river systems of north western China. Here, climate change doesn’t mean floods, but droughts.

Climate change makes more profound existing issues, like the growing need for food and water.

That’s now. What happens if climate change continues beyond the most dangerous thresholds? We’re working with the Chinese government to find out.

If we don’t act, scientists tell us that the world will get 5 degrees centigrade hotter by 2100, hotter than it has been for 30-50 million years and human beings have only been on the earth for 100,000 years. And all the evidence is that China’s temperatures will rise more than the global average.

Even if the scientists are wrong and the world temperature rises by three degrees instead of five, this could mean drought in the Ganges and the Indus, water shortages affecting an extra one to two billion people worldwide.

Right here in China, it could mean the Himalayan glaciers melting, the rivers beneath them flooding then running dry, and the Mekong River, for example, losing a quarter of its water by the end of the century.

It could also mean cereal crops declining, the risk of hunger being faced by up to 600 million more people worldwide – and right here in China a fall in rice yields of up to ten per cent. It is equivalent to losing the rice of the whole production of Hunan province, the most productive in China.

Right here in the lowlands and mega deltas of East China, science suggests the sea will rise by 90 centimetres and the number of people at direct risk from coastal flooding will rise by 7 million – plus all the knock-on effects such as migration.

That’s why the world is so focussed on preventing climate change beyond 2 degrees.

Up to this level will see very great challenges for our countries, beyond will see far worse, uncontrollable effects.

Leadership: a responsible China not just acting but inspiring

But we should not succumb to defeatism.

Together we can tackle the problem, on the basis of common but differentiated responsibilities: everyone acting, but on the basis of their responsibility and their capacity to do so.

I believe that rich countries have the moral responsibility and a historic obligation to take the lead.

It was because we believe in rich-country leadership that in Britain, for example, we have written our transformation into a low-carbon economy into law.

Ten years ago I worked in the Treasury in Britain and like all Treasuries they are the people who often say no.

Then, environmentalists were asking us to measure our carbon emissions from particular policies.

Today the world has been transformed.

There is lots of ceremony and tradition in Britain around the announcement of the Budget each year – the chancellor stands in Downing Street, he always holds up a traditional Red Briefcase for photos, Parliamentary debates take a set form.

Well this year we had a new tradition: we became the first country in the world to introduce national carbon budgets alongside national financial budgets.

They commit us to cut at least a third of our emissions by 2020, more if there is a global deal, on the way to cutting at least 80 per cent by 2050.

I believe rich countries should act at home and they should also spur each other on, and that is why we have pressed for ambitious action in the European Union, and now Europe has committed as a continent to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, or 30 per cent if there is a global deal.

In the US too, we are now seeing new environmental leadership.

President Bush envisaged US emissions continuing to rise until 2025. President Obama has said they will cut emissions well before then, falling back to 1990 levels by 2020.

We hope he will go further still, but he has transformed the debate on climate change. I saw it in Washington last week, when I was there with a number of countries including China.

As an emergent great power, China, too, has the ability not just to act but to lead; to be great not just in size but in influence; to energise others around the world.

And what does leadership consist in? What will determine whether China’s actions are followed by others?

Partly it is by spreading the word on China’s successes so far:

How energy intensity of the economy reduced through the 1980 and 1990s from three times what it is today How forest cover doubled over the same time. And it is through the actions you are taking now:

The targets in the five-year plan to reduce energy intensity still further The commitment to 15% renewable power by 2020. But above all, what will elevate Chinese leadership is if this December, when the world comes together in Copenhagen, its ambition is crystallised into a public commitment in a global deal.

And I believe China will commit to ambition.

China’s commitment to this cause will propel others to commit to it too.

So there is great potential for us to act together, on the basis of our responsibilities.

But the clear message I want to say, is that there is huge scope for China, through its commitments, to encourage others to go further and to increase global action.

China has an ability to lead.

Partnership: technology and finance

And I’d also like talk about how we can work together to achieve our ambitions, with partnership and shared goals between countries at different levels of development.

All of us recognise that the world is moving towards low carbon. There are huge industrial opportunities for Britain, China and other countries in this: these are the jobs of the future.

China is investing part of its stimulus plan in low carbon; Britain is preparing too for the low carbon economy of the future.

Co-operation can benefit both of our countries. Today, we are announcing a joint venture between the Carbon Trust and the China Energy Conservation Investment Corporation, with £10 million to help British and Chinese companies work together and learn form each other.

We think there is £100 million of investment that will come from this co-operation, benefitting many British firms and opening new markets.

These firms will benefit from investment by Chinese enterprises, developing low carbon technologies in China.

This is the sort of co-operation we need: joint ventures to further our mutual interests.

And we need to look at this kind of co-operation in other areas, protecting intellectual property –as both of our countries would wish—but at the same time, working together where possible to drive the demonstration and development of new technologies forward.

When I visited the power station yesterday, and saw how they had worked with other countries to demonstrate carbon capture, it showed me very clearly how we both have an interest in driving this technology.

And it was clearly not just a case of one country having the technology, and another being given it. Both sides added knowledge and expertise – and that’s true across the board, for example with the major European partnership for Near-Zero Emissions Coal. The question is, “can we turn coal from the dirty fuel of the past to the clean fuel of the future?”

So that’s why I will be working with China to make sure that driving technology demonstration and development is an important part of any global climate change agreement.

Of course for some countries, particularly less developed countries, technology access is not enough and we also need to find ways of providing finance, including through the carbon market.

And I was only hearing yesterday about how support from the carbon market was bringing international investment into wind farm projects viable in China, diffusing new technology for mutual benefit.

I am clear we also need stable and predictable forms of finance to help make the transition to low carbon – and this too must be part of our agreement in Copenhagen.


Let me end with this thought:

On the dangers of climate change,

On the potential of China to inspire others through international commitments,

And the importance of countries working together,

It is only right that on national Youth Day we think about the role of you, the young people of China.

A seminal figure in the May Fourth Movement, who you will all be more familiar with than me, was Chen Duxiu.

His article that inspired the movement, Call to Youth, said the role of youth in society “is like… a newly-sharpened blade” shaping the new era.

It reminds me of a line by the American Senator, Robert Kennedy, who when touring South Africa in 1968 said that to “lead in the introduction of a new order of things”, “the world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind”.

There are more people under the age of 24 in China than there are people in North America, Australia and Russia combined.

There is more potential for you, the young people of the youngest great power, to reshape the order of things than for most generations that have ever lived.

In British Universities at the moment, there are not only more students from China than from any other country, there is a movement to tackle climate change reaching out to you from there to here.

Some people say that China’s moment is coming. The truth is, China’s moment is now, and nowhere is that more true than on climate change: none of us can say in the future that we weren’t warned about the scale of the problem or that we didn’t have the opportunity to tackle it.

We know what the science is telling us. We know the urgency of the problem. We have many of the technologies we need.

The test for us is whether we have the political and popular will to make it happen and protect the world from dangerous climate change.

In the years ahead, we will look around and see either our success or failure at this task.

Young people will enjoy the benefits of that success the most or will live longest with its failure.

I hope we can work together – Britain and China, young people in Britain in China – to show something important: that we have secured our legacy as the first generations to understand and prevent climate change – not the last that didn’t.

I hope we choose to work together and together, we can choose to protect the planet for future generations.