Chuka Umunna – 2013 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, to the 2013 Labour Party conference in Brighton.

Conference, as I’ve travelled round the country, visiting our town centres, talking to our local businesses, I’ve seen what you and I know to be true: many people – too many – are losing faith in politics.

Perhaps it is not surprising: costs are rising, wages are falling, yet the Government doesn’t seem to care.

And it couldn’t come at a worse time.

Our world has never before experienced so much unpredictable change:

Population shifts;

Climate change;

Huge advances in technology;

Growing competition from emerging economies;

Leading to increased insecurity at work.

These are big issues and big economic forces.

And they are already having a massive effect.

For every single one of us, they are going to completely transform what our life looks like every day.

It’s why we need politics. A politics back in touch with working families.

Because as people;

As businesses;

As an economy – and as one country – we’ve got a decision to make.

Will we just allow the future to happen?

Let these forces run riot, and let opportunities vanish?

Or will we stand together as one United Kingdom – including Scotland – to shape these forces of change, to build the future we want for our children, our families, our communities?

We joined this party because we believe that together we can shape the future. We can empower people to meet their aspirations and dreams:

Thriving businesses providing decent jobs;

A more secure life for people and their families;

Shared opportunities and shared prosperity.

If we want that future then we – this Labour Party – have got to win in 2015.

Because we know it matters who is in government.

Because we know what is happening right now: a government led by David Cameron that brings discord where there was harmony;

Doubt where there was faith;

And above all despair where once there was hope.

And we’ve got less than twenty months to show it’s only us – this Labour Party – that can deliver a better future.

We’ve done it before, and we will do it again.

Think of what we inherited in ‘97:

Overflowing classrooms;

University for the lucky few;

Mass youth unemployment;

Few apprenticeships to speak of;

Some people earning as little as £1 an hour;

Little support for entrepreneurs or local economies.

A legacy left by a Tory Government that taught David Cameron and George Osborne everything they know.

That was why I joined our Party in 1997.

Because we had a better vision and we rose to the challenge of a changing world.

We set the country on a new and better track:

Millions of young people with a better education;

Record numbers going to university;

Apprenticeships quadrupled;

More than a million new businesses created;

The New Deal;

A first-ever national minimum wage.

That is our legacy and we are proud of it. And then came the global financial crash caused by irresponsible behaviour in the banking sector.

Jobs and incomes fell, causing tax receipts to plummet.

That’s what caused the deficit to increase not public investment in our schools and hospitals.

And because of the crash the world was suddenly a very different place.

Our response to the crash – what Alistair and Gordon did – stopped many repossessions and saved many, many jobs.

We are proud of that too. Of course we should have better regulated the banks.

But we learn from these things – we become better – and we adapt to the changing world around us.

And that’s the real problem with Cameron and Osborne.

It’s not because they’re Tory – I mean – it’s not ideal – but I can live with that.

The problem is that they are wrong.

The worst economic recovery in history;

University tuition fees trebled;

Young people starting an apprenticeship down.

Youth unemployment up.

Small businesses struggling.

Prices rising faster than incomes.

Due to their failed plan.

You see – they never learn: stuck with old methods which didn’t even work in the old world.

They’re certainly not working now.

Their ‘me, myself and I’ philosophy will let the global forces of change wreak havoc on our country and our communities.

They’re out of touch.

They have the wrong philosophy for the future.

They have the wrong policies for the future.

And we know growth for the few at the expense of the many is no growth at all.

With their approach any old job at any low wage will do.

But that doesn’t do enough to improve people’s lives.

It means many are working harder than ever for less money.

Being sucked into a downwards spiral of job insecurity, zero-hour contracts, payday loans.

A life of worry and stress.

Ed Miliband wants better.

The Labour Party wants better.

The country deserves better.

Our belief is that through progressive politics, cooperation;

Through people, trade unions, companies and countries working together we can harness these global forces to work for everyone.

Here are just three things a Miliband Government will do:

First – we must invest in the skills and industries of the future.

Let’s never forget: a high-skill workforce is a secure workforce.

We can’t compete with China and India on pay. It’s bad economics and it’s bad social policy.

But we can compete on quality if we have the right skills.

That means we maintain our world class universities: important drivers of innovation, but – as Ed said last year – we must improve vocational skills too.

We will increase apprenticeship numbers but not – as this Government has done – at the expense of quality.

So we will change the system so all apprenticeships are Level three qualifications and last a minimum of two years as our Skills Taskforce recommends.

Quality apprenticeships for quality jobs.

Second we will take action to promote good and sustainable businesses that value their people and invest for the long term.

I believe society and business depend on each other – we rise and fall together.

And that’s why Ed Balls and I asked Mike Wright of Jaguar Land Rover – a real British success story – to lead a review of manufacturing supply chains in the UK.

Society working with business for the common good.

In that spirit we want people to value their work and we want companies to value their people.

That’s why we will act to outlaw zero hours contracts where they exploit people.

And it’s why if this government won’t launch a full inquiry into the disgraceful blacklisting in the construction industry, we will.

Third, we believe in a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work – that’s why we introduced the minimum wage.

But there have been too many who think that paying the minimum is a choice not a responsibility.

So – we will toughen the regime.

If you don’t pay you’ll pay for it.

We will increase the fine.

We will give Local Authorities the power, alongside HMRC, to enforce the law.

Bad business practices have no business in a One Nation economy.

And of course we will go beyond the National Minimum Wage – towards a real living wage.

Three principles: good skills; good business, and good jobs.

The Labour Party’s values in action;

Optimistic about what we can achieve together.

Ambitious for the future.

Before I finish, let me say this: friends have no doubt, over the next twenty months we are facing a Tory party that will launch the most personal, negative, aggressive campaign we have seen in a generation.

We know we have to win in 2015.

But we won’t win by descending to their level.

That’s not how we do things in Ed Miliband’s Labour Party.

We will beat them with hope and optimism for what our country can be.

Because we know politics is important.

Because we have a better vision for our future.

So from now until 2015 we will work every month, every week and every day to give people all over the country:

The faith in politics;

The faith in the Labour Party;

The faith in this country;

To make the right decision for our future: a One Nation Labour government.

Thank you.