Ed Miliband – 2013 Speech to Scottish Labour Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, to the 2013 Scottish Labour Party conference, held on 19th April 2013.

Thank you so much for that incredibly kind reception.

It is great to be with you here in Inverness today.

I want to start by thanking the work you do for Scotland, our party and Britain.

Since we last met you’ve had those fantastic local election results in Glasgow, Aberdeen, South Lanarkshire.

Let’s applaud everyone who was part of that.

And let’s applaud Johann Lamont for the excellent work she is doing as the first leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

Anas Sarwar her deputy.

And Margaret Curran, our great Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.

And let us also pay a special thank you to Alistair Darling for leading the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom.

Friends, this is a party on its way back.

And I want to talk to you today about two very important moments of decision.

The referendum.

And the general election.

Big choices that Scotland has to make.

The last ten days have been dominated by memories of Lady Thatcher and the 1980s.

I know how much pain the Conservative governments of that time caused to communities in Scotland and across the whole of the United Kingdom.

Areas that felt angry and abandoned.

Social division.

And the injustices of the poll tax.

And the reason the Tories were able to do this because they won election after election.

If we learn one thing from this history, it is that we must never allow a Tory government in Westminster to do what was done over eighteen years after 1979.

It was a Labour government that stopped them in 1997.

And I have news for the SNP:

By making David Cameron’s government a one-term government, it will be Labour that does it again in 2015.

And let me talk to you today about the scale of challenge that we face.

You know the similarities between what is happening under this Tory-led government in Scotland now and what happened under the Tory governments in the 1980s.

But the parallels don’t end there.

What ushered in that Tory government, was the failure of the old order in 1970s.

So too today.

Five years on from the financial crisis of 2008.

Our banks still failing, our living standards still falling, the people of Britain, of Scotland, paying the price.

The old order breaking down again.

And just like back then, it is because the old way of running our economy just doesn’t work any more.

This time:


The dominance of finance over industry.

Allowing unaccountable vested interests in the private sector to have free rein.

Government just getting out the way.

The old in-it-for-yourself, laissez faire, deregulated economy just isn’t working for working people.

So when David Cameron says “we’re all Thatcherites now”, I have news for him: we’re not.

And when Alex Salmond says Scotland “didn’t mind” Margaret Thatcher’s economics, I have news for him, you did.

And you do.

The reality is this, only Labour can build a new settlement.

The answer lies not in going back.

Not in taking the Gleneagles hotel back into public ownership.

Going back to penal tax rates of the 1970s.

We need the benefits of a dynamic market economy.

But we do need a new settlement, appropriate for new times.

And here’s the difference with us and our opponents.

We know countries succeed by uniting and not disagreeing.

Despite my deep disagreements with what Lady Thatcher did, I showed respect, because you can’t preach the principle of One Nation, and then fail to uphold it in practice.

That is who I am.

I want to be a Prime Minister of the whole country.

Britain will succeed when everyone feels part of Britain and can contribute to our country.

That’s what One Nation Labour is all about.

One Nation Labour a party of the south as well as north, the private sector and the public sector, the person who owns the small business as much as the person who works for it.

A party of every part of the whole country.

We know that Britain’s best days lie ahead if we unite our country and not divide it.

That’s how we will succeed as an economy and a society.

The Need for a New Beginning

Some people used to believe, three years ago, David Cameron could change our economy for the better.

The slowest recovery for 100 years.

Wages falling.

Prices rising.

Unemployment increasing.

Borrowing going up, despite all the cuts, all the tax rises, because of their economic failure.

Their plan has completely and utterly failed the people of Scotland and the people of the United Kingdom.

How do they offer to turn our economy around?

The same old answers.

Tax cuts for millionaires.

They don’t want you to know the truth.

They are giving 13,000 millionaires an average £100,000 tax cut each this year and every year.

Same old Tories.

The same old way of doing things that says wealth trickles down from those at the top to everyone else.

That just doesn’t work.

And what else do they propose?

Fewer rights at work for everyone else.

Parliament recently debated the government’s plans to swap shares for your employment rights.

It was described as a “positively dreadful” idea and an “ill thought through attack on employment rights”.

Who do you think used the words?

It wasn’t Len McCluskey.

Not Margaret Curran.

Not even Vince Cable.

But Michael Forsyth.

These Tories are too right wing even for Michael Forsyth.

Now even the Tories don’t trust the Tories on employment rights.

We could have told them that a long time ago.

And from the people who brought you what they called the community charge, or what we know as the poll tax, comes a new idea.

Because he’s a PR guy, David Cameron calls it the “spare room subsidy”.

But let’s call it what it is: it is the iniquitous bedroom tax.

The bedroom tax forcing people out of their homes.

Driving up costs as they force people into the private sector.

What kind of government thinks that is the way to turn our economy around?

Let me tell you:

A heartless government.

And a hopeless one too.

This Tory-led government.

And all the time, what do they do?

They just seek to divide not unite our country.

Trying to pretend we have a good government being let down by bad people when the reality is that this is a country of good people being let down by an appalling, hopeless government.

There is a different way.

One Nation Labour: Vision

It’s not going to be easy.

But there is a different future.

It’s not just a question of waiting for a little bit of growth.

It’s not about the old problems of the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, but the problems of today.

Like the living standards crisis that blights so many people’s lives.

The reality that you know in your own communities that this economy dosen’t work only for a few at the top.

How we pay our way in a world with new trading powers, like China, India and Brazil.

We have a huge challenge to rise to.

And we will have to solve these in more difficult times too when there is less money around.

That’s why we need to rebuild our economy from its foundations.

We do that with a simple idea, idea that expresses who we are as a party: that we need a recovery made by the many and not just a few at the top.

When you back the people who do the hours, put in the shifts.

Who get up in the morning before George Osborne’s curtains are open.

And get back after they have closed for the night.

So we must challenge what has been happening in our banks for decades, so that we have banks that serve our businesses not businesses serving our banks.

Let’s establish regional banks to serve small businesses in every part of Britain.

That backs those communities.

Getting back to those old principles.

Principles we should be proud of.

And principles we should restore in our banking system.

We must challenge the decades-long culture of short-termism that’s held back British firms.

Let’s abolish quarterly reporting rules and, we should do something, let’s change the takeover rules for companies to stop the hedge funds and the speculators swooping in for a quick profit.

We must challenge the decades-long problems in our vocational education system in all parts of the United Kingdom, working with a Scottish Labour government led by Johann Lamont.

We know there is a huge challenge.

Let’s reject the culture that says university is always best and vocational education second best.

And let’s have proper high quality, real apprenticeships for our young people to aspire to in this country.

And we must challenge the decades-long problem of not building enough homes in this country that has put the dream of home ownership and fair rents further and further out of reach.

That’s why we would have used the money from the 4G auction to start building homes again and put construction workers back to work.

That is what the government should be doing.

And building a recovery made by the many needs every person who can to play their part.

You know what’s really interesting for all this government’s rhetoric about welfare reform, and despite all their cuts, the costs of economic failure goes up and up under this government.

There is only party in British politics that will actually tackle the scourge of long-term unemployment.

It is the Labour Party.

With a compulsory jobs guarantee for the 7,000 Scottish young people unemployed for more than a year and the 15,000 over 25s unemployed for more than two years.

Real jobs, with real rights to work, with a real responsibility to do so.

Friends, let me say this, you know there is a minority in our communities who can work and should be doing so.

But you also know there is a majority desperate for work.

And, let me be clear, what I am never going to as leader of the Labour Party will never seek to divide our country and say to young person in Inverness or the older worker laid off in Ipswich desperately looking for work, that they are scroungers, skivers or somehow cheating the system.

We know we will succeed by uniting our country, not dividing it.

And we won’t have a recovery made by the many if family budgets are just squeezed year on year on year.

That’s why if we were in government now we would cancel the millionaires’ tax cut, and protect the tax credits that make work pay.

That’s why we want to introduce a 10p starting rate for income tax.

And we’d be taking on the energy company rip-offs and breaking the stranglehold of the big energy companies.

That’s how we begin to win the people’s trust once again.

That’s how we will start to build a different economic future for Britain.

Independence is Not the Answer

And so what about Alex Salmond?

While we present a plan for our economic future, Alex Salmond spends his time trying to draw a line through the country.

It’s the same divisive politics that we’ve seen from the Tories, just a different form of division.

The Tories divide between those in work and those out of work, those in the private sector and those in the public sector, those in the trade unions and those outside them.

Alex Salmond wants to divide between the people of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

It’s wrong.

He has no focus on the issues that really shape people’s lives.

What has he said about Lady Thatcher’s legacy?

Not just that Scotland didn’t mind her economics.

He said thanks to Lady Thatcher we got a Scottish Parliament.

Well I’ve got a message for him.

Margaret Thatcher didn’t deliver a Scottish Parliament.

The Labour Party and the people of Scotland did.

And he doesn’t understand the need for a new settlement, despite all his rhetoric, he defends the old order.

His is a narrow nationalism that thinks the way Scotland prospers is in a race to the bottom across the UK in corporation tax while doing nothing for working people.

His is a narrow nationalism that says if it is in the interest of the SNP then it is OK to do cosy deals with Rupert Murdoch.

His is a narrow nationalism that prays for Tory success so that he can convince people that the only way to get rid of the Tories is to get out of the UK.

He claims he opposes the Tories but he wants them to succeed.

We are going to stop them in their tracks.

Have you ever heard such a selfish, self-serving, narrow-minded, blinkered, in it for yourself, divide and rule piece of nonsense?

We know we need to celebrate our shared history.

Build our shared future.

And elect a Labour government.


Our country has been here before.

Huge challenges our country faces.

Dark and difficult times.

But every time we have come through the storm, it is because we have come together, joined together, worked together: the people of Scotland, the people of Britain.

So here is my message to you.

Let us do that again.

We offer something our opponents cannot.

The power of a people coming together.

Let the Tories try to divide our society.

Let the SNP try to divide our country.

We are a one One Nation party.

We are the unifiers.

We are the ones who can turn Scotland round.

And with your help, we are the ones who can turn Britain too.