Ed Miliband – 2013 Speech to the People’s Policy Forum


Below is the text of the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, to the People’s Policy Forum in Birmingham on 23rd March 2013.

I am delighted to be here today.

This is a very special event.

What today is about is doing politics in a different way.

And doesn’t politics need it?

Because I think we have to do politics in a different way.

You can watch politicians trading blows in the House of Commons each week.

Sometimes I enjoy it and sometimes I don’t.

But it’s not necessarily very enlightening.

We’ve got to take politics back to where it belongs: to you.

So that’s why we’ve said: you set the agenda.

You can ask anything you want.

And we will have a conversation.

But first let me say a few things about where the country is and where the country needs to go.

Since I became Labour leader, I have tried to understand what we got wrong on issues like banking regulation, immigration and Iraq, I have sought to understand why people left Labour.

But as I go around Britain I also sense an increasing disappointment and disillusionment with this Government.

They don’t believe David Cameron can turn Britain around.

But let me be clear with you.

I know that however discredited, divided and damaging this Government becomes, it doesn’t necessarily translate into support for us.

We have to earn your trust.

Indeed, many people will believe that the failure of this Government means they should give up on politics altogether.

That nobody can turn round the problems of the country and nobody deserves their vote. That is a terrible thing for our democracy.

I understand that some people think the problems are so great that no no one can fix them.

But I passionately believe that Labour can. That we can turn round the problems of the country.

Let’s start with the economy.

Three days after George Osborne’s Budget, the fog is clearing.

It’s five years since the financial crisis of 2008.

But what’s happening now?

We are in the slowest recovery for 100 years.

Wages are flat.

Prices are rising.

Living standards falling.

Yet here’s the really depressing thing. What the Government offered this week was no change, just more of the same.

A penny off a pint – buy 320 pints of beer and you get one free. I don’t know about you but I don’t think that’s going to turn around the living standards crisis and it’s not going to convince anyone.

All they offer is more of the same and that’s not enough.

Can you imagine another five years of this?

Low growth.

Living standards squeezed further.

You paying the price.

They are resigned to a lost decade.

A lost decade Britain cannot afford.

A lost decade of national decline.

Not a decade where we make sacrifices now to build a better future, but where things get worse not better.

But I know what some of you are thinking.

“It’s true things look grim. But there’s nothing we can do.”

Well, I don’t believe it is inevitable.

And it is One Nation Labour’s task to show you we can stop this slide into a lost decade.

To show people it doesn’t have to be this way.

Not promising overnight answers.

Not promising that things will be easy

But showing there is a different direction for the country.

And that is what I want to do today.

I start from a simple idea:

We succeed as a country not by leaving things to a few people at the top.

We need an economic recovery made by the many.

Our economy is always more successful when it works for all working people.

When everyone can play their part.

We can learn from Birmingham’s history.

Over 150 years ago, a man called George Cadbury opened a factory just down the road from here.

He had a simple idea: his business would be more successful if his workforce was well-motivated and lived in decent homes with decent conditions.

That is the idea that should guide us to the change we need today.

But it hasn’t been the way our economy has been run for a long time.

And it certainly isn’t the direction offered by this Government.

They think wealth comes from a few at the top.

I know wealth comes from the forgotten wealth creators.

The people that work in the supermarkets, the factories, in small businesses on your high street, doing the shifts, putting in the hours.

It’s them who have got to be rewarded and supported in this country.

So what should we be doing differently?

Let’s start with our young people.

Long-term youth unemployment here in Birmingham went up 46 per cent last year.

On Wednesday, we learnt that 50,000 more young people across the country were looking for work.

After all the rhetoric we’ve heard from the Government, that is the reality.

On the same day, we learnt that Barclays were paying out £39 million in bonuses to just 9 people who work there.

And that’s two weeks before they get the millionaires’ tax cut from this Government.

This is not an economy being run for the many.

But for the few.

So five years on from the financial crisis, the banks carry on with business as usual and our young people find themselves without work.

We can’t afford another five years of this.

A lost decade for our young people.

So as a start, I say tax the bankers’ bonuses and use the money to put our young people back to work.

Guarantee every young person out of work for more than a year a job.

And as Prime Minister I would get every business and charity behind this idea.

And let’s get our young people working again with a proper career and future.

All of them.

Particularly the 50 per cent of young people who don’t go to university.

We’ve got to have a revolution in the way we do things for them.

So the focus of the next Labour government would be on getting those young people proper qualifications and apprenticeships.

And because we want businesses to get the young people they need, we will give them more control over the money spent on training.

But in return if firms want a major government contract they would have to provide apprenticeships for the next generation.

That would mean 32,000 apprenticeships for High Speed 2.

Not just a route of travel from Birmingham to London, but a route to a proper career.

Ensuring rights and responsibilities for young people and businesses.

So young people is where I would start in building a recovery made by the many.

But that recovery also needs to include the millions of businesses in this country that are the backbone of our economy.

You know that better than anyone here in the West Midlands.

For so many businesses, this looks more and more like a lost decade.

And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to our banks.

Change has been promised time and again but change never comes.

I am not just talking about bonuses.

But about lending to Britain’s businesses.

That is falling at the moment.

Can we turn this round?


Instead of businesses serving our banks, we need banks serving our businesses.

As part of a new British Investment Bank, let’s have a regional banking system, serving each and every region including here in the West Midlands.

The world’s first building society was founded in Birmingham.

And we should build a system with the same ethic today.

The purpose of regional banks should be to support businesses in their region, not to gamble the money in the City of London.

Giving small businesses, the life blood of our economy, the priority they deserve.

The lost decade also threatens the infrastructure of the country.

Schools, transport, housing.

It wastes talent today and stores up problems for the future.

Across the West Midlands you’ve seen 18,000 construction workers’ jobs have been lost since 2010.

And housing starts are at the lowest levels since the 1920s.

Yet the Government are borrowing £245 billion more than they planned to pay their own failure. It just doesn’t make any sense.

And we’ve now got schemes which seem about making it easier for people to buy second homes.

But they are not willing to invest that same money in the actual bricks and mortar.

We all know that we can’t solve the housing crisis without investing in the homes people need to live in.

A Labour budget would invest in our infrastructure.

It’s right for our economy and it’s right for people who can’t afford to buy or rent their home.

These are just three ways in which we can start to turn round the direction of the country.

For young people, for small businesses and for our infrastructure.

But we can’t create a recovery made by the many if family budgets are being squeezed year after year after year.

And the reality for so many families in Britain is a living standards crisis.

Which leaves people without confidence in the future.

Now, you know better than anyone that no politician can transform people’s living standards overnight.

But we can make the right choices.

That’s why if there had been a Labour Budget a few days ago, we would have reversed the millionaires’ tax cut.

And protected the tax credits that help work pay for millions.

Reintroduced a 10p tax rate paid for by a new tax on houses worth over £2 million.

And we would have had a temporary cut in VAT.

And that’s not all.

We would tackle rip-off prices.

Starting by reforming the energy markets to get a better deal for consumers.

And do everything we could to encourage a living wage, as Labour is doing here in Birmingham.

All these policies would make a difference. And that’s how you start a recovery made by the many.

These are just some of the changes we would make in government to avoid a lost decade.

Despite all our problems our country faces, I am an optimist about Britain not a pessimist.

The Government somehow wants you to believe that we have bad people who are letting down a good government.

Actually we have good people who are being let down by a bad government.

A bad government that stands up for the wrong things.

A government that cut taxes for millionaires.

And disgracefully throws people out of their homes with the bedroom tax.

This country can achieve anything when it puts its mind to it and when we have the right spirit.

And that means we need to unite as a country.

I am reminded of the stories my dad told me when I was a boy.

He came to this country in the Second World War.

As a refugee from the Nazis.

He joined the Royal Navy.

The Navy brought people of all backgrounds, all classes, all talents coming together for Britain.

Because they knew that Britain could only win the war if everyone made their contribution.

That’s what I mean by “One Nation”.

It’s not a Labour idea.

Or a Conservative idea.

But a British idea about how much we can achieve as a country if we come together.

We saw the same spirit when it came to the Olympic games.

Pulling together.

Coming together.

Working together.

For the good of ourselves.

And the good of our country.

That’s what makes anything possible.

That’s how we avoid the lost decade.

That’s how we can get our country moving again.

And that’s how we can meet our challenge to change Britain.

I look forward to working together.