Ed Miliband – 2014 Speech to GMB Congress


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, to the GMB Congress held in Nottingham on 12th June 2014.

I want to pay tribute to the fantastic work that the members of the GMB have done over this year.

The GMB takes a stand for the values of our movement, even when that is hard.

And we have seen that in the work you have done.

Leading the campaign against blacklisting in our construction industry.

Standing against tax avoidance by some of the world’s biggest and most powerful firms.

Doing all you can to make work pay, with your campaign for a Living Wage.

And I also want to thank you for playing your part in the fight to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom.

And let us also stand for this debate being conducted in a decent way.

We have seen over the last 24 hours the most unpleasant and unseemly attacks on JK Rowling for her speaking out.

All leaders should say that this has no place in the debate about independence.

Friends, I want to talk today about the country we can begin to build in less than 11 months’ time if we win the next general election.

And I want to talk about Labour’s cause between now and that election.

And, more important than that, the crucial cause for our country.

You know how your members are feeling.

They have been at the sharp end of the worst cost-of-living crisis in living memory.

More and more people who are working all the hours God sends and are still being left behind.

One in five people are now working for poverty in the 4th richest country in the world.

Millions more struggling to make ends meet.

And a deep sense of unfairness about how Britain is run.

Friends, it’s not good enough for Britain.

And the Labour Party I lead will not let it stand.

And these aren’t just problems for today.

They are problems for our country’s future as well.

For the first time we can remember, parents in Britain are worrying that their children will have a harder life than they did.

Young people are unable to get the best start in life.

The apprenticeships and secure jobs people used to rely on, just don’t seem to be there anymore.

There aren’t flats or houses that young people can afford to rent or buy.

What I call the promise of Britain, that the next generation does better than the last, has been broken.

What does all this tell you?

This country doesn’t work for most working people.

The vital link between working people’s family finances and the wealth of the nation as a whole has been broken.

And it is the task of the next Labour government to restore it.

The bond between hard work and fair reward has snapped.

And it is the task of the next Labour government to mend it.

Inequality has been on the rise.

And it is the task of the next Labour government to turn the tide.

These are our tasks.

And that is why we need big changes.

Big changes in how our country is run.

And who it is run for.

And that is what One Nation Labour is all about.

And there’s one thing we can be certain of.

We’re never going to see the kind of action Britain needs from David Cameron and George Osborne.

Friends, the Tories can never be the solution to the cost-of-living crisis.

Because they are part of the problem.

It is because of how they think an economy succeeds.

They really do believe in the old ideas.

If a few at the top do OK, it will be all right for everyone else.

That’s why they give the millionaires their tax cut.

While to everyone else they say:

Keep your wages down.

Put up with insecurity.

Trade in your rights at work.

Accept the zero-hours contracts.

A race to the bottom.

Friends, what you know, what I know is that Britain doesn’t need a race to the bottom.

It needs solidarity, fairness and a country that works for all.

And don’t let anyone tell you UKIP are the answer either.

They say they want to be the champion of working people.

But what do they stand for?

Charges to see your GP.

Attacking the minimum wage.

Bring back the 11 plus.

Tax cuts for those at the top.

Keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive.

These aren’t the values of working people.

And they offer no solution for Britain.

So it will fall to Labour, as it has fallen to us before, to make the changes we need.

To have the determination to rebuild the economy.

I’m not going to pretend it will be easy.

Because it won’t.

We will face tough an economic situation.

That’s why we’ve said we won’t borrow more for day-to-day spending in 2015-16.

And we will balance the books in the next Parliament with a surplus in current spending and the debt falling.

But don’t let anyone tell you that it means we can’t make a difference.

We can.

And we will.

On every aspect of inequality, of the cost-of-living crisis, of the break between hard work and reward – we will act.

And I want you to know, your members to know, your friends and neighbours to know, the difference a Labour government will make.

We will take action on wages, on jobs and on prices.

It starts with wages.

The next Labour Government will write the next chapter in the battle against low pay.

For the first time since records began, most of the people in poverty in Britain today are in work, not out of work.

There’s a low pay epidemic in this country.

It has not happened overnight.

It has been coming for generations.

And it shames us all.

A Labour government would start to turn it round.

Let’s today congratulate the 26 Labour councils who are already leading the way in moving to a living wage.

A living wage is good for employees as it means they can better afford to bring up their family.

It makes sense for government, saving money on subsidizing the cost of low pay.

And leading businesses are showing it makes sense for them too,

improving productivity and reducing turnover of staff.

That’s why in government we want to help more employers become living wage employers.

Why for the first time we will give tax incentives to employers who do the right thing.

Because we know the living wage is an idea whose time has come.

And working together we’ll strengthen the minimum wage too.

We all need to take action – government, trade unions and businesses together – to stop those who abuse the minimum wage.

Exploiting workers who come here from abroad and driving down wages for everyone else.

I’m the son of immigrants and I believe that immigration has benefited our country.

But it is part of a progressive, Labour agenda, a trade union agenda, to say it is right to tackle exploitation whoever it affects, including when it undercuts wages.

You know your members are concerned about immigration.

Because you hear it in the workplace.

Let us tell them Labour doesn’t stand for cutting Britain off from the rest of the world.

But Labour stands for fair rules.

Enforcing the minimum wage, stopping employers putting 15 people in a house to sidestep the minimum wage, regulating the gangmasters operating in industry.

And it means something else as well.

It took too long for the last Labour government to introduce rules on agency workers.

The next Labour government will act on the loopholes in those rules that mean agency work can be used to undermine the pay of permanent employees.

And we will set our sights higher as a country too.

With a clear ambition for the minimum wage at the start of each Parliament.

Because we know the single most important truth:

A country can only succeed if those who work hard and do the right thing get a fair day’s pay.

That’s why I guarantee today: the next Labour government will increase the minimum wage.

And we won’t just increase it, we will narrow the gap between the minimum wage and average earnings.

So we can make hard work pay again in our country.

These are the values of the British people, that if you work hard you should get a decent reward and be able to bring up your family.

And these will be the values of the next Labour government too.

Securing good wages for the working people of Britain is also about creating the jobs of the future.

The principle of the next Labour government is that we must not just secure full employment but decent jobs with decent wages.

That means successful businesses, making profits, creating wealth in a dynamic economy.

After the next election the route to social justice lies through the creation of these well paid, private sector jobs.

Jobs that help people build a career, a future for themselves and their families.

Secure. High skill.

Like those you have been campaigning for in the construction industry.

Getting Britain building again.

I believe in a simple idea: there should be a future for all of our young people including the 50 per cent who don’t go to university.

Decent qualifications.


And careers for all our young people.

We can’t build the good quality jobs of the future, when zero-hours contracts are spreading like wildfire through our workplaces.

There’s no place for exploitative zero-hours contracts in Britain today.

So the next Labour government will have a simple rule:

If week after week, you do regular hours, you deserve a regular contract not a zero-hours contract.

And creating the jobs of the future, means backing Britain’s small businesses too.

The businesses that invent and create and sell, that make the opportunities, but so often can’t get a break themselves.

That’s why we will cut and freeze business rates for Britain’s small firms.

And why we will take on the big banks that still refuse to lend.

Breaking up the banks on the high street.

Establishing a British Investment Bank.

And creating regional banks in every part of the country.

So that there are successful companies creating good quality jobs in every single part of Britain.

Not just in the City of London.

Because I believe in the same principle that you do.

We don’t want businesses serving our banks, we want banks that serve our businesses.

Tackling inequality and the cost-of-living crisis, also means dealing with the costs families face.

The next Labour government will have a simple principle: we will take action on the broken markets that have held our country back for so long now.

Driving prices too high, ripping people off.

It starts with the energy companies.

We’ve seen the problem this very week.

The wholesale price goes up, your bills go up.

The wholesale price comes down, your bills still go up.

Not under a Labour government.

We will freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017 to stop them rising.

And we will give new powers to the regulator to cut prices too.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Isn’t it time we had a government that faced up to one of the biggest causes of the cost-of-living crisis in our country?

The price of renting or buying a home

There are nine million people renting their homes.

Think of the million families in this position, with kids starting the school year this September.

Who don’t know whether they will be in their house in 12 months time.

That insecurity is bad for them and bad for our country.

That’s why we will give those who rent, three-year secure tenancies, with rent rises that are stable and predictable.

The government might think that reminds them of Venezuela.

But I think it is the minimum sense of decency and fairness that the nine million people of Britain who rent their homes have the right to expect.

And we will get homes built again in this country.

We all know why house prices are out of reach for so many families.

Because there are fewer house completions in Britain today that at any time since the 1920s.

That’s why the next Labour government will make sure that 200,000 homes a year are built by the end of the next Parliament.

We’ll give local authorities the right grow.

And at the same time, we’ll tackle the problem of developers buying up land, getting planning permission, and then just sitting on it waiting for it to rise in value.

Half a million homes part of the landbanks in our country.

We won’t let it continue.

And to those developers, we’ll have a simple message:

You either use the land, or lose the land.

And we know we can only make this country strong for all and not just a few if we have strong public services.

People have lost faith in lots of institutions in Britain.


The press.

The banks.

But amidst all that, there is a public service, an institution, that people still have great faith in.

And that’s our National Health Service.

We created it.

We invested in it.

And brought it back to health after 1997.

And it will be our job to save it once again.

The NHS is going backwards under the Tories.

The highest waiting times in A&E for a decade.

Longer waiting lists.

Longer waiting times to see your GP.

And creeping privatization of our NHS.

David Cameron said the NHS was safe in his hands.

He has betrayed the trust of the British people.

It will be up to the next Labour government to protect and improve our NHS.

Stop the Tory privatization.

And repeal their terrible Health and Social Care Bill.

Friends, we face a generational challenge in Britain right now.

For years, for decades even, we’ve had a country that works well for a few.

But that leaves most working people behind.

We’ve got to turn that round.

We face the fight of our lives in less than a year’s time.

We all know how the Tories will fight that election.

We all know the tactics they will use.

How desperate they will be to cling to power.

But I have to tell you.

We have a bigger opponent at these elections.

Bigger than the Tories.

Bigger than UKIP.

And it’s certainly bigger than the Liberal Democrats.

It is the sense that nothing can be done.

The sense that Britain’s problems are too big.

And politics is too small.

We all heard it time after time during the election campaign last month.

“You’re all the same. In it for yourselves. You don’t keep your promises.”

Friends, we know that’s not right.

We know we are different.

We have to show people.

We can do it.

Remind people that we came into this party, and this movement, for a reason:

Show that we can change Britain.

That we can rebuild our economy.

Save our NHS.

That we can make our country a fairer, more prosperous, more equal place.

And that we can do all that even when times are hard.

Friends, that is our mission.

A fairer society.

A more just society.

A more equal society.

That is our cause.

And together, we can make it happen.