Ed Miliband announces his intention to stand for leadership — full speech

May 15, 2010 11:26 am

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Ed Miliband

By Alex Smith / @alexsmith1982

As LabourList revealed last night, Ed Miliband is a candidate in the contest to become the next leader of the Labour Party.

Today, speaking to the Fabian Society post-election conference in London, Miliband set out his stall.

Speaking about the Labour government, Miliband said:

“I am proud to have been part of that government and we should all be proud of what we achieved. But there is deep thinking we need to do about what went wrong. For me there is one central lesson about why we lost. When Labour succeeds it is through a politics always rooted in our a values and always rooted in the lives of the people of Britain. And the truth is that as government wore on we lost that sense of progressive mission and of being in touch with people’s concerns. As time wore on we came to seem more caretakers than idealists;more technocratic than transformative. And when political parties lose that sense of idealism and mission they become much more vulnerable to the currents of events. For us, increasingly, because we lost that sense of progressive mission, we found ourselves beached, unable to speak to too many of the concerns of the people of our country.”

Miliband went on to talk about a new fairness in banks, the economy, welfare and immigration:

“When competition is driving down your wages and your pension rights, saying globalisation is good for you and for the economy as a whole is an example of what I mean about becoming a technocrat. Because it is a good answer for economists but it is no answer for the people of Britain…”

“We need to re-found the welfare state: not just on need, but also on the original Beveridge mission of responsibility and contribution. And we need to give the everyone more of a stake in the system…”

“Britain’s diversity is an enormous strength: economically, culturally, socially and we should never cease saying it and we should say it more often. But the truth is that immigration is a class issue. If you want to employ a builder it’s good to have people you can take on at lower cost, but if you are a builder it feels like a threat to your livelihood. And we never had an answer for the people who were worried about it.”

On the Labour Party, he said:

“The leadership of our party needs to face an uncomfortable truth about what party members feel about us. The membership has felt all the leadership wants is for them to deliver leaflets. The truth is that that doesn’t make for an exciting enough party. We need a living breathing party of which people are proud to say they are members and proud to call their own. So that needs to change: we need to give party members a proper voice. And we, as party members, need to face an uncomfortable truth as well. Our party is not outward looking enough. The trade union link matters because it is our link to working people in this country and it is very important. We also need to reach out to people in the environmental movement, voluntary organisations and local citizens’ organisations…”

“That is the kind of party I believe in: rooted in our values and rooted in people’s lives and making a progressive difference as a political party to the lives of people up and down this country.”

Read the full text of Ed Miliband’s speech below.

“This has been an extraordinary week in politics.

And I want to start by paying tribute to someone to whom we owe an enormous debt. As Harriet Harman said at cabinet after he resigned, there are millions of people up and down this country and across the world whose lives have been changed for the better because of his commitment to social justice and we all owe him a debt of gratitude. That person is, of course, Gordon Brown and I think we will all want to thank him for what he did.

And I also want to thank the many people here who worked at the election: all the Fabian members – all the Labour Party members, all the Labour Party supporters – for the work they did at this election.

Make no mistake about it: it was your hard work that deprived the Conservatives of a majority ten days ago.

Why did Gisela Stuart win in Birmingham Edgbaston?

Why did Karen Buck win Westminster North?

Why did Andy Slaughter win in Hammersmith?

Why did we win back so many councils and council seats?

The reason we won was because Ashcroft’s millions were defeated by the hard work and dedication of the men and women of the Labour movement. And we should take pride in that achievement.

Facing the facts

But, for all those successes, we need to face facts. This has been a depressing week for everyone in the Labour Party and all who believe in a fairer Britain.

We need to face uncomfortable truths: we lost the election and it was a bad result. Despite the hard work that was done, this is the second worst result for us since universal suffrage.

And let me say very clearly: we can’t explain away that defeat on the basis of one person or one moment in a campaign.

The reasons for defeat are much more fundamental than that.

Now is the time to make use of the only advantage, frankly, that we get in opposition: the chance to renew comprehensively and to have the far-reaching debate that we did not have in government. The last time we were able to renew in this way was in 1994 – sixteen years ago. We need to seize the opportunity to do that now.

We should have the broadest, deepest and most robust discussion we can.

And it must involve everyone in our party: party members, councillors, MPs, trade unions and former ministers as well.

Because I am absolutely convinced that if we ask the hard questions as New Labour did in 1994 and the Conservative Party did not do after 2005, then we can make sure this is a one-term government and find our place where we want to be: in power, standing up for the people we came into politics to represent.

But we have to learn the right lessons.

We must start by understanding the country we seek to lead again and the reasons why we lost. I will always defend the record of our government because we made this country more prosperous, fairer, greener, more democratic.

I am proud to have been part of that government and we should all be proud of what we achieved. But there is deep thinking we need to do about what went wrong.

But for me there is one central lesson about why we lost.

When Labour succeeds it is through a politics always rooted in our a values and always rooted in the lives of the people of Britain.

And the truth is that as government wore on we lost that sense of progressive mission and of being in touch with people’s concerns.

Think about the things we are proudest of: the minimum wage, investment in healthcare, tax credits, Sure Start.

Almost all of those things were a result of decisions made in the very first years of our government.

As time wore on we came to seem more caretakers than idealists-more technocratic than transformative.

And when political parties lose that sense of idealism and mission they become much more vulnerable to the currents of events.

For us, increasingly, because we lost that sense of progressive mission, we found ourselves beached, unable to speak to too many of the concerns of the people of our country.

The Economic Lessons

And I saw it reflected in my experiences during the campaign

Take the economy.

We did great things on the economy after 1997, but the truth is that the New Labour combination of free markets plus redistribution got us a long way, then reached its limits a few years back. And I saw that during this campaign.

I was canvassing in my constituency and met a classroom assistant. She did have a job, partly thanks to decisions we had made.

But she told me she was taking home about £9 000 a year. She wasn’t eligible for tax credits because she was working 27.5 hours a week – not 30 – and she couldn’t afford anything but the necessities of life.

She felt we had nothing left to say to her.

For her, and millions like her, on modest incomes, we need to rediscover our sense of progressive mission.

Or take someone else I canvassed in my constituency.

He was voting for the BNP, because he told me his friends’ wages were being undercut by immigration from Eastern Europe.

Britain’s diversity is an enormous strength: economically, culturally, socially and we should never cease saying it and we should say it more often.

But the truth is that immigration is a class issue.

If you want to employ a builder it’s good to have people you can take on at lower cost, but if you are a builder it feels like a threat to your livelihood.

And we never had an answer for the people who were worried about it.

When competition is driving down your wages and your pension rights, saying globalisation is good for you and for the economy as a whole is an example of what I mean about becoming a technocrat. Because it is a good answer for economists but it is no answer for the people of Britain.

So, for that voter in my constituency, and many others, we need to rediscover our sense of progressive mission.

Fairness: Banks and the welfare state

We also need to rethink what it means to make Britain a fairer country.

When we came to office our sense of what fairness meant and the people’s sense of fairness connected. It was about making work pay, it was about rebuilding public services.

But the truth is that over time the connection between our sense and the people’s sense of fairness frayed and we need to acknowledge that.

It frayed over excesses at the top.

And it frayed over the people at other end of society as well.

Think about the windfall tax on the privatised utilities. Conceived in opposition and implemented in government.

But then take the issue when we were in government of how we dealt with the banking crisis.

We showed great radicalism when it came to preventing a return to the Great Depression.

But we didn’t see the same kind of radicalism when it came to dealing with the banks and the bankers.

Sometimes it seemed as though we were clinging to the world as it was before the credit crunch, and not imagining the world as it could be.

Why? Because fundamentally we were stuck in a mindset of the 1990s which feared the idea of government taking on the power of markets.

And if we didn’t do enough to enforce fairness at the top, nor did we do enough to enforce it at the bottom.

I am a great defender of the welfare state. It is what a civilised society depends upon. But the night before the election I was in my constituency and I met a guy who had done well under Labour.

And he said, look, I am not voting for you. I’ve voted Labour all my life but I am working all the hours that God sends to make a decent living, and yet, he felt, that there are people down the street who could work but were not doing so.

Now we know we did act on this issue, but perhaps too late.

We have hard thinking to do.

We need to re-found the welfare state: not just on need, but also on the original Beveridge mission of responsibility and contribution. And we need to give the everyone more of a stake in the system.

The State

And we need to recognise also the wider issues people feel about the state, and their daily frustrations with it.

When we came to power our public services, as we all remember, were on their knees.

We should take extraordinary pride in the rebuilding we did of the schools, the NHS and other public services.

We also had exciting plans to do more: on schools, in health and policing, to liberate the best of our public sector.

But just as did not do enough to tackle people’s daily frustrations with the market, so we did not do enough on the state as well.

I see this as a constituency MP week in, week out.

Members of the public who feel the state is indifferent to them: faceless and unresponsive.

Public servants who felt that we didn’t value what they do and micro-managed too much.

And also on issues of civil liberties there was too much of a sense that we were casual when it came to the relationship of the state and the individual.

That needs to change.

The future

So in all these areas, we lost sight of our values and of what people expected from us. What does this mean about the future?

I don’t come into this debate with a blueprint. But I do have a clear sense of the direction we need to create the more just and more equal society I believe in.

First, we need a new way of thinking about markets.

Globalisation is not simply an untameable force of nature to which we must adapt or die.

What the banking crisis showed is that it needs the right set of rules. And our task here is clear.

Until the 1960s and 70s, there was a settlement that gave working people a sense of security through pensions, wages and work. That cannot be reproduced.

But we need to think anew about how we build economic security again in the 21st century.

Second, we need a new way of thinking about the state. The powerlessness of people is as much an injury in our society as lack of income or wealth. Now, David Cameron’s Big Society is not a way of solving this problem because it is a recipe for abandonment.

But we do need to be far more radical. We need to show we are the people who can reform the state to make it more accountable and give power away.

Third, we need to show that we get what really matters in life, beyond economics. I think that climate change and the environment needs to be central, not an add-on, to our political vision.

And also we need to do more about every other issue that really matters to people: family, neighbourhood, community, quality of life, time, love and compassion. All of these things need to be central to the way we think about politics.

Fourth, we need a new way of doing politics itself. There is a Conservative-Liberal coalition government, but that should not make us retreat from pluralism and political reform. Because the old ways of doing politics are a complete turn-off for the public.

And we need to face the truth.

We had a catastrophic loss of trust over Iraq.

For many people, the way that happened, broke the bond of trust with us.

And for many others, expenses did the same.

Our Party

And that new way of doing politics means we have to think hard about our party too.

The leadership of our party needs to face an uncomfortable truth about what party members feel about us.

The membership has felt all the leadership wants is for them to deliver leaflets.

The truth is that that doesn’t make for an exciting enough party.

We need a living breathing party of which people are proud to say they are members and proud to call their own.

So that needs to change: we need to give party members a proper voice.

And we, as party members, need to face an uncomfortable truth as well.

Our party is not outward looking enough.

The trade union link matters because it is our link to working people in this country and it is very important.

We also need to reach out to people in the environmental movement, voluntary organisations and local citizens’ organisations.

And we need to make sure that we are a party that reflects the reality of modern Britain. And I do want to say that at all future election campaigns, we must make sure that we are a party of women as well as men.

The Labour Party needs to not just be an electoral force, but also a movement for change in every part of our country.

So I want to play my part in that change and next week I will be launching a living wage campaign in Britain, that I hope Labour Party members and others will sign up to.

Emulating what London Citizens did here in London, emulating what we hoped to do in our manifesto.

That is the kind of party I believe in: rooted in our values and rooted in people’s lives and making a progressive difference as a political party to the lives of people up and down this country.

The leadership

I joined this party at the age of 17. I joined it because I thought it was the best vehicle for the hopes and aspirations of the British people.

I believed it then and I believe it now.

And over the last few days a number of you have talked to me about the contribution I should make in the future.

And I have talked it over with my family, about what it would mean.

And I have made my decision.

Today I am putting my name forward to be leader of the Labour Party.

My message to the British people is this:

We will learn from our mistakes, we will be once again a party that is rooted in your values, rooted in your life and a party that can build the kind of country you want to see in Britain. And my message to our party is this: let’s move on from the politics of Blairites and Brownites and unite around a new set of ideas.

Let’s use this leadership election to take the first steps on the road back to power. I am someone driven by faith and optimism. Faith in the ability of people to do extraordinary things and leave the world a better place than they found it.

Martin Luther King said the arc of the moral universe is long and it bends toward justice, but only if people bend it that way.

Let’s understand that lesson.

This leadership election cannot just be about leadership candidates. It has to be about you as well.

Because all the great political movements of history have been built from the bottom up. House by house, street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, community by community.

That is the sort of politics I believe in. That is how we become not just a party, but a movement and a cause.

That is the sort of party we need to become.

That is how we can make ourselves not just a successful electoral force – but the best force for change in Britain as well.”

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