A few Labour blogging types were discussing Ed Miliband’s decision to attend the Durham Miners’ Gala on twitter last night. I ventured the opinion that it would be the perfect opportunity to use the credit gained by speaking at the Gala to say some things that appealed to an audience beyond the Gala – and challenged, as well as cuddled, the Labour movement.
Mark asked me if I’d be willing to draft up a quick version, and being a fast typist, the following counterfactual speech resulted. Apologies for any typo’s. I had to work quick!
“Friends, It is a pleasure, and an honour to be here with you.
The Miners’ Gala was founded celebrate the achievements and mourn the losses of the brave men and women of the Coalfields.
For decades, Labour leaders were proud to stand with you in that celebration, in that remembrance.
Yet for too long the bitter dissension of defeat meant great Labour leaders, men who cared passionately for the welfare of all, felt unable to stand with you.
They stayed away because they felt they could not both be honest with you and be welcome here. They could not tell you a difficult truth. That the world was changing, and that we -all of us- had to change with it or die.
Now, a generation has passed since the bitterness of defeat soured our long alliance. Almost all the Pits have closed. Where there were hundreds of thousands of miners at the Big Meeting, now there are just hundreds. The battles that seemed so urgent are today memories.
But the animating spirit of the Gala lives on. There may be only hundreds of miners now, but there are thousands who share their values. The spirit of the Miner’s Lodge did not die when the pits closed. It lived on in our togetherness, in our celebration of community, in our belief that we should support one another through crisis. It lives on in our pride at battles fought, and in our regrets for struggles lost.
Today the Miners’ gala does not mark the achievements of a single tribe, but celebrates those who share those proud values. Here today are Miners with their children and grandchildren. Nurses and doctors, with those they care for: Teachers, with parents: Fire-fighters, charity workers and volunteers with those they serve: Union members with entrepreneurs.
And yes, all of us peacefully, happily, proudly alongside our brave police. So this is no longer a meeting of one industry, or one region. It is a celebration of a shared history, and of the potential of every one of us.
Today, as Labour leader, In honour of the past, and in commitment to our future, I am proud to renew our links. I promise you this: I will always stand with you, and I will always tell you the truth.
I stand with you because we must stop the terrible waste of this Tory government..
So many of us feel the wasted chances of this Coalition.
The waste of potential in scrapped school buildings and higher fees.
The waste of health as hospitals are in administration and waiting lists go up
The waste of talent as soldiers and police are sacked.
Last year we said the wrong Tory values would lead to the wrong Tory answers.
This year we saw the consequences.
They cut valuable services: but borrowing is up.
They pursued austerity for growth : but we are in recession still.
They said they’d create jobs : But unemployment is high and there is no work.
Worst of all, they said “we’re all in it together” : But families suffer, while Bob Diamond gets a tax cut. That is more than wasteful. It is shameful. So this Gala is the voice of communities in the face of cuts that go too far, too fast.
But if opposition in the face of cuts were the only driving force of this Gala, it would be a betrayal of the generations of miners who stood for something more than opposing cuts alone.
If our alternative was just a better deal for the public sector, no matter how worthy, it would be a sham. Our alternative must be a fairer deal for all. Public or Private. Young or Old, Working or unemployed.
Why? Because the Miners’ Gala today is for the miners and their families who spend their time volunteering, caring, and giving of themselves.
So Labour now must be for the volunteers across this country.
Why? Because the Miners’ Gala today is for nurses working longer hours, to look after sufferers from Pleural Plaques, for the community wardens who keep our communities safe.
So Labour now must be for those sacrificing on the frontline of our services and for those who need them.
Why? Because the Miners’ Gala today is for workers at Nissan who sacrificed pay in the face of crisis, so their colleagues could keep their jobs.
So Labour now must be for workers in the private sector who need skills and decent pay.
And most of all, because the Miners’ Gala today is for the millions squeezed between low wages, high unemployment, and ever rising prices – families who are tightening their belts so their children get what they need to learn and grow.
So Labour must be for all those who feel let down, squeezed and put upon.
It is for all of them that we gather today. It is for all of them that I lead this party and I seek to govern our nation.
I do this in honour of our past. The Miners’ Gala takes its moral force not from self-interest, or sectional advantage, or from proud banners, but from shared sacrifice.
The miners inspired the Labour movement because they showed the power of putting the common interest before self interest. It was willingness to sacrifice the quiet present for a better tomorrow that sustained them through arduous and dark days, that won great victories.
Today the consequences of self-interest seem to leave our country in a sea of troubles. Debt. Division. Unemployment. Greed.
So let’s be honest and straightforward about what we face.
We know times are tough, that money is short.
Things wouldn’t be easy whoever was in power.
The alternative I offer does not hide from these challenges. It does not shirk the difficulties that lie ahead.
There are great challenges ahead. We need to create millions of jobs.
We need to transform our nation’s skills and education. We need the infrastructure, housing and green energy that will meet the demands of a changing world.
All of that will cost money. Money we have all too little of.
On top of that, when we get into government there will still be a deficit, still be unemployment, still be waste, and inefficiency, and human tragedy.
So this is the hard but vital task:
How can we do all that we must to renew our nation when families are already making sacrifices to make ends meet?
How can we do all that we must to renew our compassion when public servants must accept a pay freeze so their service survives?
Hw can we do all we must for those who need succour, when those so many of us feel put upon and squeezed?
Well, for a start, we’d ask the very wealthiest to contribute a share of their bonuses to lift the burden on the many. We’d clamp down on tax avoiders. We’d ask those who have most to give a little more.
But friends – that will not be nearly enough for what we need to do.
We need businesses to prosper, exports to flourish, to build more houses.
We need new rail networks, more housing and a greener economy.
We need the promise of new technologies and the power of research.
We need to put investment, education and invention at the heart of economic policy, because without those we cannot prosper.
We need all this because the secret of economic success is not short term wealth, but long term growth. So to succeed we need our children to be well educated, our workforce to be highly skilled, our families and communities to be strong and safe.
So I will stand with you, but I won’t lie to you.
The only answer comes if all of us put the opportunities of the next generation before our own short term interests.
That is why those who shout the decayed rhetoric of division and bitterness and easy opposition do not speak for me: they cannot create a sustainable future for all, just defend the immediate interest of some.
We know where that leads. To fleets of Taxis scuttling round our streets, handing out redundancies. To chaos, to retreat and to the worst betrayal of all: triumphant Tory governments.
The changes we need to make for the long term means short term sacrifice. So I can’t offer pay rises, or thousands of extra staff, or extra spending in every public service.
I’d love to tell you we can painlessly tax our way out of this, but it isn’t true.
The hard truth is we can put taxes on the wealthy and privileged up, but if we want to build trainlines, and green energy networks, and housing, if we want to give our young people skills, and help them start businesses, if we want to help struggling families get by, we will have to hold down spending too.
I refuse to pretend there is an easy path out of the economic crisis.
I can’t offer you a bribe. I won’t insult you by telling you a fairy story.
Instead I come here to offer a common cause: One rooted in what our movement has always stood for. Shared sacrifices for national renewal. And I swear to you this, with Labour the burdens will be shared fairly. With Labour, the benefits will go to the many, not the few.
So let our message be heard. Tory Austerity is not working. It is hurting families, Slowing growth, causing unemployment Harming charities, services and communities.
But there is another way. Support growth to get the deficit down.
Help families who are making big sacrifices by asking for just a little from those who can give the most. Restrain spending when growth returns, and use the proceeds of growth to pay down debt, invest for the future, not simply spend for the moment, no matter how tempting.
We should do all this, not for ourselves, but because our first duty is to help the next generation fulfil their potential– even if this means a shared sacrifice today. Take this alternative, and we can meet our national challenges. Grow our economy, Reduce our deficit and build a stronger, fairer country.
But more than that, we will truly honour the sacrifices of all those miners who came to Durham in common cause to secure a better future for all.