Ed Miliband: “I’m sure there’ll be readers of LabourList who’ll be saying ‘why is he talking about this stuff?’”

December 14, 2012 4:40 pm

This afternoon after his speech on integration, our editor Mark Ferguson sat down with the Labour leader to talk about integration, the English language – and the decision not to the whip the equal marriage vote. The text of the interview is below in full:

MF: You made a point of saying in your speech “public funded public facing roles” [as roles where staff should have English proficiency], was this a conscious decision to be talking about areas like outsourcing in the NHS, for example?

EM: Yeah I think it’s the wider…we should look at it across the wider area. The particular example that has come up – and that’s particularly why I said publicly funded – was social care, because there is real evidence in relation to social care – many carers do an absolutely brilliant job – but there is quite a lot of evidence that one of the issues is about English proficiency. A survey from the Oxford centre on migration, I think, that looked at this.

So that’s one of the issues, but I think it goes across the board.

It’s really important to say this – there are a huge number of people who are the backbone of our public services – from ethnic minorities, from Eastern Europe – who play an incredibly important role, and nothing I say in any sense devalues that really important role. But I think that it’s also the case that when we’re thinking about going forward in this diverse society, English proficiency is an important part of the job.

MF: Is it possible that some people could lose their jobs over this…?

EM: No, no, because we’re saying, in relation to social care we said new people. What we’ve already said is that they should have what I think we’ve called a license to practice to be in social care, and we’ve said English should be part of that.

MF: So is providing training in English proficiency the kind of thing that a responsible – some might say producer – employer should..?

EM: Definitely! Definitely. Part of the point of the speech today is to encourage people in the private sector (and indeed the public sector) to do that and make English language available to their employees.

MF: Something that has been raised since you brought up the subject of English Language proficiency is ESOL cuts. Is that be something that Labour would be willing to reverse?

EM: You know the rule on not announcing things we’re going to reverse two and a half years in advance of government. But look, I tried to indicate a sort of direction of travel on this, and I said when you’re looking at where resources should be spent, written translation materials – particularly in non-essential areas, we’re not talking about translators in hospitals or prisons or whatever or courts – that’s just less of a priority. And you know it’s striking – I’m sure there’ll be readers of LabourList who’ll be saying ‘why is he talking about this stuff?’. They should come with me to meet the 8 or 10 women who are learning at the college nearby in Tooting. And I asked all of them the question – I thought I should ask all of them the question – ‘is English language more important than written translation materials?’ And they said – to a woman – English language is far more important for us.

And so I just think it’s sort of partly up to us as a Labour Party and a Labour movement understanding this. And also the wider point is not feeling anxious or scared to be addressing these issues. You know, I believe today that I’ve addressed this in an incredibly sober way, in a way the celebrates multi-ethnic Britain – is very clear and unambiguous about that – but says we’ve got to make integration work. Celebration and integration.

MF: On a separate note, it has become clear this week that Labour won’t be whipping the gay marriage vote. That’s something that has caused some…

EM: …I understand. Let me be clear about this. First of all the whole Shadow Cabinet will be voting for Equal Marriage. Secondly, we took the view that when it was civil marriage on its own, we would have had a whipped vote. But even though it’s permissive, when it involved religious institutions, I think the case for a free vote became far stronger. And that’s why we made the decision to have a free vote.

But let me just say, not only will the shadow cabinet be going through the lobbies voting for equal marriage, I would say the vast majority of  Labour MPs will be going through the lobbies voting for equal marriage. And if they ask my advice, that’s what I’ll advise them to do.

MF: Will you be expecting shadow ministers, as well as the shadow cabinet, to vote for equal marriage?

EM: No because it’s a free vote, but as I say I think that the vast majority of the parliamentary party will vote through equal marriage, and it will go through with Labour votes. And I think you will find a very significant percentage of Labour MPs going through.

For any of them that ask my advice, I am giving them a very clear message, I am voting for this, I think it’s absolutely right for our country, I think it recognises equality for gays and lesbians is long overdue, and I think it’s a really good sign for our country that we’re going to get this through parliament. I’m confident we can get it through with a big majority, and I’ll be doing everything I can to maximise that majority.

  • PaulHalsall

    What about monolingual Welsh, Irish, and Scots Gaelic Speakers? They were all here before the Anglo-Saxon great migration?

  • PaulHalsall

    What about monolingual Welsh, Irish, and Scots Gaelic Speakers? They were all here before the Anglo-Saxon great migration?

    • Hugh

      How many of those are there then?

      • PaulHalsall

        Why does that matter? Most Welsh and Gaelic speakers are bilingual.

        • Hugh

          Well if the number of monolingual Welsh, Irish and Gaelic speakers is statistically insignificant, as I suspect it is, the answer to your question is “What about them?”

        • Hugh

          Well if the number of monolingual Welsh, Irish and Gaelic speakers is statistically insignificant, as I suspect it is, the answer to your question is “What about them?”

          • JoeDM

            That is a typically racist English attitude to the Welsh and speakers of the Welsh language. The 2011 census shows that some 30% of the Welsh population are regular users of the language and even people like me who have lived in England for 20 years who was not brought up as a regular Welsh speaker will still use words and phrases with the family.

            Welsh is an important aspect British history as it evolved from the original language of the ancient Britons with remarkably little change since the first written documents in the 6th Century.

            We should be celebrating an importang part of our British history not putting it down.

          • Hugh

            I didn’t put it down, and I object to being called racist by someone who can’t be bothered to read a comment properly. I pointed out that the number of people who speak only Welsh is tiny, which it is, and so it would be a touch peculiar to use such people as a basis to object to a proposal that – all things considered – it’s not a bad idea people wishing to make a life in the UK learn English. Or do you disagree?

          • Hugh

            I didn’t put it down, and I object to being called racist by someone who can’t be bothered to read a comment properly. I pointed out that the number of people who speak only Welsh is tiny, which it is, and so it would be a touch peculiar to use such people as a basis to object to a proposal that – all things considered – it’s not a bad idea people wishing to make a life in the UK learn English. Or do you disagree?

          • Hugh

            I didn’t put it down, and I object to being called racist by someone who can’t be bothered to read a comment properly. I pointed out that the number of people who speak only Welsh is tiny, which it is, and so it would be a touch peculiar to use such people as a basis to object to a proposal that – all things considered – it’s not a bad idea people wishing to make a life in the UK learn English. Or do you disagree?

          • Hugh

            I didn’t put it down, and I object to being called racist by someone who can’t be bothered to read a comment properly. I pointed out that the number of people who speak only Welsh is tiny, which it is, and so it would be a touch peculiar to use such people as a basis to object to a proposal that – all things considered – it’s not a bad idea people wishing to make a life in the UK learn English. Or do you disagree?

          • robertcp

            Mono-lingual Welsh speakers do not exist, so it would be more sensible for a foreigner in Wales to learn English. I happen to know that Welsh would not be much use in most of south Wales!

      • PaulHalsall

        Why does that matter? Most Welsh and Gaelic speakers are bilingual.

    • Hugh

      How many of those are there then?

  • PaulHalsall

    Meanwhile, Punjabi is the second most spoken language in then UK. Perhaps we could
    have, like, a few school GSCEs available in it. Native French, German and Spanish speakers can all get easy As at GSCE and A Level. Why not Punjabi and Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani A levels, as well I suppose for Bengali and Polish speakers?

    I thought we wanted to build bridges with BRIC economies?

    • postageincluded

      AQA have GCSE and A-level Panjabi and Bengali, Urdu at GCSE too. Finding that out took 30 seconds on Google. I assume that there are students wanting to take these courses, or AQA wouldn’t bother.

      • Dave Postles

        Google? Google! DuckDuckGo.

      • PaulHalsall

        That is interesting (although a little odd since Urdu/Hindi is the major world language of India), so thanks for the info.

        As a historian, I know that Indian history is now a growth area, and we are literally crying out for students with heritage knowledge of the languages..

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          I do not doubt the value, and of course there is room for all disciplines to be pursued, and no one would not wish these subjects to be offered.

          But as a country, we are also very short of students to study all sorts of other real world matters, and in particular some of the hard and rigorous subjects that will fit us for the future world. For example Computer Science (so proper programming, and not the Microsoft Office secretarial course my daughter’s school is teaching and calling “ICT”), mathematics, chemical and structural engineering, and so on. Then we might actually be able to build some real bridges.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          I do not doubt the value, and of course there is room for all disciplines to be pursued, and no one would not wish these subjects to be offered.

          But as a country, we are also very short of students to study all sorts of other real world matters, and in particular some of the hard and rigorous subjects that will fit us for the future world. For example Computer Science (so proper programming, and not the Microsoft Office secretarial course my daughter’s school is teaching and calling “ICT”), mathematics***, chemical and structural engineering, and so on. Then we might actually be able to build some real bridges.

          *** This may seem too theoretical, but it has great practical application. My sister has instituted a policy of recruiting pure mathematicians to her engineering company, and giving them really difficult mathematics challenges to solve in computational fluid dynamics. As a result, her company has become the most capable aerospace engineering company in the entire of Latin America, with contracts for the advanced design of all sorts of real world things. They even now have work contracted to them by Boeing as well as by Embraer in Brazil. This is how to build a knowledge economy and to win international business.

          • PaulHalsall

            Jaime,

            Literally thousands of Indian heritage students go into IT or medicine. And good wishes to them. But in general history classes this year I have had two (one of whom was excellent btw).

            Th situation know is a bit like that of early immigrant Jews, whose kids went into business, accountancy, the medical fields. All good ways for students to work up the social classes using intelligence and hard work.

            I would really really like at least some (or more than now) Indian heritage students to do do before they lose that vital grip on heritage languages. As it happens Bengali speaking students and academics are well to the fore, but that gives a sort of off twist to Indian history

            We already have enough IT specialists: many such jobs are tedious, and, except from top schools do not pay well and have short salary paths.

  • PaulHalsall

    Meanwhile, Punjabi is the second most spoken language in then UK. Perhaps we could
    have, like, a few school GSCEs available in it. Native French, German and Spanish speakers can all get easy As at GSCE and A Level. Why not Punjabi and Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani A levels, as well I suppose for Bengali and Polish speakers?

    I thought we wanted to build bridges with BRIC economies?

  • Quiet_Sceptic

    The public will be asking “why is he talking about this stuff 5 years after it happened, after the horse has bolted?”

  • Quiet_Sceptic

    The public will be asking “why is he talking about this stuff 5 years after it happened, after the horse has bolted?”

    • telemachus

      The issue is here now
      an incoming administration needs a coping strategy

  • Amber_Star

    I’m sure there’ll be readers of LabourList who’ll be saying ‘why is he talking about this stuff?’
    ——————-
    I’d bet Ed didn’t realise they’d be saying it in Welsh ;-)

  • Daniel Speight

    No, I’m not saying that Ed, but what I would say is don’t dither. I think you have ability to choose a good path forwards well above half the time. What’s not so good is the dithering. Give yourself 24 hours. If those not in agreement cannot convince you in that time then go with your first immediate thought or idea. Don’t wait so long to make a commitment. If there are some in the shadow cabinet who are not happy then tell them that Alan Johnson has shown them what they should do, although that’s a very small couch where he sits on Thursday nights.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sam-Charles-Hamad/100000708643983 Sam Charles Hamad

    The only thing worse than Miliband’s dog whistling and race-baiting is the compliance propaganda outlets such as Labour List in disseminating these things without any sort of meaningful critical engagement. Miliband’s appeal to racism is now a fixed tactic of the Labour Party, as can be seen by both Blair and Brown’s (British jobs for British workers) tendency to sink to these sordid levels.

    Those who talk about “real issues surrounding immigration” consistently fail to elucidate just what these issues actually are without, like Miliband, appealing to a racist legendarium that stretches back at least as far Enoch Powell, and that is constantly sustained by the gutter press and by ethically bankrupt and nihilistic politicians.

  • Pingback: What are they saying about immigration and integration? « 171bus

  • markfergusonuk

    Appeal to racism? You really didn’t read/watch the speech did you?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

      What is racist in promoting the ability of immigrants to learn English?

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