5 things you need to know about Ed Miliband’s speech today

12th January, 2013 8:43 am

This morning Ed Miliband will make his first speech of 2013 to the Fabian Society Conference, focusing both on what the party got right in power, and what we need to change. It would be easy to dismiss this as a “moving beyond New Labour” speech (we’ve had a few of those from Ed and others before), but based on the pre-released extracts this appears to be more than that.

Instead, it is potentially the emergence of One Nation Labour into a distinct and coherent political project, and nods towards several of the themes that run through the pamphlet we’ll be launching with John Cruddas on Tuesday. There are also numerous nods to the importance of giving people a stake in their own communities and devolving power down to communities and service users, some of which might sound familiar to those who read Jon Wilson’s recent Fabian pamphlet “Letting Go”.

Glancing through those sections that have been briefed out already, it seems like “change” will rival “One Nation” for top soundbite billing. In fact – the speech is called “One Nation Labour: The Party of Change”. Here are the 5 things you need to know about it:

It’s critical of New Labour: The speech will offer quite a harsh critique of New Labour’s economic policy  (especially as both Miliband (and Balls) were senior Treasury advisers during the period under fire).  In particular, there’s pointed criticism of New Labour’s failure to change the UK economy, and the failure to regulate the banks, “New Labour did not do enough to bring about structural change in our economy to make it work for the many, not just the few. It did not do enough to change the rules of the game that were holding our economy back.”

However it also praises New Labour’s record: Miliband has carefully structured most of the speech so that his criticism of New Labour is framed by praise for what it achieved, Essentially, he’s saying that New Labour was right for the time, but that One Nation Labour is right for today. The elements of New Labour that Miliband praises appear to be those he would keep, such as : “New Labour rightly broke from Old Labour and celebrated the power of private enterprise to energise our country. It also pioneered an active welfare state that helped get people back into work, and introduced the minimum wage and tax credits to help make work pay. And it used the proceeds of economic growth to overcome decades of neglect and invest in hospitals, schools and the places where people live. There are millions of people who have better lives because of it.”

Acknowledging the impact of mass immigration: Miliband returns to immigration as one of the key areas where he feels that New Labour made mistakes in today’s speech. It’s starting to feel like the early framing of Ed as the son of an immigrant has been so that he can make such interventions on immigration (the “Only Nixon could go to China” argument). Today he’ll say: “I bow to nobody in my celebration of the multi-ethnic, diverse nature of Britain. But high levels of migration were having huge effects on the lives of people in Britain – and too often those in power seemed not to accept this. The fact that they didn’t explains partly why people turned against us in the last general election.”

We get a few policies: Whisper it quietly, but there are some policies in this speech too (albeit a few of them are small, and a few are expanded versions of existing policy). There’s a nod to Stella Creasy’s campaign on legal loan sharking, and campaigners against high street betting shops (including this group of 13 MPs) will also be pleased to see Miliband backing their cause. He’ll say:  “One Nation Labour is practising a new approach to campaigning — through community organising — which doesn’t just seek to win votes but build trust and new relationships in every part of Britain. Taking up local issues from high streets dominated by betting shops to taking on payday loan companies.”  There will also be an expansion of Jack Dromey’s recent pledges on reforming the private rented sector.

Party changes: As well as community organising (mentioned above) it also seems that we’ll get commitments from Miliband today on changing the way the party works. Look out for Miliband mentioning recruiting MPs “from every part of British life” – which with target seats being selected this year, I’ll be holding him to.

Stay with us all day for news from Fabian New Year Conference, which I’ll be liveblogging.

  • Daniel Speight

    I guess the big question that eventually Ed will have to answer is whether he, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are just different shades in those 50 shades of gray. So he will tell us he isn’t New Labour and he isn’t Old Labour, but what we need to know, and I suspect I can include the entire spectrum of Labour support from left to Progress, is whether he is prepared to break from the economic consensus that has been followed in Britain since Thatcher’s time.

    As I see it the danger is that if he doesn’t break clearly from the other parties the public dislike of all politicians will increase and our political class will get even farther away from real life. If this happens they should expect more summer riots to be just one of the responses.

  • Quiet_Sceptic

    It would be nice to see something bold on housing. Giving private rental tenants more rights is heading in the right direction but we really ought to be addressing the issue that more and more people on average incomes can no longer afford to buy.

    To be honest I’m always surprised that housing costs and housing policy isn’t given a higher priority by the Left. Anything which impacts on people’s incomes, like the recent benefit caps receives huge attention yet rising housing costs which have just as much, if not more impact, received comparatively little attention.

    With limited public money to fund any future increases in benefits, we need to look at what we can do help bring down the cost of living and housing, as the largest cost, ought to be up there in the priority list.

    • Michael Murray

      I want Labour to scrap “The Right To Buy” and to create a state housing corporation that will build hundreds of thousand of “council homes” which will be available only for renting and should be seen as a state asset. I also want Labour to re-introduce rent controls to stop greedy, grasping Landlords charging exhorbitant rents which the tax payer pays for in ever and ever increasing housing benefit. The benefit doesn’t go to the tenants, it goes to the greedy, grasping Landlords.

    • AlanGiles

      Of course, if Labour in general and Miliband in particular had any foresight and backbone they would ammounce their intention of a large scale scheme to build council housing, which would effectively reduce the power iof private landlords, but a leader who hasn’t even got the guts to remove the dead wood from his shadow cabinet is hardly likely to be up to anything as brave as that.

  • Monkey_Bach

    What role will the charnel house Atos have in Miliband’s One Nation active welfare state? Helping people into work? Or helping them into the grave? Labour has NOTHING to be proud about as far as such atrocities go. Eeek.

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