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.