The Discipline to Make a Difference – Ed Miliband’s National Policy Forum speech

June 22, 2013 11:40 am

Speaking at the National Policy Forum in Birmingham this morning, Ed Miliband said:

It is great to be here in Birmingham.

Labour Birmingham.

Where we took control of the council over a year ago and are already making a difference.

Including with policies like a living wage.

And it is also great to be here at the National Policy Forum.

Planning with you the policies that Labour will put before the country at the next general election.

And we know what our task is:

To show we are ready to make a difference.

To turn our country round.

In a way people can believe in.

In a way that is credible.

People will only put their hopes in us if they know we will make a difference.

But people will only put their trust in us if they know it is credible.

That is our task.

The Tories Have Failed and Britain Pays the Price

Next week we will see what the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have to offer in their Spending Review.

We know what they should be doing next week.

They should be investing in the future of our country.

Even the IMF has called for a £10 billion investment in our economy in the next two years.

Because that is the best was to get growth in our economy, we can generate jobs, improve living standards, and yes, to pay the deficit down.

But that’s not what they’re going to do.

They’re going to keep making the British people pay the price for th eir failure.

Two years ago, George Osborne said: “We have already asked the British people for what is needed, and we do not need to ask for more.”

Next week he will break that promise.

Because this government has failed.

For all the cuts, all the pain, all the tax rises, they are saying the deficit will be £78 billion higher at the next general election than they planned.

And who is paying the price of their failure?

This week we discovered that bonuses in our banks were higher this April than at any time since records began.

Up 64% on a year ago.

As people have their first opportunity to take advantage of the millionaires’ tax cut offered by David Cameron.

It certainly feels like a recovery for those at the top.

But it still feels like a recession for everybody else.

Wages down.

Prices up.

Living standards falling for longer than they ever have in our history.

That is the re ality of David Cameron’s Britain.

We have to turn it round.

Tough Times and the Next Labour Government

But we also know that it won’t be easy.

Because if we win that election, we will be facing the toughest economic circumstances we have faced for generations.

And that will have to shape the way that we govern.

When New Labour won back in 1997, it was tough but Tony Blair could afford to plan, within limits, for rising spending.

It will be different this time.

Nobody here should be under any illusions: the next Labour government will have to plan in 2015 for falling Departmental spending.

And our starting point for 2015-16 is that we won’t be able to reverse the cuts in day to day, current spending unless it is fully funded from savings elsewhere or extra revenue, not from more borrowing.

So when George Osborne stands up next week and announces his cuts in day to day spending, we won’t be able to promise now to reverse them because we’ve got to be absolutely crystal clear about where the money is coming from.

We will show the discipline the challenge of our times demand.

It is the only way we can credibly change our country.

It’s a hard reality.

I am clear about it.

Ed Balls is clear about it.

And everyone in the Labour Party should be clear about it too.

Change in Tough Times

Now, I know there are some who will say this discipline means that we won’t be able to turn our country round.

But I say they’re wrong.

And we know that from our history.

Just think about Clement Attlee and that great reforming government in 1945 after the Second World War.

We remember the great things they did.

Building homes.

Introducing the family allowance.

And creating our NHS.

But in remembering the great things, it is easy with the passage of t ime to forget how hard things were.

Britain’s economy was on its knees.

That government had to make hugely difficult decisions on spending.

There was still rationing for families.

As Prime Minister, Clement Attlee always insisted getting the nation’s finances straight was the priority of any Labour government.

And by their end of time in office they were paying down the enormous wartime debt.

But the Attlee government turned things round.

It made a difference.

It gave people hope.

So we need to learn those lessons again.

Making a Difference: Different Choices about Taxation and Spending

It starts with making different choices from our opponents.

Aneurin Bevan was once asked to describe the core of his political faith.

It was, he said, “the language of priorities.”

About the choices we make to do one thing, rather than another.

We all know the choices th is government has made.

To protect the wealthiest.

And let everyone else carry the burden.

Well, those wouldn’t be the choices of a Labour government.

So when people ask you what difference Labour would make right now if we were in government, let’s tell them.

We would tax those bankers’ bonuses, so we can guarantee work for the young people who’ve been out of work for more than a year.

We would get our young people working again.

We would cancel that millionaires’ tax cut and use the money to protect the tax credits that help make work pay for millions of ordinary families.

And we’d have a Mansion Tax on houses worth over £2 million and use the money to bring back a 10p starting rate of tax.

Those with the broadest shoulders should always carry the biggest burden.

Different choices we’d make right now if we were in government.

We would also spend differently from this government and differently from the last.

If we win that election in 2015, we will need to be ruthless about our priorities in public spending.

It is why we have also said we don’t believe it is right to say that we should carry on paying the Winter Fuel Allowance to the very wealthiest pensioners, those with incomes over £43,000 a year.

It is why we won’t be able to make it a priority to restore child benefit to families who earn over £50,000 a year.

And it is also why we’ve said, when there is a shortage of school places in some parts of the country, it makes no sense to do what Michael Gove is doing and building his Free Schools in other areas where there is a surplus of places.

Our principle on education is clear: all our children deserve the best start in life, not just some.

And even in tough times we can make a difference in our public services.

It is why we are pioneering plans to integrate health and social care, making the NHS, our proudest British institution, fit for the 21st century.

That is the way to make our NHS work for the future, not a £3bn top down reorganisation that fragments and privatises our health service.

With a government presiding over a crisis in our A and E services.

And we can learn how to improve public services in tough times not just from our history but from our present.

I am incredibly proud that Labour in local government is making a difference even in tough times.

And let us pay tribute to all of those councillors for their work.

And I want that work to shape the work of the next Labour government too.

So I’ve asked Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester council, Sharon Taylor, Leader of Stevenage council and Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney to lead a new Task Force to advise us on how we can make a difference even when there is less money around.

These leaders have led the way in their own communities and they will now help shape our plans for public services for the years ahead.

Making a Difference: Economic Reform

But making a difference isn’t just about taxation, spending and public services.

The way we create a recovery made by the many is by changing an economy that doesn’t work for most working people.

And that is more about the choices we need to reform our economy than spending money.

The Tories really do believe that a trickle down economy is the way forward for Britain.

Cutting taxes for the richest, squeezing the middle and a race to the bottom in wages and conditions.

Our vision is different.

We need to use the talents of every person in the country.

That means proper training and apprenticeships for the 50% of young people who don’t go to University.

And companies must fulfil their responsibilities: if you want a major government contract you must provide apprenticeships for the next generation.

We need to stand up, not succumb, to the powerful interests that hold our economy back.

That means reform of the banking system, including new regional banks that will properly serve small businesses.

It means breaking the stranglehold the big six gas and electricity companies that charge over the odds.

It means ending the unfair loopholes that allow the train companies to charge millions of customers over the odds for their tickets.

And it is about standing up against the payday loan companies, capping interest rates and stop their domination of our high streets.

And it is all underpinned by a different view of how working people can contribute to our country.

Believing we succeed not when people are insecure but only when people have confidence and security.

The Labour Party was founded on people’s moral obligations to each other.

Including the responsibility to work, if you can.

But we als o believe in another moral obligation: to treat people decently at their place of work.

So to all those people unable to balance work and family because of the exploitation of zero hours contracts.

To those who aren’t taken on by recruitment agencies who only hire from overseas.

To those who see their pay and conditions undermined by loopholes in the law on agency work.

I say, this Labour Party is on your side.

Your anxieties are our concern.

And in government, we will act.

Making a Difference: Investing for the Long-Term

So Labour would make a difference by making different choices on tax and spending and public services.

Changing the way our economy works.

And by investing for the future.

So much of what government spends today goes on the costs of failure.

The costs of worklessness because of the failure to generate jobs.

The costs of low pay because of the failur e to create an economy that works for working people.

The costs of housing benefit because of the failure to invest in bricks and mortar.

We must turn that round.

For decades now, Britain simply hasn’t built enough homes.

Fewer now than since the 1920s.

And the result has been that the prices of houses and flats have gone up and up and up, even in these difficult economic times.

According to figures this week, many young working people will now have to save for 30 years before they can afford a deposit for a new home.

Denying them the start in life their parents’ took for granted.

That is wrong.

It is why we should be investing now in house building.

Nobody should be in any doubt of this party’s commitment to building homes.

But building more homes doesn’t just need resources.

We have to be willing to confront some of the obstacles to house building.

Across our country, there are land-owners with planning permission, sitting on land, waiting for it to accumulate in value and not building on it.

We have to change that.

Including giving councils real power to say to developers that they should either use the land or lose the land.

And we need to look at all of the long-term investment needs of the country.

Not just housing, but also schools and a world-class transport system for the future.

A broadband network so that everyone in the country has access to the internet.

Investment in our energy supply too.

All underpinned by an environmental commitment at the heart of what we do.

When it comes to investing in our future and to safeguarding the environment, most people believe is that politics is too short-term to make the right long-term decisions.

We must prove them wrong.

We cannot have a recovery made by the many unless we invest in the future.

So that our kids are educated i n modern schools, not crumbling schools.

Businesses can rely on a transport system that works.

And we can meet the aspirations of the next generation to buy and rent their own homes.

Just as the 1945 government is remembered for the NHS, so we must be remembered for the foresight to invest in our future and for safeguarding the environment for future generations.

Hard Times with Hope

So to those who question whether Labour has the determination to bring the deficit down, I say we will.

And to those who question our ability to change things, if we show discipline, I say we can.

If we:

Put our young people back to work and give every young person a chance at a qualification.

Radically reform our banks so that they serve our country.

Take on all the vested interests that hold our country back.

Protect and improve our NHS.

Invest in the homes and infrastructure of the future.

And safeguard our environment for generations to come.

Then we will be a radical and reforming Labour government that has changed this country.

None of us get to choose the times in which we live.

And we won’t get to choose the circumstances of the next Labour government either.

But we will get to shape them.

Shaped according to our values.

The values of One Nation.

That we can only succeed as country if everyone has a chance to play their part.

If everybody accepts responsibility, all the way to the top of society.

Clement Attlee said at the Labour Party conference:

“Let us accept the challenge of the times in which we live”.

“Let us accept it soberly, responsibly”.

But with “our faith undimmed.”

Our faith is that we can change this country.

Our faith is that we can set a new direction for Britain.

Our faith is that we can do so even in tough times.

And this is what we will do.

  • aracataca

    Great speech. In a week when we learned that bank bonuses rose by 64% this year and where ‘Tories with bikes’ down in Brighton wanted to take £4,000 a year away from bin men and street cleaners and threatened to bring in agency workers to break their strike Aneurin Bevin’s addage rings true: the core of our politics should be ‘the language of priorities’.

    If our current broken economic system is to be changed the concerns of people like bin men and street cleaners (attacked and abandoned by others in Brighton last week) should be the priority for an incoming Labour government while investment bankers should not. However , to turn around 30 years of neo-liberal economics which has so comprehensively failed will take time and it will require patience. We need to be measured, diligent, careful but deliberate and focused in deciding who the next Labour government will prioritise.

    • AlanGiles

      “where ‘Tories with bikes’ down in Brighton ”

      Two or three days ago,when you first used this term three times in one day, I wrote a response, which – so far – Mr Ferguson has not seen fit to print.
      As you have now repeated this term at least a dozen times, we have to accept that you actually believe it.

      Are you saying that anybody who doesn’t support Labour is an incipient Tory? or are you saying that people like Caroline Lucas are Conservative supporters, pretending to be Green, to make it that much harder to win a Parlimentary election?

      And what about those Labour MPs (Frank Field for example) , LL posters and officials and secretaries of Labour (J P Reid, Rob Marchant, Anthony Painter et al) who endorse much of the Coalition’s current plans and want to see their austerity measured continued. Are they “Tories with red rosettes”?

      I frankly don’t think you can be allowed to keep on getting away with this crude slogan without some explanation. Especially if it is to be repeated ad nauseum in every post on every subject.

      Hopefully since this post contains no bad language (neither have any of the other unpublished ones) Comrade Mark will get round to publishing them, one day – perhaps even in the coming week?

      I am not, and never have been a Conservative, but equally I cannot support a Labour party which tries to be all things to all seasons, and essentially wants to carry on with the failed policies of the past.

      AG 23/6/13 0948BST

  • paul connor

    Very good speech (from what I read above)did want to hear though, that the bed room tax would be scrapped under a Labour government. Does anyone know if they will?

  • DaveAboard

    Unexpectedly robust speech. On the plus side, good to hear agency and zero hour contracts mentioned specifically, but disappointing there is no mention of the disgraceful ATOS disability and sickness tests, nor the new PIP assessments, also being farmed out to private sector providers such as Capita who already have a dubious track record.

    In my nearest town, Oundle, there is not one single shop, office or workplace which has wheelchair access or disabled toilet facilities. Even the building used for the televised Corby by-election debate had no wheelchair access which actually prevented one of the candidates from entering.

    I see little point in directing disabled folk back into the workplace if they can’t even physically get in the door in the first place, but there appears to be no recognition of this in Miliband’s or Byrne’s rhetoric.

  • AlanGiles

    While Miliband talks about “discipline”, it might be a good idea to examine the self-discipline of MPs :

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10136603/MPs-spend-500000-on-business-class-flights.html

    They’re still at it!

    AG 23/6/13 0457BST

  • JohnPReid

    Wasn’t this speech at the same time as the people’s assembly, how come they had it the same day ,they wouldn’t have Been able to hear it, unless Blue state digital have recorded it, and assuming that Unite let blue state digital have anything shown without blocking it?…

    • JohnPReid

      Come to think of it shouldn’t have the people’s assembly people been out heckling Ed outside the forum,

  • Monkey_Bach

    Anything MUST be better than the shower of sh*t currently in government. Eeek.

  • RedMiner

    There goes Ed ‘X-ray eyes’ Miliband, traipsing round the country wilfully stirring up indifference wherever he goes, reassuring people that Labour intend to be every bit as diabolical as the current lot.

    He’ll be wondering why there’s no enthusiasm for a Labour Government next.

  • aracataca

    The actions of Jason Kitcat & his colleagues over this past period clearly leave The Green Party with some serious questions to answer. I refer of course to the attack in collusion with Brighton’s Tories on the street cleaners and bin men of Brighton and the threat to use agency workers to break the strike. More broadly the failure of Natalie Bennet and the Executive Committee of the Green Party to take any action in respect of Kitcat and his colleagues leaves further questions unanswered.
    If a Labour Council had behaved in this way I would have been equally critical.
    The point I am making Alan is that just because a group says it’s a left wing alternative to Labour it doesn’t mean that it is.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      You do seem to be slightly obsessed with the Brighton Greens in the last few weeks.

      Before you reply, you might like to consider two points:

      1. Any job contract between employer and employee that seems to rely excessively on allowances to “top up” basic pay indicates to me a failure at multiple levels. A failure by the employer to pay appropriately for the work being done, and a failure by the employees to intelligently demand that basic work is not subject to variable allowances. Additionally, a failure by their union to ensure that their members get the full future pension value by an increased basic salary (which is pensionable), instead of allowances (which are not). So, everyone has failed all around and not just in the last 2 years, but for decades. And now the workers and their unions are engaged in a losing game of trying to protect variable and capricious allowances, and not in trying to argue that their basic work is worth more. Stupidity on every front.

      2. These basic workers all pay insane amounts of additional charges largely as a result of green taxes introduced by a series of fools from 1997 onwards who as Government Ministers largely believed the eco-nonsense foisted upon them by the Greens. And now we have green taxes on fuel, household energy, feed-in-tariffs, and a commitment to impose more of these taxes on the working people of Britain while ignoring the fact that China and India between them will be allowed to increase their global emissions by more than 25 times Britain’s commitments to reduce emissions. Have a think about whether a CO2 molecule emitted from a smokestack in India really cares that its’ effect is felt in any other place around the world.

      You are hitting out at the wrong target.

      • aracataca

        Some of your remarks regarding the position of Brighton’s street cleaners and bin men contain some merit.
        In fact Brighton’s refuse and street cleaning services were both privatised with disastrous consequences in the early-mid 1990s. Things were so bad that there was a strike virtually every other week and it was brought back in house by the council. This experience also explains in part why the workforce is rather militant.
        However, the manner in which the dispute was handled by the Green Party in Brighton was quite frankly appalling and the consequences of Kitcat’s proposals for some of what is a low paid workforce were catastrophic (ie the loss of 25% of salary).
        Furthermore, Kitcat threatened the workforce with bringing in agency labour to break the strike – to do this would have been illegal but obviously either Kitcat and co didn’t know this or thought the strikers could be intimidated with the threat and that it was worth a whirl.
        Of course there is a big difference between being an activist campaigning party and a governing party in public office However, it is worth remembering that The Green Party has made great play of being a left-wing and pro trade union party. IMHO there are in fact neither

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          It is not a loss of any salary at all. It is a loss of allowances, which are not salary.

          That such a situation occurs at all is the indication of serial failures on every side.

          I take no side in this dispute. On a generic level, employers will always try to load anything non-standard into allowances, as they cost them far less in “the long run”, being non-pensionable. It is what employers do. Employees (and their representatives) are guilty of being naive if they accept such agreements, as once something is established as “an allowance”, and not basic salary, it is then always under threat.

          It is one reason why I don’t trust any union (in my case, the BMA) to act for me, as by and large, union negotiators appear to be credulous fools. I’m more competent to look after my own interests than they are. The Trust I annually negotiate my terms with are also credulous fools, but I know that when I walk into the room. Two years ago, they delegated the negotiation to someone quite ridiculously inexperienced and worse still, completely ill-prepared for the meeting, and it cost them around £3,000, so I hope they learned their lesson.

          • rekrab

            Although your quite right to suggest that an increase in basic salary/wages is more desirable in ink on the pay slip, there is such a thing as “customary practice” and of course the stipulated terms of the contract.Personally I’d argue any undermining of terms and condition that are set and applied over time which are then changed whether through consultation periods or not,would constitute a breach of contract.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            I suspect a lawyer would quickly prove you wrong. Allowances are discretionary – for discretionary work (or conditions) for discretionary purposes. Either party can easily chose not to do them.

            Unions appear to be mostly stupid to me, and specifically stupid when they start arguing about allowances. It is a losing game for the employee or the union to be arguing about allowances. Because, all the employer has to do is say “do you know what? We are going to stop the double-time allowance for work on the third Thursday after the May Day holiday. So no rubbish gets collected on that day. It is not the end of the world. We’ll pick it up on the next day”

            You know that phrase “work expands to fill the time available”? Well, the employers also think that “work contracts to fit the budget available”, and given that they pay the wages, they are correct.

          • rekrab

            I’m aware in Scotland that customary practices super cede national and regional contracts, I’m not an employment lawyer but I’d hunch that any lawyer willing to take a breach of contract on over a lesser deal would need to be very brave and sure.

            I’d say the employer would need to ignite a consultation period and prove beyond don’t that the margin line of workings had fallen consistently over time, secondly I’d be weary that relations in the work place would be strained and notice of action after a ballot would be likely served to the employer.

          • aracataca

            The whole allowances structure came in with the privatisation in in the 1990s and has not been addressed in the intervening period.

            Bottom line rekrab is that Kitcat and co have behaved appallingly -nb How would you react if you were on £20k per year and you were threatened with losing £4k of it? Also Kitcat threatened to illegally employ agency workers to break the strike. Not very ‘left wing’ is it?

          • rekrab

            It’s been around for a bit longer than that Aracataca.
            I’d be raging!
            Following Jaime’s cleverly worded posts and somewhat back text methods, I was merely quoting the stance you support as of course I do too.

            Jaime, makes suggested text that statutory holidays and other things could be negotiable? he doesn’t accept other forms of payment that don’t appear on the hourly rates, it’s a fair point and many continue to have the right to work over time and also refuse to work overtime.
            My hunch is? following on from Jaime’s suggestion that the may day holiday was applied and the collection of rubbish would be done the following day wouldn’t be workable because the public would have filled bins on mayday and wouldn’t want their bins to be overfilled because their bins wouldn’t then be emptied, resulting in fly tipping and then a greater cost to clear up and a bigger dent in the reduced budget.

    • AlanGiles

      ” just because a group says it’s a left wing alternative to Labour it doesn’t mean that it is.”

      I suppose one might say a great majority of the PLP and it’s party members no longer consider Labour is a left-wing party, and indeed, some regard it as a dirty word, however, it seems very clear that Labour is really going to follow the same prescription as the coalition, and the New Labour years, therefore should I, or anyone else, choose to vote for the Greens because they are certainly to the left of Labour on many issues, that has to be our decision and you have to respect it.

      Remarks like “Tories on bikes” does virtually nothing to advance your cause, because it is a ridiculous over-generalisation and somewhat offensive to many of us. Also it might help to point out that it is ridiculous for certain Labour MPs to even pretend they are on the left, but they still do.

      AG 24/6/13 0838BST

      • aracataca

        Thanks Alan for this but I don’t think you’ve addressed my point about the Green Party having to answer some questions about the actions of Kitcat and his colleagues over this past period.
        Brighton Green Party for instance have called on him to resign. Is this a view you share?

        • AlanGiles

          Yes, in a word.

          Damage limitation.

          I’d advise Labour to do the same with Liam Byrne – among others.

          AG 24/6/13 1210BST

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