A mandate for change – Ed Miliband’s speech


Ed MilibandEd Miliband has given a keynote speech this afternoon in London in which he sets out his stall for why he believes he should be Labour leader.

You can now read the full speech below.

There comes a time in every election when a choice has to be made – and in this Labour leadership election, we are now approaching that time.

It’s not a choice between Old Labour or New Labour

A core vote or middle England.

The question for us in this contest is: can we have the courage to recognise the scale of the change needed after one defeat, not after four as we had to do after 1992.

I believe that we must choose change.

Ideologically. Electorally. Organisationally.

Ideologically, because I believe we lost our way and got trapped in old ways of thinking.

Electorally, because the electoral map has changed.

Organisationally, because we thought the way to win was despite our movement not because of it.

Those are the changes we need to make. Those are the changes to move on from the New Labour comfort zone.

New Labour: right for its time – but tt was formed sixteen years ago and now we need to move on. Traditional New Labour solutions won’t work, and that is why I am the modernising candidate in this election.

1. Changing ideologically

First, we need to move on ideologically.

In 1994, Tony Blair told our party that our values were still the right values but that we got stuck in outdated ideas. He was right then.

And some of the truths of that time we must retain: we still need to speak to all sections of society, we still need to create wealth as well as distribute it, we still need to ally social justice and economic success.

But that generation of politicians was born in a very different era: they came of age in the 1980s. Some of the assumptions of that generation of politicians have served their time They saw Labour’s failings and how we had to change. But let’s be honest, for too long they were haunted by the ghosts of the 1980s as well.

New Labour fell into the same trap as Old Labour, clinging to old truths that had served their time: we got stuck with old certainties, bad policies and became out of touch.

Take two examples: our approach to markets, and the state.

New Labour: right to embrace markets, but the ghosts of the 1980s meant we couldn’t recognise their limits.

So while we were fixated on deregulation the banks spiralled out of control.

We didn’t want to be against aspiration, rightly so, but we ended up defending top pay even when people felt outraged about the excesses they saw – the party of the windfall tax becoming the party of bankers’ bonuses.

We were so concerned about being typecast as anti-business that we couldn’t provide protection for some of our most vulnerable workers.

And for the same reason, we backed new runways when our young people were telling us the environment mattered more.

The New Labour modernisers became the New Labour traditionalists, and became out of touch – and that’s why we need to modernise again in our approach to markets.

And just as we got stuck in old thinking about markets, so too in relation to the state.

New Labour did great things with the power of the state, including saving the economy during the banking crisis.

The hallmark of New Labour was what counts is what works but too often that led to a view of the state that was too managerial, top-down and too over-whelming.

Too managerial because a good idea, about targets led to bureaucratic overload, so the people who worked in the public services felt they had no stake in the improvements we were seeking.

A good idea, being intolerant of low standards in public services, ended up in the way it was done with people at the frontline too often feeling the culture was Whitehall knows best when they had something to say.

And also, particularly after 2001, we became too casual about state power and the liberty of the individual: from ID cards to ninety days.

All of these things need to change, on markets, on the state, and on foreign policy, on democracy, we have to have the courage to change, to think again – not about our values but about how we put them into practice.

And in this campaign I am the person who has shown I can take us beyond the New Labour comfort zone.

I am the candidate who has the strength to say where we got it wrong – to challenge old orthodoxies, to challenge the previous generation’s assumptions, with the confidence to change to win.

That’s what makes me the moderniser in this election

2. Changing electorally

And we’ve got to modernise too in our view of the electoral challenge facing us.

The electoral challenge facing 2010 Labour is very different from the challenge facing 1990s Labour.

The challenge for 1990s Labour under Tony Blair was to attract back middle-income voters, particularly those who had gone to the Tories. The challenge for us now is bigger: to attract back both middle-income voters and low-income voters.

And just to be very clear about this, let me repeat what I said in the essay that kicked off the debate about Labour’s electoral challenge ten days ago:

“We can neither win an election with the working-class vote alone-New Labour was right about that—nor can we take it for granted.”

And let’s look at the challenge for different voters that we lost.

The poorest and the low paid felt we had nothing to saw to them about the challenges in their lives.

Why is this argument important? Because the New Labour comfort zone said they had nowhere else to go – but that increasingly isn’t the case.

Between 1997 and 2010, we lost three million votes among manual workers or the unskilled.

And the increase in Conservative support came not from the most affluent but the least affluent.

We also need to win back middle-class voters, many of whom went to the Liberal Democrats.

Some went over specific issues such as Iraq and civil liberties, in seats, like Hornsey and Wood Green or Manchester Withington.

But for others, it was feeling increasingly squeezed. People working harder and longer, and suffering from the pressures of work and life being out of balance.

And they feared for their children: worrying that the next generation may be the first not to enjoy a better quality of life than the one that gone before. Watching their children descend into ever greater debt and with no hope of making it onto the housing ladder. Many felt we had nothing to say to them either.

We have to win them back too.

There are no false choices to be made here between appealing to one part of the electorate or the other.

The choice is whether we recognise that it is all parts of the electorate that we need to win back, not just one.

To win all of these voters back, we have to get out of the New Labour comfort zone and show we can change.

3. Changing organisationally

And in order to get back in touch with the people we lost, we must also change the way we run our party.

We need a party that looks outwards and listens to members of the public.

But in order for that to make a difference, we also need a leadership that listens to what our party is saying.

I disagree with those in my party who argue for renationalisation of the utilities or the abolition of Labour’s academy schools. If elected, I will lead this party, I will tell it hard truths and I will change this party.

But it’s not naive, it’s rational to say that on agency workers, on housing, on tuition fees our members got it right and we got it wrong.

A strong party is necessary to get policy right because some of the best policy can come from the ground up.

And a strong party and movement is about how you make change happen. We can pass legislation, we can spend money, we can raise revenue. All of those things matter.

But political change doesn’t just happen because we pull levers and legislate, it happens because our movement makes it happen.

Over 400 Labour councillors have now signed up to lead campaigns for the living wage in their communities, alongside trade union activists.

And it this is the kind of movement we need: bringing together labour party members, trade unionists, but also interested in the environment, young people – all people who share our values.

And in order to that we don’t simply need structural changes but above all a new attitude and cast of mind.

So we need big change as a political party: ideologically, electorally and the way we run our party. We need to move on from the New Labour comfort zone.

But we also need to do something else.

I am more certain than ever as this campaign enters its final stretch that people want a politics that inspires.

There are millions of people who want something bigger for our country and want something more from our politics.

We do need to reduce the deficit but politics must be bigger than that.

Remember our history. After 1945, with the biggest deficit in our history, that Labour government set out the vision of a good society—for a new welfare state and a new economy.

The choice for us is whether we can rise to the challenges of our times.

So we must have the courage to change.


A hundred years ago the centre left came together to found the Labour party.

Thirty years ago next year, tragically the Labour party split and the Limehouse Declaration set up the Council on social Democracy which led to the SDP.

In May, this coalition reshaped the political landscape from the right-our challenge is reshaping politics from the centre-left

I believe there is a progressive majority in Britain and I want Labour to be its home.

Some will join Labour, some will want to work with us to stop the damage this coalition is doing.

But in order to win people back, in order to be the natural home of the progressive majority, my party must take a journey too, understanding why people did not vote for us and voted for others instead.

On civil liberties, on ID cards, on tuition fees, on Iraq, I recognise what we got wrong and I will turn the page.

Today, I believe that we need nothing less than a refounding of the Labour Party.

Our party refounded on a clear set of values. About the kind of society we want to live in.

We must be the party of labour: I believe in the dignity of work, which is why the living wage is central to my campaign.

We must be the party of equality: I believe this society is too unequal and it didn’t just harm the poor which is why I am for a high pay commission to curb excess at the top.

We must be the party of aspiration: I believe that millions of people are locked out of opportunity, which is why I am not for a market in higher education but a graduate tax.

We must be the party of family: I believe that we shouldn’t be working the longest hours in Western Europe, which is why I am for flexible working for all.

We must be the party of the environment: I believe that climate change is the biggest threat our country faces which is why it must be central to everything we do.

And yes, the we must be the party of liberty, as we were when we were founded in 1900: defending individual rights and freedoms.

These are my values. This is what I believe. Once we throw off the shackles of the past, all this becomes possible.

I am asking for a mandate to change the party and take us on this next stage of our journey.

It will be tough. Change is difficult.

My leadership will is not the soft option. We will not always agree. I’m not the candidate for an easy life.

But I know that there is a better response to the challenges facing the country than the profoundly depressing response of this Coalition.

That’s why I am optimistic for Labour. Optimistic for Britain.

I’m in this to win not just this election but the next general election.

I am the candidate in this contest who has recognised the scale of change we need in our party.

So that we can deliver the change we need in our country.

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