Ed Miliband’s speech to Progress Conference

11th May, 2013 1:50 pm

Speaking at Progress annual conference 2013, Ed Miliband said:

Thank you for that kind reception.

But it is great to be here at Progress.

For nearly 20 years Progress has been an important forum for debate in our party, and it will to continue to provide that in the future.

That’s why I am proud to be here today.

We meet – as we always seem to – in the aftermath of the local elections.

And I want to start by congratulating all of you here who worked so hard for our Party.

Let’s take this opportunity to applaud the 291 newly-elected Labour councillors.

And let’s applaud the great success we had in the crucial battlegrounds of the next general election, places from Carlisle to Harlow to Hastings.

And if you will allow me, let’s applaud a One Nation Labour success: a new councillor in Witney Central, Laura Price, pushing David Cameron’s own Tories into third place.

This is a party moving forwards.

But what else did we learn from last week’s elections?

That the people of Britain have lost any confidence in this government’s ability to turn this country round.

But also that our Party has more to do to reach out to the people we need to win back.

That is clear from the results.

Being a one term opposition is about defying the historical odds.

But today I stand here convinced that not only can we win the general election.

If we do the right things and we have the right programme, the right policies, the right organisation – this general election is there to be won.

And that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

To win we have to be clear about the ideas that will drive us to victory.

We will not win the election by saying that we were a good government and we just need to carry on where we left off.

Because the truth is that things have dramatically changed in the years since Progress was founded in the run up to our victory in 1997.

Progress helped make possible New Labour’s successes: rebuilding our schools and hospitals; lifting families out of poverty; creating Sure Start to give support to millions of young families; introducing the minimum wage.

I am proud of those achievements.

We should always be proud of those achievements.

But almost two decades on, many of the truths that underpinned that project – truths that appeared to be so self-evident back then – have been undermined.

That is what I heard as I went round the country during these local elections.

From Maidstone to Newcastle-Under-Lyme.

In our economy, our society and our politics the old certainties have broken down.

There was an old way of running the economy that saw financial services as the bedrock of our prosperity.

That what was good for the City of London would automatically be good for Britain too, just as long as government was there to redistribute the tax revenues.

It is no longer true.

In the way we live together in communities, there was an old certainty that globalisation and economic change would open up aspiration and benefit all.

For example, that ever-increasing diversity would automatically benefit the whole country and that should shape our view of immigration.

It no longer holds true.

And in our politics, there was an old certainty that we were in a world of predictable party politics, where the pendulum and the voters would always swing between Labour and Conservatives.

None of these certainties any longer hold.

And that changes what our party needs to do.

The first of those old certainties was shot to its core by the financial crash in 2008.

But it had been crumbling before then.

The reason I take a different view of our economy from the past is simple: it is clear now this economy is not working for most working people.

And the answer can’t be to go back to the world before the crash.

In our society, change has brought anxiety, winners and losers, and often people have felt left alone and isolated in the face of change.

It is not prejudice but real issues that have driven concerns about immigration.

About the pace of change.

With worries about jobs and livelihoods.

And about the integration of our communities.

If we go out and talk to people, we all hear it on the doorstep.

And in our politics, more and more people are turning away from the major parties.

More people who don’t vote.

And more people eligible to vote who have never voted at all.

That’s why I say our biggest opponent at the next election is not the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats or UKIP, but the idea that nobody can make a difference.

These are uncomfortable truths for our Party.

But we ignore them at our peril.

Now, in the face of so many deep and profound challenges in our country, it is no wonder that the people of Britain are worried about our future.

Let me tell you, on the way back from Doncaster last Friday, having celebrated our Party’s victory over an Independent mayor, a construction worker in his forties came up to me on the train.

He said he had just one thing to say: that the country had no future.

No future for him.

No future for his friends.

No future for his son.

And that’s what he needed me to know.

It shows the gravity of people’s concern about what is happening.

He, and millions of people like him, just don’t believe we have an economy that works for them.

A society that they feel part of.

Or a politics that can answer these challenges.

Now, can the Government turn this around?

I think we can be pretty clear that the answer is no.

In this week of the Queen’s Speech, exactly three years after they stood together in the Downing Street Rose Garden, what do David Cameron and Nick Clegg really offer for our country?

Their economic plan has failed and they have run out of ideas – and the Queen’s Speech shows it.

They stand up for the wrong people – from the millionaires’ tax cut, to their U-turns on cigarette packaging and lobbying.

And they are hopelessly divided and cannot offer the leadership our country needs – and Europe shows that more than anything else.

What an extraordinary spectacle of a government that says it is relaxed about its own MPs voting against their own Queen’s Speech.

I know David Cameron is a man who likes to be known for a bit of relaxing, even chillaxing, but on this occasion, it beggars belief.

He’s not lying on the sofa, relaxed.

He’s hiding behind the sofa, too scared to confront his party and provide the leadership the country needs.

He’s weak and panicked and flailing around.

Because on this, as on so many issues, he has no answers to the challenges facing Britain in the future.

And why is he in this position?

Because he is being pushed around by his own backbenchers.

That’s the only reason he changed his mind in January on an in/out referendum.

It wasn’t about the national interest, it was simply about his party interest.

And it hasn’t even worked.

Because those backbenchers will keep coming back for more.

David Cameron may try to out Farage-Farage on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

But in all of our decisions we make, we will always stand up for the national interest.

And our national interest lies in staying in the EU.

And working for the changes that will make it work better for Britain.

It is wrong now to commit to an in/out referendum and have four years of uncertainty and a ‘closed for business’ sign above our country.

Of course people are frustrated about the EU, but in town centres across the country I heard loud and clear where people see the national interest, what people are most worried about: jobs, living standards, the fate of their small businesses.

One Nation Labour will not put them at risk.

It is One Nation Labour that will fight for our national interest.

Of course, we live in anxious times.

And it is understandable that people are looking for different answers.

But UKIP doesn’t have them.

It is a party of protest, not solutions.

And the Tories are fast turning from a party of government to a party of protest too —protest against each other.

Labour will succeed as a party of solutions addressing the challenges of 2015.

In the 1990s, Labour adapted to change.

So too today.

The policies for today will not be the same as those we put forward back then, or in 2005, or in 2010.

We are not going back.

Nor are we looking for false promises or easy answers.

We will have to pay the deficit down.

We cannot promise to reverse every cut.

And we will not just sit back and wait for the political pendulum to swing.

We will win by offering Britain a new direction: to rebuild together as a country, not fall apart.

That is what One Nation Labour is all about.

That’s why One Nation Labour is the modernising force in the Labour Party and in the country today.

It means a new economic plan.

A plan to turn Britain around.

When there is less money around.

This is the challenge the British people have set us.

I think of the young man in Long Eaton I met desperate for work, who couldn’t find work, and who hasn’t be able to for four years.

I think of the single parent I met in Lincoln.

She was working as an ambulance controller, desperate not to be stigmatised, struggling to make ends meet.

She wanted a government that understood.

I think of the market trader I met in Bristol desperate, as he told me, just for some hope.

What unites every person I met during the local election campaign is the sense that we are facing an economic crisis without end.

We will win the next general election by showing people that we have credible, real answers to that crisis.

And that is the mission we are on as a Party.

One Nation is not just the country we would like to be.

It is the only way we can succeed as an economy in the future.

It is based on this idea: wealth creation does not come simply from a few at the top.

All the lessons of our history, from the industrial revolution to the post-war reconstruction, are that we need a recovery made by the many.

The people who do the hours.

Who put in the shifts.

The people who are out at work before George Osborne’s curtains are open.

And come back after those curtains have already closed for the night.

And we are setting out how we do that.

Different from this government.

And different from the last Labour government too.

Training and apprenticeships for the forgotten 50 per cent of our young people, not just qualifications for those who go to university.

A banking system that serves the real economy, in particular small business, not businesses serving our banks.

An industrial policy based on long-term, durable wealth creation and innovation, not on the short-term, fast-buck.

Homes, schools, transport that we invest in, as the best route to growth, to create jobs and to enable people to play their part.

And understanding that we cannot have a recovery made by the many when living standards are falling year on year on year.

That might not keep the people in Downing Street awake at night.

But we know it is what keeps the people of this country awake at night.

That’s why we’d make different decisions on the tax system from this government and from our own past, like wanting a mansion tax to fund a 10p starting rate of tax.

And all this must be underpinned by credibility that we understand the next Labour government will not have money to spend like the last.

In our society, we are not dazzled by change.

But nor do we seek to re-create the past.

Take immigration.

It was controversial when I started giving speeches on immigration a year ago.

Immediately, people asked: is this a dog-whistle to prejudice?

Let me tell you: this Party must never make the mistake that any issue is a no-go area.

If the British people are talking about it, we must be talking about it too.

And we’ll always do it in a Labour way.

On immigration, I bow to no-one in my commitment to a diverse, multi-ethnic Britain.

It is one of things that makes our country great and more prosperous.

But immigration doesn’t just work for everyone automatically.

And we got it wrong in government.

Not just the policy.

But our failure to listen.

The pace of change does matter.

Integration – including learning English – is important.

And it’s about our economy too.

We should stop employers paying less than the minimum wage.

Crack down on recruitment agencies that only take people from overseas.

And say no to slum landlords who cram people into houses, leaving neighbours and communities with burdens simply too big to bear.

An agenda only we can champion.

Because we’re the party that believes in high standards for working people and not a race to the bottom in wages and conditions.

And just as we need rights and responsibilities when it comes to immigration, so too in social security.

Which is the only party in politics today that is actually going to tackle the chronic problem of 70,000 young people languishing on the dole for more than a year and 160,000 older people out of work for more than two years?

Only the Labour Party.

I think of the young people I met, like that young man in Long Eaton, desperately looking for work.

And the older person in Blackpool, who was so turned off politics because he thought no-one could help get him a job.

Only the Labour Party – with a compulsory jobs guarantee has anything to say to them.

For all their rhetoric about welfare reform, for all the cuts they’ve made, this government will be spending more on social security at the end of this Parliament than at the beginning.

Not because they’re generous.

But because they haven’t taken the action on the economy and they haven’t created the jobs we need to keep the social security bill down.

Rights and responsibilities are at the core of what we believe for our society.

Because One Nation is about everybody having opportunity and having a responsibility to play their part.

And that should go all the way to the top of society too.

From taxing the bankers’ bonuses for youth jobs to ensuring everyone pays their fair share of tax through the stamping out tax avoidance for individuals and the big corporations too.

Now, there is no greater challenge to the old certainties than when it comes to our politics.

Here, the only way forward for us is to understand why people have turned away from politics and seek to change it.

Power in Britain is far too centralised.

Local people don’t feel they have a say in the decisions that shape their lives.

That is why, as part of our Policy Review, we are absolutely committed to devolving power down.

Because the only way we can restore faith in politics is from the ground up.

And if you want to see what difference that can make, look at the fantastic 29 Labour councils committed to paying a living wage.

We need to devolve power not just in the country but in our party as well.

You know, the best campaigns I saw across Britain were the ones based on an open manifesto process, talking to people about their lives and about what they wanted to see, as we did in Lancashire.

Our pledges in that election were made by the many.

Based on 150,000 conversations on doorstep across all of Lancashire.

And, finally, the lesson for politicians is always we need to open up our politics.

In this campaign, as you know, I went to town centres across the country and stood on a pallet.

Reinventing the old-fashioned town meeting.

The way politics used to be done.

Not seeking the easy questions but answering the hard ones.

In a small way, it is a symbol of the need for us to open up our politics.

And it is a lesson for our party.

That we need to reach out to people.

Including people who are completely turned off politics.

In every area, the only way forward is use the talents of every person in the country.

A recovery made by the many.

A society in which everyone plays their part and accepts their responsibilities, all the way to the top.

And a politics to match.

But there’s one other thing that will win us the next general election.

And it’s not about policy.

It is what I used to say on that pallet in every town centre I went to.

We don’t just offer a different style of management.

We offer a different vision of the country.

Think about UKIP and what it is offering.

It is seeking to offer a patriotic story about Britain.

But it is not my patriotic story.

And it is not yours either.

Because it is insular.

Backward looking.

And it won’t meet the challenges of our age.

Just look what they say about rights for women and maternity leave.

They say employers shouldn’t hire women who want to have a child.

They are campaigning to scrap maternity pay.

And are against parental leave for working families.

We don’t like their story about our country.

And we have a much better one ourselves.

A sense of mission for the country.


Not exclusive.

Outward looking.

Not inward looking.

Optimistic about our future.

Not simply hankering back to the past.

There will be some people who say that a UKIP strategy or a Lynton Crosby strategy may just work.

Set one group of people against another.

Those in work against those out of work.

Those in the public sector against the private sector.

North against South.

I say it’s our job to show a different way forward.

Because we believe it.

And it is the only way our country can succeed.

One Nation is not just a slogan.

It is not a Labour idea or a Conservative idea.

It is a British idea.

A country that acknowledges the difficulties, accepts the anxieties, knows that times are going to be hard, but that is confident that change can come.

A country that knows that we work best when we work together.

That knows that we won the War and rebuilt after the War because of that vision.

A country where everybody is given the chance to play their part.

And everybody is expected to do so.

That’s what One Nation Labour stands for.

That’s the future I offer our country.

That’s the Britain we will rebuild together.

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  • I am one of those that are now reluctant to vote Labour, I have been Labour all my life, I have just read Ed’s speech and I’m sad to say I have not changed my mind.
    We are not a Party of the working class any more, Labour have been and still are more interested in the City and making the rich richer as they did while in government for 13 years, the working class got progressively poorer under a “LABOUR” government, Ed has said nothing that will change that and his promises seem to be more of the same, and that means the poor will again be hit the hardest. Nothing about reversing the NHS privatisation, no promises on house building or regenerating growth. I understand we are two years away from an election but we / I need to know that a Labour Government will change direction and make a substantial difference otherwise it would be stupid to vote to just carry on as before. Labour will lose in 2015 unless they give people hope and Ed hasn’t done that today.

    • But you can’t expect everything in one speech. Why not look at what he did say not the issues he didn’t mention.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        I don’t think Ed really said anything at all in that speech. Indeed, reading it*** is like trying to eat seven spoonfuls of flour without water. It is without any substance, and certainly nothing of news value.

        *** Of course, the formatting is for the auto cue, and not in logical paragraphs. But even so, there is nothing at all of substance in it. This leads me to harden my suspicion that there is nothing at all of substance in the Ed Miliband.

        • Hugh

          Exactly. It’s total drivel.

          • rekrab

            Well, what do you know! Birds of a feather flock together.

            Why don’t you pair flock off and join the tory home site!

          • The concern trolls are doing a double shift today ; )

          • rekrab

            LoL! CCHQ hacks.

            Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            In respect of Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber, where do you place themselves on the spectrum in relation to them? Left, or right?

          • rekrab

            WTF are you on about?

            Do you what a labour government or not? or are you just here to create havoc and slag off all that is of a labour site?

          • Hugh

            I’d miss your pearls of wisdom.

          • aracataca

            Bet you’d miss the nice little retainer from Tory Party HQ as well.

          • Hugh

            You got me. I wasn’t going to reply, but I’m paid time and a half on Sunday. (We’re surprisingly well unionised.)

          • aracataca

            In similar vein one can tell by reading your remarks on here that you are clearly an intellectual colossus. I would argue that you are one of the greatest thinkers since Aristotle. You have a powerful intellect. Of course Labour List would be incalculably poorer in terms of the level of its debates and it would be a calamitous loss if you were to clear off back to Conservative.home where you could share your thoughts with all the other ‘agricultural’ red faced bloated old bigots.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Goodness Derek, that you think that Hugh and I are somehow coordinated as some pair of attack bombs? It seems unlikely, and I do not know Hugh. He seems very sane, for LL commenters (some of whom are the complete “fruit loops”).

          • rekrab

            Why waste your time? you’ve said often enough that you wont vote for Ed.(it doesn’t matter what Ed say’s, you and the other tweedledum would just moan about it)

            Come on, you and Hugh are both either side of the same *rse!

          • I had to laugh when ‘jaime’ threatened a contributor with legal action. ‘Jaime’ claims to post under his real name and as a medical practitioner he said his ‘professional reputation’ was being damaged. Turns out there’s no j.t.c., nor any similar name, registered with the GMC

            It’s a typical concern troll* tactic.

            * http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=concern+troll

          • rekrab

            I remember that well and wasn’t he trying to hack IP addresses.
            O’ dear looks like Jaime isn’t quite what he makes out to be! unless he/she comes up with a real registered name?

            “concern troll” seems very apt.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Very good, David, except I have always acknowledged that my name is my Hispanicised name. It is what I was known as at school. It is not what I am professionally registered in the UK under. And you know this, because I have posted the same answer to you several times. But you keep reporting the same “Jaime claims… (X, Y, Z)” line.

            This will be the final time. You won’t find me registered with the GMC under the name I post under. It is not subterfuge, it is a distancing, because I don’t want my professional life and whatever I choose to post as personal opinion to become converged. But it is not a perversion: if you go back to the barrio in which I grew up, and shout “Jaime Taurosangastre Candelas”, people will be able to point to my parents’ flat.

          • You claimed to be posting under your registered name. As you’re using an fictitious name there is no professional reputation to protect, so why threaten legal action?

          • rekrab

            Very, very good call Dave, why threaten legal action, when the accuser is an non identity? Fictional Candelas from the land of make belief. LoL!

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            No I did not (registered name). But what NewsBot* posted regarding me being a Nazi and supportive of medical experimentation without anaesthesia and enjoying torment was “beyond the pale”, so it needed a letter from a Solicitor. And NewsBot* seems to have disappeared since then, although a Google search reveals that he still is intemperate on other websites.

          • No Dr JTC, therefore no professional reputation to protect. Simples.

          • rekrab

            Dual names? Dual passport?

            Hmm! Shurely not a Bond?

            Basildon Bond!


          • aracataca

            Well done to you and rekrab for taking these two on.

          • Alexwilliamz

            Isn’t tauro a bull of something? Hate to think what the other bit stands for?


    • “Labour have been and still are more interested in the City and making the rich richer ” ???

      Can’t get more explicit than this:

      “In our economy, our society and our politics the old certainties have broken down.
      There was an old way of running the economy that saw financial services as the bedrock of our prosperity.

      That what was good for the City of London would automatically be good for Britain too, just as long as government was there to redistribute the tax revenues.

      It is no longer true.”

      You may choose not to believe a word of it. But it seems pretty clear to me.

      • Juraj Seffer

        You fool. It’s about actions, not speeches. The truth is no party will put an end to bailouts, fractional reserve banking, currency debasement. They love it, they get to spend other people’s money without taxing them directly.

    • Rosie2

      Terry, have you ever looked at Your Britain web site?


      The policy review ends in June, policy will be consolidated and presented to Conference in September and will then form the Labour Manifesto.
      Do people that complain on here actually follow what the party is doing, saying and preparing? Ever?

      Or do you just get your news from Murdoch ?

    • leslie48

      One of the major things Ed spoke about was the hopelessness of the unemployed he had encountered in his national electioneering and how we had to be the party that can offer hope to those disaffected voters..

  • I think this is a very good speech. Whilst I place myself as on the centre left of the party my political teeth were cut on peace campaigning then the gay and lesbian rights campaigns. That means that I have never understood a worker’s social class only approach. Indeed Labour has to look towards all its core – not just the manual working class.

    • Labour has always needed to appeal to voters besides the manual working class – not least because there is a strong and long-lasting tradition of working-class Conservatism in some parts of the country. But we need that more than ever now, because the manual working class is a much smaller segment of the country than it used to be and it’s geographically concentrated. Obviously we should govern in the interests of the manual working class, but without a broader voting coalition than that we won’t get close to governing.

      • Alexwilliamz

        In truth, with fraternity an integral part of Labour values, there can only be one party that genuinely stands for national unity. It is the party that wants everyone to have a chance and the opportunity to live in dignity, it is not against people making money, but is concerned if those gaining most from society are not putting back in equal measure. The alternative visions seems to be ‘the rest of you can get the scraps that are left over and if you rock the boat then those feasting at the table will eat elsewhere, so be grateful for your scraps’. Not sure what the liberals position is any more as ‘somewhere in between’ no longer seems like a credible or honest answer. Perhaps it is hold on, close your eyes and hope everything works out for the best?

    • $6215628

      Mike homfray ,that view was one we took form 74 onwards, ignoring working class votes ,for minority rights

  • Well, that’s got to be the best speech Ed has ever made. I don’t imagine it was what Progress wanted to hear but it had to be said.

    Ed laid it on line and told it straight. There’s a lot of notable lines but of them, what seems to offer the most promise, for me at least, is this:

    “A country that knows that we work best when we work together. That knows that we won the War and rebuilt after the War because of that vision.”

    Most particularly: ” and rebuilt after the War because of that vision.”

    Ed’s the only politician with a positive vision. It is the only option.

    • OldSlaughter

      What vision?

    • leslie48

      It was exactly what Progress wanted to hear as he was clapped vigorously through out his broad speech.

  • Rosie2

    During three months of public consultation on ten initial challenge papers, Labour’s policy commissions received hundreds of submissions from members, the public, affiliates, charities and businesses. The ten new policy papers set out what has been learned from that consultation and some of the policy options we’d like to explore over the coming months.
    Speaking at the People’s Policy Forum, Ed Miliband called on the audience to share their views, experience and priorities through Labour’s online home for policy ideas, Your Britain;
    ”I think we have to do politics in a different way. We’ve got to take politics back to where it belongs, to you. So that’s why we’ve said, you set the agenda.”
    The new policy papers will be available for consultation until June. Share your views and contribute to the consultation by accessing the policy documents below:

  • Danny

    I think it is a brilliant speech. You don’t need to do too much reading between the lines to ascertain the underlying message from the speech.

    It didn’t need to have substance. He was a keynote speaker at a Progress Conference, therefore his audience were Progress members, plus a smattering of more rational Labour party members.

    It’s pretty clear to me that Ed is, quite rightly, telling Progress that New Labour is dead and it is clear to everyone bar them that reverting back to it would be political suicide. It was basically a subtle way of him telling Progress they will not be getting their own way in the build up to 2015.

    How they react will be interesting. We’ve seen that they have little objection to damaging the Labour Party through how they behaved in the London Mayoral elections.

    It speaks volumes that main colour for Progress’ new campaign logo is blue.

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  • hereward

    Interesting ! Quote “It is wrong now to commit to an in/out referendum and have four years of uncertainty and a ‘closed for business’ sign above our country” . From this statement it seems to me he has left the door open to a referendum on the EU .
    Very wise . Shame he never meets anyone who says , get us out of the EU and make us one nation again . Still I suppose he never would ,would he ? Whereas I meet people who say get us out of the EU frequently . LOL .

    • Rosie2

      Do you ? I dont.

      I do on the other hand meet people who are bewildered as to why the EU question has risen again when there is so much else of vastly more importance in the UK that needs sorting.

      As for Cameron *negotiating* then giving a referendum, well what happenes to those of us who don’t want his negotiated agreement and prefer to keep employment rights, H&S and police cooperation, eg keep our membership as is… hum-mm.

  • leslie48

    I was at the conference and I was impressed with our leader; it was a speech which spoke to all sections of our community and society. The ‘One Nation’ approach resonates not just by region, class, gender,sector, age and ethnicity but it was in stark contrast to the nasty divisiveness of the other parties whose main purpose is to lie, frighten and undermine the social democratic achievements of Labour. Congratulations to Progress to get everyone focused on the ground war which is needed to win the marginals.

  • leslie48

    well said sometimes on this site its just moaning old Labourites from the lost 1980s.

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