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

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.

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