Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, in a speech to Labour’s National Policy Forum, said:
As we meet here at the National Policy Forum, many of our thoughts will also be rightly focussed on two crises overseas.
And I want to start by saying something about each of them.
The tragic and horrifying end of flight MH17 has shocked people across the world.
We mourn the 10 British victims and all those who were lost.
These were innocent British people, who got on a plane for enjoyment, business and adventure.
Two Newcastle United fans on their way to see their team in New Zealand.
A spokesman for the World Health Organisation attending an important Conference on AIDS.
Two British students from Leeds and Loughborough.
We all know this could have been any of us or any of our loved ones.
I am appalled and horrified by these deaths and send all of my deepest condolences to the families of the victims.
We now need to understand what happened.
And if, as seems likely, this was a deliberate act, those responsible must be brought to justice.
And Europe has a clear responsibility: to work with the United States to send a clear message to President Putin to stop the flow of arms and military support to Russian separatists and respect the sovereignty of Ukraine.
I also want to say something about the unfolding events in Gaza.
We are all shocked and horrified by the escalation of violence following the horrific abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers and subsequently a Palestinian.
I have seen for myself the fear in Israel from the unjustified and appalling rocket attacks launched by Hamas from Gaza.
I defend Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks.
But I cannot explain, justify or defend the horrifying deaths of hundreds of Palestinians, including children and innocent civilians.
And as a party we oppose the further escalation of violence we have seen with Israel’s invasion of Gaza.
Because we have been here before and we know what happens next.
More loss of life, more Palestinian suffering, more hatred and more recruits to the ranks of terrorist groups like Hamas.
This escalation will serve no lasting purpose and will do nothing to win Israel friends.
There can be no military solution to this conflict.
The only solution is two states living alongside each other in peace and security.
So the violence must stop.
And a political way forward must be found.
And I promise you Labour will always play its part in seeking to make that happen.
Because there can be neither security for Israel nor dignity for the Palestinian people without it.
Now let us turn to our business here today.
I want to thank all of you from the constituencies, our affiliates, socialist societies and everyone who has participated in the hard work of this National Policy Forum.
I want also to thank the brilliant Angela Eagle for the work she has done as chair of the NPF.
And can we also join together in thanking Jon Cruddas for the inspiration he has brought and the fantastic conclusions of our Policy Review.
And let’s thank everyone here in Milton Keynes for hosting us.
We won control of the council in May.
And Pete Marland is doing a great job leading the council, including seeking to make Milton Keynes a living wage city.
And we are joined by our fantastic parliamentary candidates, Andrew Pakes and Emily Darlington.
We will be with them every step of the way to get them elected next year.
Nearly four years ago, the National Policy Forum met for the first time after our defeat in 2010.
People were saying back then Labour will be out for two terms.
And they were saying we couldn’t answer the challenges the country faced.
They said we were irrelevant to the problems of Britain.
Four years on, the attacks on us grow more intense.
The Tory lie machine was at it again this week.
And they will be at it every day until the election.
But these attacks, friends, are not a sign that the Tories believe that we are going to lose the next election.
They are a sign that the Tories fear that we can win the next election.
And the reason for it, is because of the journey we have been on in the last four years.
Not losing touch, divided and drifting away from the British people.
As we have in previous times in opposition.
But winning the battle of ideas.
Rooting the programme we agree this weekend in the everyday lives of the people of this country.
The Policy Forum nearly four years ago was my first as leader of this party.
It feels like a long time ago.
But recently, I went back to the speech I gave.
In it, I said we needed to understand why we had lost the election.
Why, in particular, by the end of our time in office, people felt the economy wasn’t working for them.
Today, because we have gone out and listened, because of the deep thinking we’ve done, because we have applied the values of our movement, we answer the challenge I set four years ago.
At this the last Policy Forum before the general election we are agreeing a new programme for a new era.
Today I want to explain what that programme will do and the difference it will make.
A programme which has at its heart, our commitment to build a wholly new economy, fit for the 21st century.
An economy where there is dignity at work and fairness in pay.
An economy where great British businesses create the jobs of the future, in alliance with a well-trained, skilled workforce.
An economy where no interest is too powerful to stand in the way of the public interest.
An economy where power is taken away from Whitehall and Westminster and given to people and the communities in which they live.
A plan for economic transformation, a new settlement, that is not less ambitious because we live in a time of scarcity.
But is more radical and more ambitious because it sets a new direction for Britain.
Moving on from New Labour.
But not going back to Old Labour.
Moving on from a belief that rising inequality is just a fact of life.
Moving on from a belief that there is nothing we can do about markets that aren’t fair or aren’t working.
But not seeing big spending as the answer.
Not going back to make do and mend.
A changed Labour Party, with a new programme ready to fight the next general election, form the next Labour government and change people’s lives.
And this programme is about the people of Britain.
Last Friday, in my constituency, I talked to Beverley.
Beverley does two jobs, one working for a doorstep lender, getting people’s repayments, where the money she earns is totally dependent on how much she collects.
The other part-time as a hairdresser.
She is one of Britain’s five million self-employed people.
She said to me “I can’t remember any time when it has been as hard as this.”
She told me about her son, who had done two years at university, but wasn’t sure he was going to carry on because of the strain of debt and the need to earn money.
Beverley speaks for millions of people, middle and lower income.
It is why this election will come down to one fundamental question:
Who can change our country so it works not just for a few at the top, but for ordinary families once again?
Who will be a Prime Minister who wakes up each morning and thinks about how to make that happen?
It is the generational question we face.
And we also know that if that is the question, this government and this Prime Minister cannot be the answer.
Just listen to what they say and then listen to what ordinary families feel and know.
They tell us the economy is fixed.
But in Britain today:
One in five working people are in poverty.
Those five million self-employed have seen their earnings drop by nearly 15% in the last five years.
And so many people of all backgrounds and classes fear their kids will have a worse life than them.
This week we heard young people are suffering more than anyone else.
Their earnings falling faster.
And a quarter still living at home with their parents, up to the age of 30.
The Tories can never be the answer.
Because the Tories don’t even understand the problem.
They think this is how a country succeeds:
Low wages, zero hours, bad terms and conditions.
That’s the Tory approach.
A race to the bottom.
But Britain will never succeed with insecurity at work.
Britain will never succeed when families feel worse off year after year.
Britain will never succeed with a race to the bottom.
We know, Labour knows, Britain only succeeds when working people succeed.
And that needs a Labour government.
These problems have got worse under the Tories.
But they started before the Tories got to power.
Even before the recession.
And they won’t simply be fixed by recovery.
And the answer cannot be our traditional answer either.
Of spending to fix the problem.
You and I know we won’t have the money.
For all of the cuts, all of the pain under this government, Britain still has a deficit to deal with and a debt to pay down.
That’s why our programme starts with a binding commitment to balancing the books in the next government.
We will get the national debt falling as soon as possible in the next parliament.
And we will deliver a surplus on the current budget.
But there is an even bigger reason why we need a new direction, rooted in Labour values.
Higher spending is not the answer to the long-term economic crisis that we together have identified.
Unless we fundamentally reshape our economy, we will only ever be able to compensate people for unfairness and inequality.
We did great things in government to redistribute resources.
But we did not do enough to tackle inequality or eliminate the problem of low pay.
Or build an economy that will work for the next generation
And the reason is that we did not do enough to change the fundamentals of our economy.
That is what this programme and the next government will do.
Changing our economy starts from a basic principle that the British people share.
If you go out to work, you should not find yourself in poverty.
It is our job to mend the link between hard work and reward.
So the programme before us this weekend charts a new course in the crusade against low pay.
We will not allow the minimum wage to keep falling behind in value.
In fact, we will do the opposite.
We pledge today to raise the minimum wage in the next government by more than average earnings.
So that the low paid workers of our country share more fairly in the wealth of our country.
And we know we cannot carry on with ever-spiralling costs of billions of pounds of subsidies for low pay.
That’s the way to reform social security: cutting the costs of low pay and cutting the costs of failure.
That is just one reason why the living wage is an idea whose time has come.
And is at the heart of our programme.
For the first time, we will make an offer to every employer in the country: you will get a tax cut, on condition that you move to pay the living wage.
And just as the fair economy means a better deal for low paid workers, so it needs fairness in top pay as well.
Successful companies and successful countries are those that move together and don’t drift apart.
That is why the next Labour government will say that top pay committees should have an ordinary worker on them.
Because if you can’t look an ordinary worker in the eye and justify your pay increase, you don’t deserve that pay increase.
Building a fairer economy is about who gets the rewards.
But it is also about how we create the quality jobs of the future and win a race to the top for high skills and high wages.
We need to attract the world’s best companies.
Creating wealth and making profits.
And to do that we have to rely on the most important asset of all: the people of this country.
If you want to know the educational priority of the next Labour government it is to get decent qualifications and careers not for 50% but 100% of our young people.
So our programme commits to gold-standard vocational qualifications.
New technical degrees at university.
And we will say to any employer who wants a major government contract you must offer apprenticeships to the next generation.
But we can’t build a fair economy simply with an education policy, we need a proper industrial policy too.
No government has taken the steps to make our banks work for our businesses.
That is what the next Labour government will do.
New banks on the high street.
A proper Green Investment Bank and British Investment Bank.
Regional banks in every part of Britain.
So instead of businesses, large and small, serving our banks, we will have banks serving our businesses.
And One Nation Labour will champion small business as Labour never has before.
We are now the party committed not just to reforming our banks but to cutting business rates for millions of small businesses across the country.
And by reforming our energy market we will also help small businesses.
A freeze on energy bills until 2017 helping millions of families and millions of business too.
But at the same time as we win a race to the top, we have to call a halt to the race to the bottom.
All of us will know people on zero-hours contracts.
Not knowing from one week to the next how much they will be earning.
Like the man I met in Nottingham, who had to ask at 5am every day to see if there was any work for him.
That’s how the Victorian economy worked.
It is not how a modern 21st century economy should work.
Zero-hours contracts are spreading like wildfire through some industries.
The next Labour government will call a halt to the abuse of zero-hours contracts.
Instead, we will have a new principle: if you work regular hours you will get a regular contract.
And if we are to stop a race to the bottom we must do so when it comes to workers coming from abroad.
Britain as a whole benefits from immigration.
But we all know that the concerns we see in our communities about immigration are not based on prejudice.
They are real.
One of the other ways we have changed in the last four years, is understanding we have a responsibility to ensure workers who come here aren’t used to undercut local workers.
So we will have proper enforcement of the minimum wage.
We will legislate to stop abusive gang-masters in construction and elsewhere.
And we will make sure that rules on agency work are not used to undermine permanent workers.
Because this party will fight exploitation wherever we find it.
The fairer economy must also properly serve the families of this country.
The work people do must not get in the way of people taking care of the families they love.
So many people tell me that they are working 50, 60 hours a week unable to see their kids.
We will make life that little bit easier for Mums and Dads across Britain.
It is why I am proud to say the next Labour government will legislate for 25 hours free childcare, paid for by a higher levy on the banks.
And it is why we will tackle the difficulties families face today trying to rent or buy a home.
We will build at least 200,000 homes a year by the end of the next parliament.
And we will end the situation of developers sitting on land with planning permission and say they must either use the land or lose the land.
We will also offer a new deal for the nine million people who rent their homes.
It is just wrong that families whose kids start the school year this September don’t know whether they will be able to stay in their home by the end of the school year.
No family should have to face that kind of insecurity.
Three year tenancies, predictable rents, an end to letting fees.
The Tories say it is like Venezuela.
I say it is about basic decency and security in a civilised country.
And while we are about it, it is only this party that has led the way, campaigned for change, done so out of principle and will abolish the bedroom tax.
And we have also learnt something else about how we will change things.
It doesn’t start with simply pulling levers from Whitehall and Westminster.
Because we know we can’t build a country that works for all, unless everyone can play their part in building it.
Devolution to Wales and Scotland has worked.
And we will extend it further.
With more powers over tax, welfare and jobs for the Scottish Parliament.
And the right choice for social justice is for Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom.
Because we are better together, we are determined to win the referendum.
And I say if 16 and 17 year olds can vote in the referendum, then making our democracy work means as this Policy Forum has demanded they should be able to vote in the general election too.
But we also need to extend the principles of devolution.
And we can do so proud of our brilliant Labour local authorities up and down Britain.
That’s why the programme we are agreeing will devolve power to people and communities right across our country.
Giving our great cities and towns in England the chance to shape their own futures.
To build their own path to success.
The biggest devolution of power in England than any of us has ever seen.
And I am proud it is part of our new programme.
And we will reform our public services so they are available and accountable to the citizens of the country: truly people-powered.
It is two decades since rail privatisation.
That decision was all about dogma and nothing to do with passengers.
Too often it put the profits into the private sector and put the risk onto government.
We know East Coast has worked in public hands.
So on the basis of value for money, let’s extend that idea.
And let the public sector challenge to take on lines.
Let’s end the situation where you can be a European public rail company and run lines here, but not if you are a public operator from Britain.
Let’s together set a new course for our railways which will be better for the taxpayer and properly serve passengers.
And let’s reform our school system too.
We want to give parents a real say in how their schools are run and ensure that every school in our country is accountable to the local community.
Ten months before an election the Tories have thrown Michael Gove over board, because the British people know he has failed.
But they may have changed the person in charge but they haven’t changed the principles.
Only this party will end the centralisation, the lack of accountability, the unfairness of Michael Gove’s education policy.
If you want an end to Tory education policy, you need a Labour government.
And, most importantly of all, we will put the right values back at the heart of our National Health Service.
Care and co-operation.
Not profit and privatisation.
The National Health Service was not just the right idea for 1948.
It is the right idea for today.
But it is going backwards under the Tories.
More people waiting for longer in A&E than at any time for a decade.
Longer waiting times to see your GP.
And creeping privatization.
David Cameron said the NHS was safe in his hands.
He has betrayed the trust of the British people.
And think what would happen to the NHS if he were to get back to power.
It will be up to the next Labour government, as it always is, to save our NHS from these Tories.
Stop the Tory privatization.
And the first thing we will do is repeal their Health and Social Care Bill.
Over the last few years, we’ve had a Policy Review that has listened to people from all over the country.
From all walks of life.
And now we must wage an election campaign that that will be fought in every community in our country.
Because we know that is how change will come.
And we can do so confident we have the best and boldest team of activists, volunteers, community organisers, councillors and MPs our party has ever known.
At this election the public will have the chance to vote for a changed Labour party, with a programme to change the country.
And so from this Policy Forum, we should tell our friends, our families, our neighbours and our colleagues at work what a Labour government would do:
A higher minimum wage.
An end to the abuse of zero-hours contracts.
Skills and careers for all our young people.
Banks working for businesses again.
Energy bills frozen.
200,000 homes built a year by 2020.
The bedroom tax abolished.
And our National Health Service restored.
Friends, the last few years have not always been easy.
Opposition never is.
But we’ve listened to the British people.
We’ve made changes that are hard.
And we’ve renewed our party.
And we’ve done it all for one purpose and one purpose alone.
Not for Labour.
But for Britain.
To campaign for justice and fairness and equality.
To build a new economy.
To have the opportunity to rebuild our country.
Now let’s go out and fight for that chance.
JULY 19, 2014 (11:15 AM)
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