Ed Miliband speech to the Fabian Society - One Nation Labour: The Party of Change12 January 2013
Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, in a speech to the Fabian Society today, said:
It is great to be here at the Fabians.
Today I want to talk to you about the idea of One Nation.
The idea of a country which we rebuild together, where everyone plays their part.
It is not an idea rooted in Fabian pamphlets.
Though I bow to nobody in being an avid reader of them.
It is not an idea either rooted in academic studies of Sweden or any other country.
Though as some of you know, again I can talk at length about these subjects too.
It is an idea rooted deep in British history.
Because it is rooted deep in the soul of the British people.
Deep in the daily way we go about our lives.
Our relationships with our family, our friends, our neighbours.
We know this idea is a deep part of our national story because we have so many different ways of describing it.
“All hands to the pump.”
“Pulling your weight.”
“Doing your bit.”
And every day we see it at work in our country.
On Christmas Day, I helped out somebody down the street from me who makes Christmas lunches for elderly people in the area living on their own, it’s that spirit.
The same spirit we saw last year in the Olympic Games.
Now because this idea is so much part of who we are as a nation, of how we think of ourselves, all politicians try to embrace it.
But its real potential, and what I want to talk about today, comes when we understand the deeper lesson for the way we run our country.
Turning this spirit of collective endeavour, of looking out for each other, from something we do in our daily lives, to the way our nation is run.
That is what One Nation Labour is about.
Taking the common decency and values of the British people and saying we must make it the way we run the country as well.
And why does this idea - the idea of One Nation - speak so directly to the state of Britain today?
Because we are so far from being One Nation.
While a very few people at the top are doing well, so many people feel their prospects diminishing, their insecurity rising.
They feel on their own.
Not part of a common endeavour.
You know, a young woman came up to me recently and told me she had decided to go to University in Holland because she said she couldn’t afford to do so in Britain.
Believe it or not, to a government minister her departure will seem a success because if more people leave the country it will help them meet their net migration target.
But it doesn’t feel like a success to me to have talented young people fleeing abroad.
In Britain that young woman doesn’t feel part of a country where she can play her part, she feels on her own.
And it’s not just our young people who are finding it so hard to do their bit.
There are so many people across Britain who want to play their part but don’t feel they can.
Those running small businesses are struggling just to keep their business afloat in the face of rising energy bills and banks that won’t help.
They don’t feel part of a Britain we rebuild together, they feel on their own.
And then take all the people struggling to make ends meet, to pay the bills, doing two or three jobs, they feel on their own with nobody on their side.
So what do so many people in Britain have in common today?
They believe the system is rigged against them.
They believe that the country isn’t working for them.
And you know, it’s not that any of them thinks Britain owes them a living or an easy life.
All they want is a sense of hope, they want to believe there is a vision for a future we can build together.
And that is why One Nation is such a powerful idea right now: because it is about our country and what it faces.
Can David Cameron answer this call for One Nation?
This week shows yet again why he can’t.
What did they call it on Monday?
The Ronseal re-launch.
But what did we discover?
The tin was empty.
And they have no vision for the country.
And what have we also seen this week?
The appalling attempt to denigrate all those who are looking for work.
To pretend that a Bill that hits 7 million working people is somehow promoting responsibility.
And all the time an attempt to divide the country between so-called scroungers and strivers.
To point the finger of blame at others, so people don’t point the finger of blame at this government.
Nasty, divisive politics which we should never accept.
It should be the first duty of any Prime Minister to be able to walk in the shoes of others.
This week he has shown he just can’t do it.
And no vision either.
So my overwhelming feeling in looking at this government is simple:
Britain can do better than this.
I have said what it means to be a One Nation Prime Minister.
To strive always to walk in the shoes of others.
But One Nation tells us more than that.
It tells us that we need to bring the country together so everyone can play their part.
And let me explain what One Nation is about in our economy, our society and our politics.
Let me start with the economy.
One Nation Labour is about reshaping our economy from its foundations, so that all do have the opportunity to play their part, not just a few.
And to understand what a One Nation economy means, we need to recognise how it differs from what New Labour did and also how it differs from the current government.
New Labour rightly broke from Old Labour and celebrated the power of private enterprise to energise our country.
It helped get people back into work, and introduced the minimum wage and tax credits to help make work pay.
And it used tax revenues to overcome decades of neglect and invest in hospitals, schools and the places where people live.
There are millions of people who have better lives because of those decisions.
It is a far cry from what we see today.
We’re back to the old trickle-down philosophy.
Cut taxes for the richest.
For everyone else, increase insecurity at work to make them work harder.
In other words, for the 99 per cent: you’re on your own.
Sink or swim.
For the top 1 per cent: we’ll cut your taxes.
We don’t need a crystal ball to know what this will mean, because the last two and a half years have shown us.
Business as usual at the banks, squeezed living standards, a stagnating economy.
No plan for rebuilding the British economy.
But the One Nation Labour solution is not to say that we need to go back to the past, to carry on as we did in government.
One Nation Labour learns the lessons of the financial crisis.
It begins from the truth that New Labour did not do enough to take on the vested interests and bring about structural change in our economy.
To make it an economy that works for the many not just the few.
From the banks on our high streets to the City of London to the big energy companies.
Now, New Labour did challenge the old trickle-down economics by redistributing from the top.
But again it didn’t do enough to change our economy so that it grew from the middle out, not from the top down.
One Nation Labour is explicitly about reshaping our economy so that it can help what I call the forgotten wealth creators of Britain.
The millions of men and women who work the shifts, put in the hours.
Who are out to work while George Osborne’s curtains are still closed.
And are still out at work when he has gone to bed.
Those who have gone to university and those who haven’t.
The people who don’t take home millions or hundreds of thousands, but make a hard, honest and difficult living.
These are the people on whom our future national prosperity truly depends.
So what do we need to do today?
We need to reform our economy.
To take on the vested interests that block the opportunities for our small businesses and for all the other forgotten wealth-creators.
We need a new deal for our small businesses who have been let down by the banks.
We have to tackle short-termism in the City to enable companies to play their part to contribute to long-term wealth creation.
We have to work with business radically to reform our apprenticeships and vocational education, so we use the talents of all young people, including the 50 per cent who don’t go to University.
And we have to promote a living wage to make work pay.
That is the way that we rebuild our economy.
From the middle out.
Not from the top down.
That’s what One Nation Labour is about in the economy.
So we learn the lesson of New Labour’s successes, embracing wealth creation.
We learn the lessons of what it didn’t do well enough, reshaping our economy and creating shared prosperity.
And we recognise there will be less money around because of the deficit we inherit.
That’s why Ed Balls rightly came to this conference last year, to say if we were in government today we would have to put jobs in the public sector ahead of pay increases.
And in a way that we did not have to be under New Labour, we will have to be ruthless in the priorities we have. And clear that we will have to deliver more with less.
So One Nation Labour adapts to new times, in particular straitened economic circumstances.
And the power of the idea of One Nation also shapes the kind of society I believe in.
One Nation Labour is based on a Britain we rebuild together.
That means sharing the vision of a common life, not a country divided by class, race, gender, income and wealth.
And that’s so far from where we are in Britain today.
We can only build that kind of society, where we share a common life, if people right across it, from top to bottom, feel a sense of responsibility to each other.
Now, New Labour, unlike Old Labour, pioneered the idea of rights and responsibilities.
From crime to welfare to anti-social behaviour, it was clear that we owe duties to each other as citizens.
It knew we do not live as individuals on our own.
And it knew that strong confident communities are the way that you build a strong confident nation.
All of this is so far again from what we have seen from this government.
This government preaches responsibility.
But do nothing to make it possible for people to play their part.
They demand people work, but won’t take the basic action to ensure that the work is available.
They talk about a “big society”.
But then it makes life harder for our charities, our community groups.
But here again the answer is not simply to carry on where we left off in government.
New Labour was right to talk about rights and responsibilities but was too timid in enforcing them, especially at the top of society.
And it was too sanguine about the consequences of rampant free markets which we know can threaten our common way of life.
Learning from our history, One Nation Labour is clear that we need to do more to create a society where everyone genuinely plays their part.
A One Nation country cannot be one:
Where Chief Executive pay goes up and up and up and everybody else’s is stagnant.
Where major corporations are located in Britain, sell in Britain, make profits in Britain but do not pay taxes in Britain.
And where at the top of elite institutions, from newspapers to politics, some people just seem to believe that the rules do not apply to them.
To turn things round in Britain, we all have to play our part.
Especially in hard times.
We are right to say that responsibility should apply to those on social security.
But we need to say that responsibility matters at the top too.
That’s the essence of One Nation Labour.
It shares New Labour’s insight about our obligations to each other.
And it learns the lessons of what New Labour didn’t do well enough, ensuring responsibilities go all the way through society from top to bottom.
And what does One Nation Labour mean for the way we do our politics?
It starts from the idea that people should have more power and control over their lives, so that everyone feels able to play their part, not left on their own.
New Labour began with a bold agenda for the distribution of power in Britain.
And it stood for a Labour party not dominated by one sectional interest, but reaching out into parts of Britain that Old Labour had never spoken to.
Inviting people from all walks of life to join the party and to play their part.
It wanted too, to open up our system of government and oversaw the biggest Constitutional changes for generations, including devolution to Scotland and Wales.
The contrast with this government is clear.
The way they operate, the high-handed arrogance of their way of doing things.
They cannot claim to be opening up politics.
And they certainly cannot claim to be rooted in the lives of the British people.
But once again we have to move on from New Labour, as well as from this government.
Because although New Labour often started with the right intentions, over time it did not do enough to change the balance of power in this country.
That was true of the Labour Party itself.
Of our democracy.
And of our public services.
By the time we left office, too many people in Britain didn’t feel as if the Labour party was open to their influence, or listening to them.
I am proud to celebrate the multi-ethnic, diverse nature of Britain.
But high levels of migration were having huge effects on the lives of people in our country.
And too often those in power seemed not to accept this.
The fact that they didn’t explains partly why people turned against us in the last general election.
So we must work to ensure that it never happens again.
And what is the lesson for One Nation Labour?
It is to change the way that power and politics works in our own Party right away.
That is what you will be seeing from One Nation Labour in 2013.
Opening up in new ways.
Recruiting MPs from every part of British life: from business to the military to working people from across every community.
Seeking support in every part of the United Kingdom, across the South of the country as well as the North.
Building a party that is dedicated to working with people to help them improve their own lives—even before government.
So for example, Labour Party members going to door to door offering people practical to help switch energy suppliers and cut their bills.
Creating a policy-making process that enables people directly to shape our policies so that they reflect their own concerns.
Jonathan Primett from Chatham wrote to us recently, complaining about rogue landlords at a time when the private rented sector is growing fast in our country.
Today I want to respond to him.
Britain is in danger of having two nations divided between those who own their one homes and those who rent.
If we are going to build One Nation, people who rent their homes should have rights and protections as well.
That’s about rooting out the rogue landlords.
Stopping families being ripped off by letting agents.
And giving new security to families who rent.
So we will introduce a national register of landlords, to give greater powers for local authorities to root out and strike off rogue landlords.
We will end the confusing, inconsistent fees and charges in the private rented sector.
And we will seek to give greater security to families who rent and remove the barriers that stand in the way of longer term tenancies.
That is a real example of how a One Nation Labour Party, by opening up our politics, is responding to the new challenges that the British people care about today.
One Nation Labour is also practising a new approach to campaigning—through community organising—which doesn’t just seek to win votes but build new relationships in every part of Britain.
For example, taking up local issues from high streets dominated by betting shops to taking on payday loan companies.
And, of course, a One Nation Labour government should open up too.
If devolution to Scotland and Wales is right, so it must be right that the next Labour government devolves power to local government in England.
And reforms our public services so that the people who use them and the people that work in them, feel as if they have a real chance of shaping the way they operate.
That’s the way to ensure we can all work together, to rebuild our country, with everyone playing their part.
That’s what One Nation Labour is about.
It learns the lesson of New Labour’s successes, seeking to reach out to parts of Britain that Old Labour ignored.
It learns the lessons of what it didn’t do well enough, of where New Labour left people behind.
And it recognises that in 2013, as the world has changed, politics has to change with it.
I talked about it in my Labour Party conference speech a few months ago about why I came into politics.
It was because of my personal faith.
A faith that we are better, stronger together than when we are on our own.
A faith that when good people come together they can overcome any odds.
For me, that’s what One Nation Labour is all about.
This faith isn’t unique to me.
It is deeply rooted in our country.
One Nation Labour is different from the current government.
And from New Labour and Old Labour too.
It will take on the vested interests in order to reshape our economy in the interests of all.
It will insist on responsibility throughout society, including at the top so we can build a united, not divided, Britain.
It will strive to spread power as well as working for prosperity.
We must build One Nation.
It is what the British people demand of us.
And, together, it is what we can achieve.