27 Sep 2011

Miliband wants ‘new bargain’ with British people

In his keynote Labour conference address, party leader Ed Miliband offers a “new bargain” to the people of Britain. Top Labour figures tell Channel 4 News the speech was “typical Ed”.

The Labour leader said that a Labour government would aim to end the “fast buck” culture of the last 30 years so that hard work and responsibility are rewarded.

He attacked asset-stripping “predators” in business and bankers who profited, even though their mistakes had contributed to the economic crisis. Labour, Mr Miliband said, would reward firms which contribute to their community.

And in the aftermath of the banking crash, the MPs’ expenses scandal, phone hacking and the riots during the summer, he attacked the mentality of “take what you can”.

“It will be a tough fight to change Britain,” Mr Miliband said, “but I’m up for the fight – the fight for a new bargain.”

Dangerous time for Britain

Mr Miliband opened his speech with a warning that the coalition government’s plans for the British economy were failing.

“This is a dangerous time for Britain and a dangerous time for Britain’s economy,” he said.

This is a dangerous time for Britain and for Britain’s economy. Ed Miliband

He went on to promise that the next Labour government would deal with the deficit.

“If this government fails to deal with the deficit in this parliament, we will deal with it in the next,” he said.

And he pledged “new fiscal rules to bind the next government to a disciplined approach”.

Growth problems

Mr Miliband restated his party’s criticism of the coalition government’s failure to stimulate economic growth. He said the country could not deal with its debt problems without dealing with growth problems.

“The current plan to raise taxes and cut spending, more dramatically than any other government, just isn’t working,” he told conference.

Growth is built on sand if it comes from our predators and not our producers. Ed Miliband

And he praised Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who a year ago had defied the economic consensus in calling for measures to promote growth.

Top Labour figures praised the speech, saying it was bold, “typical Ed Miliband”, and powerful.

Harriet Harman, who was singled out for praise in Mr Miliband’s address, called it “really remarkable”, telling Channel 4 News: “He actually said: ‘These things are wrong and they need to be sorted out, and as Prime Minister I’m going to sort them out.’

“It was very bold. Very typical Ed Miliband.”

Tony Blair’s former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said he was not surprised by the cheer that rose up from delegates when Mr Miliband said: “I’m not Tony Blair.”

The peer, a close friend of the former Prime Minister, told Channel 4 News: “We lost an election. We can’t expect to win by being Gordon Brown or Tony Blair. We’ve got to look forward to something new. People are right to look forward. Ed Miliband is the man to take us forward.”

He added: “It was a very good speech. A powerful speech.

Competing with the world

The Labour leader told conference the United Kingdom cannot pay its way in the world unless it invents, makes and sells things.

“Britain’s future will be built not on credit default swaps but on creative industries,” he said.

He acknowledged the importance of Britain’s financial services industry, but stressed that it needed to change so that it became part of the solution to Britain’s economic problems – not part of the problem.

The Labour leader went on to attack Fred Goodwin, the former head of the RBS bank. “We shouldn’t have given Sir Fred Goodwin that knighthood,” he told supporters.

New bargain

The Labour leader called for a new bargain in our society that rewarded the right values, prompting applause when he said: “Only David Cameron could believe that you make ordinary families work harder by making them poorer and you make the rich work harder by making them richer.

“It’s the wrong priority. It’s based on the wrong values. How dare they say we’re all in it together?!”

NHS values

On the NHS, the Labour leader said what the coalition government was doing to the NHS was what shocked him most.

He dismissed David Cameron’s claim before the election that he wasn’t “the usual type of Tory”. Within a year of moving into Downing Street, he had gone back on his word, according to Mr Miliband.

You can’t trust the Tories on the National Health Service. Ed Miliband

He described as “the biggest betrayal of all” the prime minister’s failure to protect the values of the NHS and the “free-market healthcare system”.

“It’s the oldest truth in politics… You can’t trust the Tories on the National Health Service,” he said.

David Cameron represented “the wrong values for our country and the wrong values for our time”.

Breaking the consensus

Mr Miliband was at pains throughout his speech to define what he represented. Discussing his family roots, he called himself an “outsider”.

He also talked about being “true to myself, my instincts and my values”. In connection with the phone hacking of murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler, he asked: “What kind of country have we become?”

Concluding his speech, he said he wanted to “write a new chapter” in the country’s history.

“My mission, our mission, to fulfil the promise of each so we fulfil the promise of Britain,” he vowed.

And the Labour leader can count one celebrity among his fan base.

Comedian David Baddiel told Channel 4 News: “I just came to see the headline act and it was very good, that’s all I can tell you.”