Ed Miliband's "lost decade" speech will be planted firmly in the scare category

Labour leader will warn of a Japan-style crisis.

The government's economic plan is failing, and the UK faces a "lost decade", Ed Miliband will say in a speech in Birmingham today.

He will warn that the UK could go the way of Japan during the 1990s unless something is done to turn it around, and will argue that there's a way this can be done.

Japan never quite recovered from its burst bubble of 1989 - and the crisis brought its economy to a standstill for about 10 years, as it watched rivals China and South Korea expand. Miliband's message - which also will stress that Britain is in the slowest recovery for 100 years - is planted firmly in the scare category. It will also echo Vince Cable, who warned of a "lost decade" back in December.

In an interview with the Times Miliband said:

This Government is now leading Britain into that lost decade. They’re shrugging their shoulders. They have run out of ideas. They are resigned. It is One Nation Labour’s task to show people it does not have to be this way. Not promising overnight answers. Not promising that things will be easy.

He will also attempt to make a distinction between public faith in David Cameron and public faith in politics in general:

I know that however discredited, divided and damaging this Government is, I will not assume that their unpopularity will mean people turn to Labour. Indeed, many people will believe that the failure of this Government means they should give up on politics altogether.

...and lay the groundwork for rebuilding trust in Labour:

I have sought to understand why people left Labour. From banking regulation to immigration to Iraq, I have been clear about what we got wrong.

Miliband's alternative measures, he told the Times, will include an apprenticeship programme, reforming banks and the energy market, a 10p income tax, and a "real jobs guarantee" for the young. 

Ed Miliband. Photograph: Getty Images
David Cameron speaks at a press conference following an EU summit in Brussels. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Cameron's EU concessions show that he wants to avoid an illegitimate victory

The Prime Minister is confident of winning but doesn't want the result to be open to challenge. 

Jeremy Corbyn's remarkable surge has distracted attention from what will be the biggest political event of the next 18 months: the EU referendum. But as the new political season begins, it is returning to prominence. In quick succession, two significant changes have been made to the vote, which must be held before the end of 2017 and which most expect next year.

When the Electoral Commission yesterday recommended that the question be changed from “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” ("Yes"/"No") to "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?" ("Leave"/"Remain"), No.10 immediately gave way. The Commission had warned that "Whilst voters understood the question in the Bill some campaigners and members of the public feel the wording is not balanced and there was a perception of bias." 

Today, the government will table amendments which reverse its previous refusal to impose a period of "purdah" during the referendum. This would have allowed government departments to continue to publish promotional material relating to the EU throughout the voting period. But after a rebellion by 27 Tory eurosceptics (only Labour's abstention prevented a defeat), ministers have agreed to impose neutrality (with some exemptions for essential business). No taxpayers' money will be spent on ads or mailshots that cast the EU in a positive light. The public accounts commitee had warned that the reverse position would "cast a shadow of doubt over the propriety" of the referendum.

Both changes, then, have one thing in common: David Cameron's desire for the result to be seen as legitimate and unquestionable. The Prime Minister is confident of winning the vote but recognises the danger that his opponents could frame this outcome as "rigged" or "stitched-up". By acceding to their demands, he has made it far harder for them to do so. More concessions are likely to follow. Cameron has yet to agree to allow Conservative ministers to campaign against EU membership (as Harold Wilson did in 1975). Most Tory MPs, however, expect him to do so. He will be mocked and derided as "weak" for doing so. But if the PM can secure a lasting settlement, one that is regarded as legitimate and definitive, it will be more than worth it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.