Ed Miliband's speech to the TUC: full text

The Labour leader says his trade union reforms mean Labour could become a party "not of 200,000 people, but 500,000 or many more."

Frances, thank you so much for that introduction.

And let me pay tribute to you, as the first female General Secretary of the TUC, for the fantastic job that you do.

But I am sure you would agree that it would be wrong not to also remember those who did so much before you.

And I want to pick out one particular individual.

In a speech I remember reading, he argued that the problem of British politics had been that the “voices of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, all the other important centres of...industry have been unheard.”

He went further.

He praised that trade union march through the centre of London.

He talked evocatively of its “immense organisation, with marshals and sub-marshals, scarves, banners and an exhibition of almost perfect military discipline.”

Yes, I am talking, believe it or not, about:

The Conservative Prime Minister of 1867.

The Fourteenth Earl of Derby.

The longest ever serving leader of the Conservative Party.

The man who first legislated to allow trade unions in this country.

His real name: Edward Stanley.

Or as he would be called today:

Red Ed.

I tell this story to make a serious point.

The Earl of Derby and Benjamin Disraeli who succeeded him were One Nation Conservatives.

They knew the Conservative Party had to represent the whole country.

They couldn’t write off whole swathes of people if they were to be worthy of governing Britain.

It seems extraordinary to have to even talk about this historical lesson.

But I do.

We have a Prime Minister who writes you and your members off.

Who doesn’t just write you off, but oozes contempt for you from every pore.

What does he say about you?

He says the trade union movement is a “threat to our economy”.

Back to the enemy within.

Six and a half million people in Britain.

Who teach our children.

Who look after the sick.

Who care for the elderly.

Who build our homes.

Who keep our shops open morning, noon and night.

They’re not the enemy within.

They’re the people who make Britain what it is.

How dare he?

How dare he insult people - members of trade unions - as he does?

How dare he write off whole sections of our society?

The Earl of Derby, Benjamin Disraeli, and other One Nation Conservatives, would be turning in their graves if they could hear the nasty, divisive, small-minded rhetoric of the leader of their once great party.

But friends, just remember this.

We know from recent experience what happens to political leaders who write off whole sections of a country.

That’s what Mitt Romney did when he talked about the 47 per cent of people who would never vote for him.

And look what happened to him.

They didn’t.

Friends, my job is to make sure that’s what happens to David Cameron as well.

A One Nation Party.

Unlike Mr Cameron, I am a One Nation politician.

And One Nation is about governing for the whole country.

To do this we are going have to build a new kind of Labour Party.

A new relationship with individual trade union members.

Some people ask: what’s wrong with the current system?

Let me tell them: we have three million working men and women affiliated to our party.

But the vast majority play no role in our party.

They are affiliated in name only.

That wasn’t the vision of the founders of our party.

I don’t think it’s your vision either.

And it’s certainly not my vision.

That’s why I want to make each and every affiliated trade union member a real part of their local party.

Making a real choice to be a part of our party.

So they can have a real voice in it.

And why is that such an exciting idea?

Because it means we could become a Labour party not of 200,000 people, but 500,000 or many more.

A party rooted every kind of workplace in the country.

A party rooted in every community in the country.

A genuine living, breathing movement.

Of course, it is a massive challenge.

It will be a massive challenge for the Labour Party to reach out to your members in a way that we have not done for many years and persuade them to be part of what we do.

And like anything that is hard it is a risk.

But the bigger risk is just saying let’s do it as we have always done it.

It is you who have been telling me year after year about a politics that is detached from the lives of working people.

That’s why we have to have the courage to change.

I respect those who worry about change.

I understand.

But I disagree.

It is the right thing to do.

We can change.

We must change.

And I am absolutely determined this change will happen.

It is the only way we can build a One Nation party.

So we can build a One Nation country.

And most importantly a One Nation economy, one that works for all working people, not just a few at the top.

Now at the moment you hear the Tories congratulating themselves on the recovery.

George Osborne was at it again yesterday.

And it is welcome that the economy is growing.

But we have to ask: “whose recovery is it anyway”?

The million young people looking for work.

It is not their recovery.

The long-term unemployed, higher than at any time for a generation.

It is not their recovery.

The 1.4 million people, more than ever before, desperate for full-time work but only able to get part-time work.

It is not their recovery.

And all the millions of people who are seeing their living standards falling year on year under this government.

It is not their recovery either.

Living standards have been falling for longer than at any time since 1870.

About the time our old friend, the Earl of Derby, left office.

We know whose recovery it is.

A recovery for the privileged few in our society.

The City bonuses are back.

Up by 82 per cent in April of this year alone.

Helped along by David Cameron’s millionaire’s tax cut.

It is a recovery for a few.

It is an unfair recovery

An unequal recovery.

And an unequal recovery won’t be a stable recovery.

It won’t be built to last.

The only way we can have a durable recovery is with an economy that works for all working people.

Because what makes an economy succeed is not just a few people at the top, but the forgotten wealth creators.

The people who put in the hours, do the work, do two jobs.

Who get up before George Osborne’s curtains are open in the morning and come back at night well after they have closed.

They’re the people who make our economy strong.

They’re the people we have to support to make a recovery that lasts.

We know life won’t be easy under a Labour government.

We’ll have to stick to strict spending limits.

I know that means you ask:

What do we have to say to our members about what would be different under a Labour government than a Tory government?

The answer is we’d make different choices in pursuit of a fundamentally different vision of our economy.

One that works for all working people, not just a few.

These different choices start with young people.

On day one as Prime Minister, I would be mobilising all of Britain’s businesses behind the idea of getting our young people back to work.

If we were in government now, we would be saying to every young person out of work for more than a year, we will offer a compulsory jobs guarantee, funded by a tax on the bankers’ bonuses, for a job with proper training, paying at least the minimum wage.

A Labour government would get our young people working again.

And we need to get the best out of all of our young people.

It is time to end the snobbery in our country that says that university is always best and apprenticeships second best.

That’s why the next Labour government will get proper careers and qualifications for that forgotten 50 per cent who don’t go to university.

And we’ll say to any business: if you want a major government contract, you must provide apprenticeships to the next generation.

And to get a recovery that works for working people, we need proper investment in the future too.

Britain is currently 159th in the international league table of investment.

We’re not going to succeed in the future with a record like that.

Turning it round means changing our banking system.

We’ve still got businesses that serve our banks rather than banks that serve our businesses.

So we would have a new British Investment Bank to get finance to small businesses.

And regional banks too.

Banks that are legally obliged to invest in their region of the country and their region alone.

Not chasing a quick profit in the City of London.

But investment in the future doesn’t just come from our banks.

It needs to come from the government too.

I believe the way we get the best companies to come here is not on the basis of low skills and low wages.

But high skills and a decent infrastructure.

So we’d be doing something that hasn’t been done for decades.

Investing properly in housing in this country.

So, building a recovery that can last, one that works for working people and not just a few at the top, needs different choices on young people, on jobs, on skills, on investment and on infrastructure.

But it means something else too.

The Tories really do believe we get success through a few at the top.

So they say to get more out of the very wealthiest, you give them a tax cut.

But you get more out of working people, if you make them feel more insecure.

I disagree.

We can never build a recovery works for all, unless working people feel confident and secure at work.

That’s what other countries know.

And I think that’s what the British people know too.

Now I recognise, as do you, that both workers and businesses need flexibility.

It is how you unions and employers worked together to keep people working even during the most difficult moments of the recession.

Putting jobs above pay rises.

Working fewer hours in order to protect employment.

Flexibility yes.

Exploitation no.

And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to zero hours contracts.

Of course, there are some kinds of these contracts which are useful.

For locum doctors.

Or supply teachers at schools.

Or sometimes, young people working in bars.

But you and I know that zero hours contracts have been terribly misused.

I had the privilege last week of speaking to some people working on zero hours contracts.

One in particular in the care sector who said “You can’t build your life on what you get from a zero hours contract”.

Another told me of her experience: 23 years on a proper, regular contract and now had the nightmare of 2 years on a zero hours contract.

As she said, just imagine if you didn’t know from one week to the next whether your wages were going to halve.

That is the reality for so many people on zero hours contracts.

They don’t know how many hours they’re going to do from one week to the next.

They don’t know how much they’re going to be paid.

They have no security.

All of the risks in the economy which we used to believe should be fairly shared between employers and working people.

Now placed on the individual worker alone.

That’s why the worst of these practices owe more to the Victorian era than they do to the kind of workplace we should have in the 21st century.

It’s wrong.

And the next Labour government will put things right.

We’ll ban zero hours contracts which require workers to work exclusively for one business.

We’ll stop zero hours contracts which require workers to be on call all day without any guarantee of work.

And we’ll end zero hours contracts where workers are working regular hours but are denied a regular contract.

Because I am determined to build an economy that works for working people.

And that means security, not insecurity at work.

Because that is how our country will succeed.

Let me end by saying this.

The next election is a high stakes election.

High stakes for your members.

High stakes for working people.

High stakes for our country.

We’re in the fourth year of this government.

We know who they stand for.

A privileged few at the top.

We know that they will never create an economy that works for working people.

It is not what they believe.

We know how they’ll try to divide our country.

For political advantage.

I stand for a different and better way forward for our country.

A vision that draws on the best of our traditions.

I think about the 1945 government.

We didn’t lower our sights in the face of difficulty.

We raised them.

That government was a One Nation government.

It listened to the voices of all.

Used the talents of all.

Built a country fit for all.

My vision: a One Nation Britain.

Let’s rebuild that country together.

Ed Miliband attends the launch of mental health charity MindFull at BAFTA headquarters on July 5, 2013 in London. Photograph: Getty Images.
Nicola Sturgeon and Tony Blair. Photo: Getty
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Nicola Sturgeon's SNP, like Tony Blair's New Labour, is heading for a crash landing

The fall of Tony Blair should be a set text for anyone wishing to know what happens next to the SNP.

If there was one thing the SNP and New Labour had in common, it was the hope. Both offered themselves as a burning torch of optimism to publics that had become tired of the same old gang running things in the same old way. Both promised a fairer, more equal society and a fearless embrace of the modern world with an appealing freshness and energy. The voters bought it: both won big, repeatedly.

The thing is, if you’re elected on a mandate to be different, you’d better be different. In many areas, for a long time, New Labour managed to be just that. The smiling PM with the huge majority pushed through radical policies, some of which even worked. Tony Blair’s methodology was so successful and so convincing that the Conservatives and the Lib Dems reshaped themselves in his likeness. Arguably, a form of New Labour won in 2010 and 2015.

But, as they say, it’s the hope that kills you. When the inevitable attritional realities of governing start to weigh, when you make, as you will, bad decisions, when the list of enemies grows long, when you’ve just had your time, you’ll fall like all the rest – only, when you’ve soared so close to the sun, you have that much further to plummet.

The fall of Blair and of Labour should be a set text for anyone wishing to know what happens next to the SNP. Sunday night’s debate between the Scottish party leaders was, I think, a foretaste of what’s coming – a public that until recently was politically and emotionally invested in the Nats is growing restive. In time, this will turn to disenchantment, then anger, then revenge at the ballot box. This is the unbreakable cycle of democratic politics.

Some of us have warned since the start that the SNP had over-promised and could only under-deliver. Its raison d’etre is independence; everything else - literally everything else - is just another brick to build the path. And so education reform cannot be either radical or unpopular, even if it needs to be so to work, because the SNP cannot afford to alienate teachers or the teaching unions or parents. Bricks, you see. Same with the NHS and doctors and health unions and patients. All the separatists have done – all they could have done, given their nature - is deploy the rhetoric of the radical while in reality body-swerving hard choices and conflict at any cost. And where they have found themselves taking flak, they’ve pointed south to Westminster: "it’s no’ our fault, it’s theirs".

But voters show signs of wearying of the predictable blame game and waking up to the time-limited strategy of show-over-substance. Middle Scotland is either ignored or maligned by the middle-class socialists who drive the nation’s political debate, but it is where elections are won. The SNP has secured the support of enough of these people to win every recent election in style, but somewhere along the way the party seems to have forgotten this was a mandate not for independence, but for good government. Ten years in to SNP rule, each new audit of public services seems to wail like a warning siren – things aren’t just not improving, they’re getting worse. The SNP is not keeping its part of the deal.

So, during Sunday night’s debate it was Nicola Sturgeon, not Ruth Davidson or Kezia Dugdale, who found herself in the audience’s cross-hairs. It will have been a strange experience for a woman more used to public adulation and a clamour for selfies. There were the teachers, who complained about the damp squib that is the Curriculum for Excellence, the SNP’s flagship education policy; who pointed out that a fifth of primary pupils are leaving without basic literacy and numeracy skills; and who warned that lowering the standard of exams in order to push up the pass rate was not a mark of success.

Then there was the nurse who said she had been forced to use a food bank (the existence of which has been used repeatedly by the SNP as a stick with which to beat the Conservatives and Westminster): ‘I can’t manage on the salary I have [which is set by the Scottish Government]. You have no idea how demoralising it is to work in the NHS. Don’t come on your announced visits, come in in the middle of any day to any ward, any A&E department and see what we’re up against.’ She delivered the evening’s killer line: ‘Do you think your perceived obsession with independence might actually cost you… in this election?’

The list of reasonable criticisms is growing and will grow further. The ideological obsession with free university tuition for Scottish students is increasingly seen as a sop to the better-off, while in England the fee-charging regime has seen the number of students coming from poorer families climb. Ms Sturgeon’s demand for a quick second independence referendum, when a worried middle Scotland was focused on what Brexit might mean for its future, was tone deaf.

The SNP has another problem (one that New Labour, for all its flaws, didn’t face): its doctrine of infallibility. The Nats’ constitution explicitly prohibits its elected members from criticising the party, its policies or each other. While total unity is useful when you’re on the climb, it starts to look bonkers when the cracks are showing. Allowing public self-criticism, far from being a sign of weakness, is a necessary vent for inner tensions and a sign to voters that a political party is something more than a cult.

That ‘cult’ word has long dogged the SNP and its supporters. The party has tried hard to normalise its electoral appeal while keeping the flame of independence burning bright, but it has been a difficult balancing act. The pro-independence mob is an ugly thing when it is unleashed (and it has suited the leadership to open the cage at times). Claire Austin, the nurse who criticised the First Minister on Sunday, has found herself at its mercy. Immediately after the debate, the Nats briefed (wrongly) that she was the wife of a Tory councilor. The SNP branch in Stirling said Tebbitishly that if she was having to use food banks "maybe she needs to tighten her belt a bit more?" Joanna Cherry, a QC, MP and the SNP’s Home Affairs spokesperson, was forced to publicly apologise for spreading "Twitter rumours" about Ms Austin.

The ravening horde has largely kept its head down since the 2014 independence referendum, but we now see it hasn’t gone away - it is not enough for the SNP’s critics to be debated, they must be destroyed. This isn’t the behaviour of a normal political party: it’s the behaviour of a cult.

I might be wrong, but I have a feeling that when the SNP does fall it will fall quite quickly. Its belief in its infallibility, its inability or unwillingness to do self-deprecation or apology, will increasingly aggravate voters. There is nothing to suggest the current public policy failings will be addressed, and plenty of signs that things will get worse. How, then, do you arrest your fall?

The SNP offered hope and promised it was different, and the voters believed. The sense of betrayal could make for a very hard landing indeed.

Chris Deerin is the New Statesman's contributing editor (Scotland). 

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