Ed Miliband speaks at the Scottish Labour conference on March 21, 2014 in Perth. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Ed Miliband's speech on Generation Rent: full text

"We will tackle the cost-of-living crisis by putting a ceiling on excessive rent rises."

Friends, I am proud to be launching our local and European election campaign here in Redbridge today.

And I want to start by paying tribute to everyone in Redbridge who works so hard for Labour and so hard for this community.

And everyone in the Labour group on Redbridge council, led by the brilliant Jas Atwal.

And friends, in the next three weeks, I want you to be doing all you can, to help Jas and his team take control of Redbridge council for Labour once again.

And I know we will also be working so hard in these weeks to help elect our excellent MEP candidates in London, like Claude Moraes.

And it is great to have with us, Glenis Willmott, the leader of our MEPs.

And I know after these elections, in the general election, we will also be doing our bit to elect our fantastic new candidate for Ilford North, Wes Streeting.

Friends, I said to you last September what I believe even more strongly now:

Britain can do better than this.

We know the reality:

There is a cost-of-living crisis facing hardworking people here in Redbridge, and right across the country.

A cost-of-living crisis that Britain hasn't seen for as long as anyone can remember.

The vital link between the wealth of the country as a whole and ordinary family finances has been broken.

People are working harder, for longer, for less.

With a few at the top getting the big rewards.

Insecurity at work for the many.

And the promise of Britain, that the next generation should do better than the last, being broken.

That is the reality that people face.

And it isn’t unique to Britain.

Inequality and the cost-of-living crisis are being felt in countries from America to Australia.

That is why it is our generation’s challenge.

That is why it is the defining issue of our age.

And that’s why, here in Britain, it demands new answers.

Labour answers.

A Labour government.

A government willing to make big changes to ensure that together, we build a new economy and make hardworking Britain better off.

And restore that link between the country’s prosperity and your families’ prosperity.

And, friends, that is what Labour will do.

Of course, to begin to solve this cost-of-living crisis, you first have to recognise it.

And just look at what this government has said about it.

For ages they denied the cost-of-living crisis had even begun.

And now they say the cost-of-living crisis is over.

I hope they try that one on the doorstep here in Redbridge.

Because every time the Tories and the Liberal Democrats deny the reality of what people see in their own pay packets and their own pockets, all they do is demonstrate that they simply don’t understand the depth of the challenge our economy and our country faces.

And why don’t they admit the scale of the crisis?

Because they can never take the action required to solve it.

They’ll never take on the vested interests.

They’ll never make the big changes.

They really do believe the way Britain succeeds is with a race to the bottom in wages and conditions.

That a few at the top create the wealth and it is enough for them to do well.

While everyone else is left just to take their chances.

That’s why they are not the solution to the cost-of-living crisis, they are part of the problem.

And that’s why at these elections, and the general election, we’re not just faced with a choice between parties and candidates.

But between two totally different visions of how an economy succeeds.

Because I believe that an economy can only grow and prosper for the future when hardworking people are better off, not when they’re struggling just to make ends meet.

And we need a race to the top for high skills and high wages, not a race to the bottom.

And we must have the courage to take on the vested interests.

That is how Britain wins.

And that is what you will be voting for if you vote Labour in these elections.

You’ll be voting for the one party that has placed the cost-of-living crisis at the very centre of our national debate.

You will be electing Labour MEPs whose priority isn’t leaving the EU, but changing it, so that it can work to raise living standards for hardworking families in Britain.

Labour MEPs who will put growth and jobs at the heart of the European Union.

Labour MEPs who will make sure the European Budget is spent in a way that supports British business.

And Labour MEPs who will insist that the EU helps clamp down on tax avoidance by the largest companies.

Because Labour knows everyone, including the biggest, most powerful companies, should pay their fair share.

And on May 22nd you will also be voting for Labour councillors and Labour local authorities who will make the cost-of-living crisis their priority.

I am proud of how Labour councils have been showing the way, even in the toughest of times.

From Luton to Cardiff to Glasgow, they’ve been changing their communities for the better.

They’ve been:

Taking on the pay-day lenders.

Improving child-care.

And promoting a living wage.

Vote Labour because it is even more true in tough times that people need a Labour voice.

And Britain needs a Labour government.

And today, a year in advance of the general election, I am proud to place our cost of living contract before the people of this country.

Ten ways that a Labour government would make a difference.

Ten ways that we would tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

Ten ways we will grow and earn our way to higher standards of living.

By taking real action:

On wages.

On jobs.

And on prices.

On wages, a Labour government will introduce Make Work Pay contracts.

We will give tax breaks to every employer who moves to offer a Living Wage.

So private companies can join the brilliant Labour councils who have already said no to poverty pay.

Because I believe, and we all know, the Living Wage is an idea whose time has come.

And because we believe hard work should always pay we will introduce a new 10p starting rate of tax.

And at the same time, so we pay down the deficit fairly, we will reverse David Cameron’s millionaires’ tax cut and bring back the 50p top rate of tax.

And we know to protect people’s wages we need to prevent a race to the bottom between local workers and those coming here from abroad.

It won’t help Britain to cut our country off from the rest of the world.

The British people know it is not in our national interest.

It is not who we are.

And a Labour government will never try.

But people do want fair rules.

So that’s what Labour will deliver.

Reforming transitional controls when new countries come into the EU.

Making sure rules on the pay of agency workers’ are enforced to protect workers’ pay.

Stopping the shady gang-masters.

Stopping recruitment agencies from only hiring workers from overseas.

And working with local authorities to root out the rogue firms who fail to pay the minimum wage.

Tackling the cost-of-living crisis also means action to create the jobs and prosperity of the future.

The 29 million people in work need to know our vision for the kinds of jobs that they are going to be doing.

And how we will create wealth in the future.

And that starts with our young people.

A Labour government will ensure that the forgotten 50 per cent of young people who don’t go to university have what they have a right to expect: proper qualifications, apprenticeships and careers.

And nothing blights the prospect of good careers for young people more than years out of work at the start of their adult lives.

So working with local authorities, Labour will guarantee that there is a job for every young person who has been out of work for more than a year, paid for by taxing the bankers’ bonuses.

The right and the fair choice to get our young people back to work.

And to get the jobs of the future we need to support our small businesses.

Because they will help create so much of the future wealth of our country.

Only a Labour government will make the big changes we need in our banking system and cut and freeze business rates for millions of small businesses.

Labour the party of small business in Britain.

And to tackle the cost-of-living crisis we need a high employment economy.

So we have to make it possible for mums and dads to go out to work.

For so many families, the cost-of-living crisis means they cannot balance work and family life.

Labour local authorities have done so much to protect child care in these difficult times.

And the next Labour government will go further.

We will work with them to offer 25 hours free childcare for all working parents of 3 and 4 year olds.

And our country will only create the good jobs of the future with fairness at work, not exploitation at work.

Yesterday, we learned that 1.4 million people are now on zero-hours contracts in this country.

And none of the other parties have anything to say about this epidemic of insecurity.

A Labour government will act.

We will ban the abuse of zero-hours contracts.

We will legislate so that if you do regular hours, you get a regular contract not a zero-hours contract.

And on prices, we can only tackle the cost-of-living crisis if we take on the vested interests.

That’s what is driving prices too high, ripping people off, holding our country back.

And we have to help the businesses and families at the sharp end.

So a Labour government will freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017.

And take on the Big Six energy companies.

To make sure the rip offs never happen again.

And it’s time too that we had a government that faced up to one of the biggest causes of the cost-of-living crisis in our country.

The price of renting or buying a home.

It used to be an essential part of what the British people expected from life.

Find a job, work hard, get a home of your own.

Start a family.

And then when your kids grew up, see them get on the housing ladder too.

Nothing is more fundamental than that.

But for millions of hardworking people in Britain today it’s just not like that anymore.

People simply can’t afford it.

They’re priced out.

They’re saving year after year, decade after decade, for a deposit.

Having to look for somewhere to live further and further away from where they go to work or where the kids have always gone to school.

So we will act.

We will build the next generation of new towns and garden cities.

Enable local authorities to expand when they want to.

We will stop firms hoarding land rather than building on it.

And a Labour government will make sure that by the end of the next Parliament, for the first time for a generation, Britain will be building 200,000 homes a year.

And we will take action on behalf of those who rent their homes in this country too.

I am proud that Labour has already committed to abolishing the iniquitous, unfair, bedroom tax.

But 9 million people are living today in rented homes in the private sector.

So many young people just starting out in life.

Over a million families with more than two million children renting their homes.

They need a fairer deal.

Some great Labour local authorities have been taking the lead with a register of landlords to drive up standards.

And a Labour government will support these local authorities by legislating for a national register too.

But we must do more.

When you’re buying a home, the estate agent doesn’t charge you fees.

But those who rent are given no such protection.

They get charged up to £500 just for signing a tenancy agreement.

Even if the letting agents are charging the landlord for the same thing too.

A Labour government will ban letting agents from charging tenants.

And we will deal too with the terrible insecurity of Britain’s private rental market.

Nearly 20 years ago, the last Tory government legislated to make short-term tenancies the standard in Britain.

As a result, it is so hard to find tenancies today longer than one year.

Even as those who rent has rocketed in number and changed in character.

With many more families renting their homes.

Six months security is no basis to plan your life.

With families at risk of being thrown out with two months notice for no reason.

With some even told to accept huge rent rises or face eviction.

The insecurity and instability of the private rental market is:

Bad for tenants.

Bad for families.

And even bad for landlords.

We must act.

Most other countries don’t work like this.

They have longer tenancies which provide greater protection.

With protections too for landlords who need to return to live in their properties or sell them.

Today I can announce, if we win the general election, we will legislate to make three year tenancies, not short-term tenancies, the standard for those who rent their homes in the private sector.

Giving people who rent the greater certainty they need.

And we’ll act on unpredictable rent rises too.

Because these new longer-term tenancies will limit the amount by which rents can rise each year.

So landlords know what they can expect.

And tenants won’t face the shock of rents that go through the roof.

So it will be cheaper to find a home to rent as we ban charges for tenants.

There will be greater security with three-year tenancies.

And we will tackle the cost-of-living crisis by putting a ceiling on excessive rent rises.

Generation rent is a generation left ignored and insecure for too long.

Not under the next Labour government.

Long-term tenancies and stable rents.

A better deal for those just starting out.

So that families can settle down.

Know where the kids will go to school.

Know their home will still be there for them tomorrow.

Because I say: hardworking Britain deserves nothing less.

Friends, in a few weeks’ time people will be going out to vote.

I want you to tell them, we understand their discontent with the ways things are right now.

Explain to them, what I’ve talked to you about today:

The way we understand the inequality of our country and the cost-of-living crisis.

And the problems about who our country is run for.

And then give them hope.

Tell them, they should test every party by the practical steps they would take to tackle this crisis.

And tell them there is a Labour vision of a better Britain.

A Britain where everyone who works hard knows they can get ahead.

A Britain where there are jobs and opportunities for our young people.

A Britain where prosperity isn’t hoarded by just a few people at the top.

A Britain where every hardworking family can be secure in a home of their own.

A Britain where we tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

Hardworking Britain better off.

That’s what this election is about for Labour.

That’s what we can achieve together.

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This Ada Lovelace Day, let’s celebrate women in tech while confronting its sexist culture

In an industry where men hold most of the jobs and write most of the code, celebrating women's contributions on one day a year isn't enough. 

Ada Lovelace wrote the world’s first computer program. In the 1840s Charles Babbage, now known as the “father of the computer”, designed (though never built) the “Analytical Engine”, a machine which could accurately and reproducibly calculate the answers to maths problems. While translating an article by an Italian mathematician about the machine, Lovelace included a written algorithm for which would allow the engine to calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers.

Around 170 years later, Whitney Wolfe, one of the founders of dating app Tinder, was allegedly forced to resign from the company. According to a lawsuit she later filed against the app and its parent company, she had her co-founder title removed because, the male founders argued, it would look “slutty”, and because “Facebook and Snapchat don’t have girl founders. It just makes it look like Tinder was some accident". (They settled out of court.)

Today, 13 October, is Ada Lovelace day – an international celebration of inspirational women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It’s lucky we have this day of remembrance, because, as Wolfe’s story demonstrates, we also spend a lot of time forgetting and sidelining women in tech. In the wash of pale male founders of the tech giants that rule the industry,we don't often think about the women that shaped its foundations: Judith Estrin, one of the designers of TCP/IP, for example, or Radia Perlman, inventor of the spanning-tree protocol. Both inventions sound complicated, and they are – they’re some of the vital building blocks that allow the internet to function. 

And yet David Streitfield, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, someow felt it accurate to write in 2012: “Men invented the internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolised Mr Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died.”

Perhaps we forget about tech's founding women because the needle has swung so far into the other direction. A huge proportion – perhaps even 90 per cent - of the world’s code is written by men. At Google, women fill 17 per cent of technical roles. At Facebook, 15 per cent. Over 90 per cent of the code respositories on Github, an online service used throughout the industry, are owned by men. Yet it's also hard to believe that this erasure of women's role in tech is completely accidental. As Elissa Shevinsky writes in the introduction to a collection of essays on gender in tech, Lean Out: “This myth of the nerdy male founder has been perpetuated by men who found this story favourable."

Does it matter? It’s hard to believe that it doesn’t. Our society is increasingly defined and delineated by code and the things it builds. Small slip-ups, like the lack of a period tracker on the original Apple Watch, or fitness trackers too big for some women’s wrists, gesture to the fact that these technologies are built by male-dominated teams, for a male audience.

In Lean Out, one essay written by a Twitter-based “start-up dinosaur” (don’t ask) explains how dangerous it is to allow one small segment of society to built the future for the rest of us:

If you let someone else build tomorrow, tomorrow will belong to someone else. They will build a better tomorrow for everyone like them… For tomorrow to be for everyone, everyone needs to be the one [sic] that build it.

So where did all the women go? How did we get from a rash of female inventors to a situation where the major female presence at an Apple iPhone launch is a model’s face projected onto a screen and photoshopped into a smile by a male demonstrator? 

Photo: Apple.

The toxic culture of many tech workplaces could be a cause or an effect of the lack of women in the industry, but it certainly can’t make make it easy to stay. Behaviours range from the ignorant - Martha Lane-Fox, founder of, often asked “what happens if you get pregnant?” at investors' meetings - to the much more sinister. An essay in Lean Out by Katy Levinson details her experiences of sexual harassment while working in tech: 

I have had interviewers attempt to solicit sexual favors from me mid-interview and discuss in significant detail precisely what they would like to do. All of these things have happened either in Silicon Valley working in tech, in an educational institution to get me there, or in a technical internship.

Others featured in the book joined in with the low-level sexism and racism  of their male colleagues in order to "fit in" and deflect negative attention. Erica Joy writes that while working in IT at the University of Alaska as the only woman (and only black person) on her team, she laughed at colleagues' "terribly racist and sexist jokes" and "co-opted their negative attitudes”. 

The casual culture and allegedly meritocratic hierarchies of tech companies may actually be encouraging this discriminatory atmosphere. HR and the strict reporting procedures of large corporates at least give those suffering from discrimination a place to go. A casual office environment can discourage reporting or calling out prejudiced humour or remarks. Brook Shelley, a woman who transitioned while working in tech, notes: "No one wants to be the office mother". So instead, you join in and hope for the best. 

And, of course, there's no reason why people working in tech would have fewer issues with discrimination than those in other industries. A childhood spent as a "nerd" can also spawn its own brand of misogyny - Katherine Cross writes in Lean Out that “to many of these men [working in these fields] is all too easy to subconciously confound women who say ‘this is sexist’ with the young girls who said… ‘You’re gross and a creep and I’ll never date you'". During GamerGate, Anita Sarkeesian was often called a "prom queen" by trolls. 

When I spoke to Alexa Clay, entrepreneur and co-author of the Misfit Economy, she confirmed that there's a strange, low-lurking sexism in the start-up economy: “They have all very open and free, but underneath it there's still something really patriarchal.” Start-ups, after all, are a culture which celebrates risk-taking, something which women are societally discouraged from doing. As Clay says, 

“Men are allowed to fail in tech. You have these young guys who these old guys adopt and mentor. If his app doesn’t work, the mentor just shrugs it off. I would not be able ot get away with that, and I think women and minorities aren't allowed to take the same amount of risks, particularly in these communities. If you fail, no one's saying that's fine.

The conclusion of Lean Out, and of women in tech I have spoken to, isn’t that more women, over time, will enter these industries and seamlessly integrate – it’s that tech culture needs to change, or its lack of diversity will become even more severe. Shevinsky writes:

The reason why we don't have more women in tech is not because of a lack of STEM education. It's because too many high profile and influential individuals and subcultures within the tech industry have ignored or outright mistreated women applicants and employees. To be succinct—the problem isn't women, it's tech culture.

Software engineer Kate Heddleston has a wonderful and chilling metaphor about the way we treat women in STEM. Women are, she writes, the “canary in the coal mine”. If one dies, surely you should take that as a sign that the mine is uninhabitable – that there’s something toxic in the air. “Instead, the industry is looking at the canary, wondering why it can’t breathe, saying ‘Lean in, canary, lean in!’. When one canary dies they get a new one because getting more canaries is how you fix the lack of canaries, right? Except the problem is that there isn't enough oxygen in the coal mine, not that there are too few canaries.” We need more women in STEM, and, I’d argue, in tech in particular, but we need to make sure the air is breatheable first. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.