Sadiq Khan speaks at the Labour conference in Manchester in 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Sadiq Khan's speech on inequality: full text

Inequality is the single biggest threat to our economy, our society and to the wellbeing of the British people today.

Thank you conference for inviting me to speak to you today.

 

I first joined a trade union more than twenty years ago.

 

It may shock you given my youthful good looks, but I've now been a member of this movement for almost half my life.

 

Trade unionism - the power of working people acting together to deliver a fairer society - is at the very heart of my beliefs.

 

And it fills me with hope to stand here today and see the trade union movement is very much alive and well.

 

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I want to talk to you today about an issue that is the single biggest threat to our economy, our society and to the wellbeing of the British people today.

 

An issue that is the biggest dividing line in British politics.

 

And a problem that affects all of you and all your members.

 

I want to talk to you about the growing disconnect between the wealth of our nation and the finances of working people, and the rise in inequality in Britain which it causes.

 

A rise in Inequality of income and wealth, but also in the distribution of power.

 

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It's important to start by explaining why this matters so much.

 

We see every day that our economy has stopped working for ordinary people, with the benefits going to those at the top and the rest being left behind.

 

But we must take the time to reflect on exactly why this growing inequality matters if we are to convince Britain that it's the defining issue of our age.

 

There are four reasons why inequality matters:

 

Firstly, it causes the cost-of-living crisis which so many people are facing .

 

Secondly, inequality is bad for economic growth.

 

Thirdly, inequality is the most important factor in determining the happiness of society and the cohesiveness of our communities.

 

And finally, a belief in equality and basic moral fairness is a foundation of British society.

 

I want to explore these reasons in a little more depth.

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Firstly – the cost-of-living crisis.

 

Every week, Government ministers hit the airwaves, claiming the latest set of economic statistics show that our economy is fixed.

 

And there is no doubt that after years of flat-lining, the economy is finally growing.

 

But this is just not reflected in day-to-day life for most people.

 

It makes them furious to hear the Government claim the crisis is over, when they and their friends and family are all still suffering.

 

When their wages are still frozen.

 

When their job is no more secure.

 

And when earnings are still barely keeping up with outgoings.

 

 

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

 

Quite frankly – our economy is no longer working for most people.

 

The benefits of growth increasingly go only to those at the top.

 

Meaning that despite growth in the economy, the cost-of living crisis continues to deepen for most people.

 

Ed Miliband summed it up brilliantly at our conference last year when he said:

 

“a rising tide used to lift all boats, now it only seems to lift the yachts.”

 

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Secondly, inequality actually limits the potential for growth in our economy.

 

And you don’t have to take my word for it.

 

The International Monetary Fund said exactly this in a ground-breaking report in February.

 

The report said:

 

“Countries with high levels of inequality suffer lower growth than nations that distribute incomes more evenly.”

 

It went on to say:

 

“Inequality can also make growth more volatile and create the unstable conditions for a sudden slowdown in growth.”

 

In the murky world of economics – it doesn’t get more definitive than that.

 

And if the IMF isn’t enough to convince you you should read a speech delivered last week by Mark Carney.

 

He is the Governor of that famous left-wing institution – the Bank of England.

 

In a brilliant speech about the dangers of inequality he summed it up succinctly:

 

“Relative equality is good for growth”

 

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Thirdly – inequality damages the happiness and wellbeing of everyone in our society.

 

And threatens the very fabric of our communities.

 

How many of you have heard of a book called the Spirit Level?

 

Put your hands up if you have heard of it.

 

It is the book that has had the biggest impact on my views in recent years.

 

The authors comprehensively proved that inequality is bad for the health, happiness and wellbeing of everyone in society.

 

From those at the very top – to those at the very bottom.

 

It's worth pausing on that.

 

Inequality is bad for the very wealthy - those who benefit most - just as it is bad for those at the bottom.

 

They proved that inequality causes shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives.

 

It increases the rate of teenage pregnancy, violence, obesity, imprisonment and addiction.

 

And most importantly, it destroys relationships between individuals born in the same society but into different classes.

 

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The final reason that we must fight inequality is because it is rejected by the British people.

 

It offends our most basic sense of fairness and traditional British values.

 

In the most recent polling, eighty percent of British people said the income gap in this country is too high.

 

Eighty percent.

 

And even more - eighty seven percent - think that growing inequality is unfair.

 

The British people are well and truly fed up with inequality.

 

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There is no doubt that Britain is becoming a less equal country.

 

And the speed at which inequality is growing is increasing.

 

Over the last year alone, the share of post-tax income of the top one per cent of taxpayers – that’s just 300,000 people – has risen from 8.2 per cent to 9.8 per cent.

 

Yet at the same time, the bottom 90 per cent – a total of 27 million hard working Britons – have seen their share of income fall from 71.3 per cent to 70.4 per cent

 

And it is a problem that is getting worse under the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

 

The increase in wealth of the richest 100 people in Britain in the last year was 40.1 billion pounds.

 

That’s enough to pay a year’s rent for nearly half of all renting households.

 

Or to pay the energy bill for all 26.4 million UK households for over a year.

 

It is a stain on both their parties that they have refused to recognise inequality as the problem it is.

 

A stain of which I believe even future Tories and Liberal Democrats will be ashamed.

 

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In London we see the problems of inequality at their most extreme.

 

Many of the wealthiest people in the world live in London.

 

And they are thriving.

 

They eat in the best restaurants in the world.

 

They enjoy the best arts, theatre and culture in the world.

 

But living side by side with them is the other 99% of Londoners.

 

Who work long hard hours - longer than ever before.

 

But for whom life has got more difficult.

 

For whom wages have remained frozen.

 

Who take the bus to work because the tube is now too expensive.

 

Who long ago gave up on the dream of owning their own home.

 

And who live in ever smaller and more overcrowded accommodation as the cost of rent goes up and up.

 

London really has become a tale of two cities.

 

And our cities economy no longer works for the majority of Londoners

 

The gap between the two London's is growing ever faster.

 

Our job - as the Labour Party and the trade union movement - is to bring the two Londons - and the two Britains - back together.

 

To close the gap between Notting Hill and Newham.

 

And build a true One Nation economy and society.

 

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But if we are to tackle this problem we must first be honest with the country.

 

These are long-term and deeply rooted problems in our economy which governments of all parties have faced.

 

 

 

 

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I said at the beginning of my speech that the disconnect between the wealth of our nation and the finances of ordinary people is the dividing line of British politics today – and I sincerely believe this to be true.

 

One of my jobs as Shadow London Minister is to hold Boris Johnson – the Mayor of London - to account

 

The Mayor is a lifelong friend of David Cameron and George Osborne’s and is the leading candidate to be the next Tory leader.

 

In a speech earlier this year he said:

 

“Inequality is essential to fostering the spirit of envy"

 

And:

 

"It is a valuable spur to economic activity".

 

Can you believe that?

 

It goes to the very heart of what the Tory Party believes.

 

Despite all the evidence to the contrary – from the IMF and Bank of England - they genuinely believe that inequality is a good thing.

 

It’s why this Government thinks it’s ok to cut taxes for millionaires while ordinary people are facing a cost-of-living crisis.

 

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In 2010, I, like many of you, backed Ed to be Leader of the Labour Party.

 

As the Chair of Ed’s campaign I dedicated myself to getting him elected.

 

And do you know why I backed Ed so full heartedly?

 

Because Ed recognised that our economy is not working for ordinary people. He recognised that while those at the top are benefiting, everyone else is struggling. And he recognised that this is restricting opportunity and means that we are faced – for the first time in decades – with a situation where the next generation will be worse off than our own.

 

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And Ed has begun to lay out a set of truly radical policies to deal with this cost-of-living crisis in Britain.

 

We will reintroduce the 50p tax rate because it's only fair that the very wealthiest pay their fair share.

 

We will repeat the bankers bonus tax and use the money raised to fund a 'Compulsory Jobs Guarantee' - to tackle long-term unemployment.

 

We will introduce a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million and use the money raised to introduce a 10p tax band - cutting taxes for those who work hard but earn too little.

 

We will build 200,000 homes a year and make renting more affordable and secure - because the cost of housing is a big part of the cost of living crisis - particularly in London.

 

This amounts to a truly radical plan to tackle inequality and over the next year you will hear even more about how Labour will create a more equal country.

 

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But inequality of wealth and income isn't the only problem.

 

Power is also distributed too unequally in Britain.

Everyone – not just those at the top – should have the chance to shape their own lives.

The causes of the daily frustrations in people’s lives are often the same: unaccountable power with the individual left powerless to act against it.

And with money set to be tight after 2013, it is more important than ever that we give the ordinary citizen the political power they need tackle these frustrations.

 

And the distribution of power has become more unequal than ever as a result of the policies of this government.

 

Policies that have trampled on those least able to fight back or shout about what’s happening to them

 

From watering down workers’ rights to people’s ability to receive proper legal representation.

 

We have bitterly opposed this Government’s attack on our rights – and the power of the British people.

 

We stood firm against their attacks on civil society in their lobby bill.

 

We fought against their attempts to stop campaign groups and charities from contributing to our democracy.

 

My colleague Stephen Twigg has asked Baroness Maeve Sherlock to lead Labour’s work on how we put the pieces back together

 

We will repair the damage, in order to preserve a healthy, vibrant democracy.

 

That gives power to ordinary people.

 

Not one where those who dare disagree with us are simply muzzled.

 

That’s not behaviour befitting of a proud democracy like ours.

 

And we will fight against legal aid changes that leave thousands with unequal access to justice, and the unconstitutional assault on judicial review

 

Yes, judicial review is awkward but that’s no reason to chop it off at the knees.

 

Do that, and governments will be free to abuse their power.

 

Power inequitably concentrated in the hands of ministers.

 

A scary prospect, with alarming consequences.

 

We’ll end the scandal of big private companies being paid millions of public money to deliver services but being exempt from the disinfecting sunlight of transparency.

 

Where's the equality in that?

 

That’s why Labour has committed to extend freedom of information laws so that public services run by private companies are covered.

 

It’s wrong that multi-million pound contracts to run prisons, pay for schools or deliver health services should be able to hide behind a cloak of secrecy.

 

After all, it is public money, and we should demand the same levels of transparency regardless of how it is spent.

 

And on human rights

 

I can say now, categorically that Labour’s support for the Human Rights Act – LABOUR’S Human Rights Act is totally unswerving.

 

And we will not walk away or water down our commitments to the European Convention on Human Rights.

 

A Convention written by Brits, exported to 800 million people across Europe, that has provided and will go on providing protection to millions and millions of people.

 

Human rights laws that have tackled discrimination.

 

Given a voice to victims of crime.

 

Delivered equal benefit rights for widows and widowers.

 

Recognised that the right to join a union is an essential part of freedom of assembly.

 

After all, human rights are workers’ rights.

 

Here, and abroad.

 

They guarantee a more equal distribution of power in our society.

 

And Labour will defend them tooth and nail.

 

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But this is not a problem we will be able to tackle alone – or quickly for that matter.

 

Growing inequality is a global problem seen across the world.

 

And the forces of conservatism will fight tooth and nail to protect their vested interests.

 

We will need everyone who believes that inequality is a problem working alongside us.

 

And in particular, we will need the trade union movement.

 

The Labour Party and trade unions have fought inequality side-by-side for more than a century.

 

 

We will need our relationship to be stronger than ever if we are to win the general election in 2015.

 

Defeat the vested interests.

 

And take the radical action we need to make Britain a more equal country.

 

Thank you.

Sadiq Khan is MP for Tooting, shadow justice secretary and shadow minister for London.
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Who is the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier?

The former French foreign minister has shown signs that he will play hardball in negotiations.

The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator today set an October 2018 deadline for the terms of Britain’s divorce from the European Union to be agreed. Michel Barnier gave his first press conference since being appointed to head up what will be tough talks between the EU and UK.

Speaking in Brussels, he warned that UK-EU relations had entered “uncharted waters”. He used the conference to effectively shorten the time period for negotiations under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the legal process to take Britain out of the EU. The article sets out a two year period for a country to leave the bloc.

But Barnier, 65, warned that the period of actual negotiations would be shorter than two years and there would be less than 18 months to agree Brexit.  If the terms were set in October 2018, there would be five months for the European Parliament, European Council and UK Parliament to approve the deal before a March 2019 Brexit.

But who is the urbane Frenchman who was handpicked by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to steer the talks?

A centre-right career politician, Barnier is a member of the pan-EU European People’s Party, like Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A committed European and architect of closer eurozone banking integration, Barnier rose to prominence after being elected aged just 27 to the French National Assembly.  He is notorious in Brussels for his repeated references to the 1992 Winter Olympics he organised in Albertville with triple Olympic ski champion Jean-Claude Killy.

He first joined the French cabinet in 1993 as minister of the environment. In 1995, Jacques Chirac made him Secretary of State for European Affairs, teeing up a long and close relationship with Brussels.

Barnier has twice served as France’s European Commissioner, under the administrations of Romano Prodi and José Manuel BarrosoMost recently he was serving as an unpaid special advisor on European Defence Policy to Juncker until the former prime minister of Luxembourg made him Brexit boss.“I wanted an experienced politician for this difficult job,” Juncker said at the time of Barnier, who has supported moves towards an EU army.

 

Barnier and the Brits

Barnier’s appointment was controversial. Under Barroso, he was Internal Market commissioner. Responsible for financial services legislation at the height of the crisis, he clashed with the City of London.

During this period he was memorably described as a man who, in a hall of mirrors, would stop and check his reflection in every one.

Although his battles with London’s bankers were often exaggerated, the choice of Barnier was described as an “act of war” by some British journalists and was greeted with undisguised glee by Brussels europhiles.

Barnier moved to calm those fears today. At the press conference, he said, “I was 20 years old, a very long time ago, when I voted for the first time and it was in the French referendum on the accession of the UK to the EU.

“That time I campaigned for a yes vote. And I still think today that I made right choice.”

But Barnier, seen by some as aloof and arrogant, also showed a mischievous side.  It was reported during Theresa May’s first visit to Brussels as prime minister that he was demanding that all the Brexit talks be conducted in French.

While Barnier does speak English, he is far more comfortable talking in his native French. But the story, since denied, was seen as a snub to the notoriously monolingual Brits.

The long lens photo of a British Brexit strategy note that warned the EU team was “very French” may also have been on his mind as he took the podium in Brussels today.

Barnier asked, “In French or in English?” to laughter from the press.

He switched between English and French in his opening remarks but only answered questions in French, using translation to ensure he understood the questions.

Since his appointment Barnier has posted a series of tweets which could be seen as poking fun at Brexit. On a tour of Croatia to discuss the negotiations, he posed outside Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships asking, “Guess where we are today?”

 

 

He also tweeted a picture of himself drinking prosecco after Boris Johnson sparked ridicule by telling an Italian economics minister his country would have to offer the UK tariff-free trade to sell the drink in Britain.

But Barnier can also be tough. He forced through laws to regulate every financial sector, 40 pieces of legislation in four years, when he was internal market commissioner, in the face of sustained opposition from industry and some governments.

He warned today, "Being a member of the EU comes with rights and benefits. Third countries [the UK] can never have the same rights and benefits since they are not subject to same obligations.”

On the possibility of Britain curbing free movement of EU citizens and keeping access to the single market, he was unequivocal.

“The single market and four freedoms are indivisible. Cherry-picking is not an option,” he said.

He stressed that his priority in the Brexit negotiations would be the interests of the remaining 27 member states of the European Union, not Britain.

“Unity is the strength of the EU and President Juncker and I are determined to preserve the unity and interest of the EU-27 in the Brexit negotiations.”

In a thinly veiled swipe at the British, again greeted with laughter in the press room, he told reporters, “It is much better to show solidarity than stand alone. I repeat, it is much better to show solidarity than stand alone”.

Referring to the iconic British poster that urged Brits to "Keep Calm and Carry On” during World War Two, he today told reporters, “We are ready. Keep calm and negotiate.”

But Barnier’s calm in the face of the unprecedented challenge to the EU posed by Brexit masks a cold determination to defend the European project at any cost.

James Crisp is the news editor at EurActiv, an online EU news service.