Ed Miliband and David Cameron during the service to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey, on June 4, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour will show that people really do have a choice in 2015

Unlike David Cameron, we understand that our future success as a country is built on the talents of all.

As we enter the last summer before the general election, it is clear our country is at a crossroads. The Tories and Lib Dems complacently claim they’ve fixed the economy, but things are still really tough for hardworking families. Growth is finally returning to our economy, but it is not feeding through to working people’s living standards - that's why Labour is campaigning this summer for big changes in Britain. 

On Friday, Labour launched our summer campaign – "The Choice: the Labour future, the Tory threat" – with a speech from Ed Miliband in which he outlined the fresh leadership he will bring to Britain as Prime Minister. He said: 

"The leadership this country needs is one that has big ideas to change things, with the sense of principle needed to stick to those beliefs and ideas even when it is hard, and with the decency and empathy to reach out to people from all backgrounds, all walks of life."

In the weeks ahead, Labour will set out the changes we need so we can build an economy where we earn our way to higher living standards and shared prosperity. We know that Tory government after 2015 would continue to stand up for just a privileged few, thinking everything is fixed and continuing with a cost-of-living crisis, even whilst there is growth.

Labour understands that our future success as a country is built on the talents of all. In contrast, David Cameron believes the only people who create wealth are those at the top and that this will somehow "trickle down" to everybody else.  We want to ensure that families and young people can get on and do well - whilst under David Cameron, opportunities are declining and the next generation will do worse than the last.

Labour will make big long-term changes so that hardworking people are better off. We’ll make sure that 200,000 new homes are built every year by 2020, creating up to 230,000 construction jobs, and deliver a fairer deal for families who rent by banning rip-off letting fees and making long-term tenancies with predictable rents the norm. We’ll make work pay for working parents by giving them 25 hours free childcare for three and four year olds, paid for by an increase in the bank levy.  And we’ll improve school standards by guaranteeing that all teachers must be qualified, and transforming vocational education for the 50 per cent of young people who don’t go to university with gold-standard technical qualifications at 18.     

Labour will also take immediate action to deal with David Cameron’s cost-of-living crisis. We will freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017, as we reform the broken energy market to stop families and businesses being ripped off.  We will get the next generation into work, with expanded apprenticeships and a compulsory jobs guarantee for young people unemployed for a year or more – with a real paid job they’ll have to take or lose their benefits.  And we’ll introduce a lower 10p starting rate of tax to help make work pay and cut taxes for 24 million working people on middle and lower incomes – funded by a mansion tax on homes worth over £2 million. The list goes on. 

In coming weeks the shadow cabinet will be making speeches across the country outlining this choice.

Next week, Ed Balls will warn that David Cameron is standing up for a privileged few while hardworking families suffer a cost-of-living crisis. Andy Burnham will highlight the fall in NHS standards under the Tories and warn about further rises in waiting lists. Yvette Cooper will highlight the stark differences on policing. She will caution that if the Tories are allowed to continue their erosion of community policing it will soon be unrecognisable.

Others in the shadow cabinet will also be campaigning in August to highlight this government’s record of failure over the past four years, the danger posed by five more years of David Cameron and Labour’s positive vision for a Britain that works for all working people, not just a privileged few.

This marks a stepping up of Labour’s campaigning activity and what will be a relentless focus on the choice the country faces in just nine months’ time. We will be campaigning on "The Choice" on the doorstep and on digital media. And we'll be doing this across the whole country and especially in the key seats. 

The backdrop for this has been a week in which David Cameron has been defending a £160,000 tennis match with a Russian donor rather than tackling the cost-of-living crisis. He seems oblivious to the fact that his government’s cost-of-living crisis means hardworking people are £1,600 a year worse off than they were in 2010. Some people say us politicians are all the same. Labour is determined to show that in 2015, people really do have a Choice to make. 

Michael Dugher is shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, vice-chair of the Labour Party, and MP for Barnsley East.

Michael Dugher is Labour MP for Barnsley East and the former Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

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The biggest divide in politics is not left against right, but liberals against authoritarians

My week, including a Lib Dem membership rise, The Avalanches, and why I'm putting pressure on Theresa May over child refugees.

It is a boost for us that Nick Clegg has agreed to return to the front line and be our Brexit spokesperson. I hadn’t even had a chance at our meeting to make him the offer when he said: “Before we start, I’ve been thinking about this and want to take on the fight over Europe.”

With Labour apparently willing to give the Tories a free pass to take us out of Europe, the Liberal Democrats are the only UK-wide party that will go into the next election campaigning to maintain our membership of the EU. The stage is remarkably clear for us to remind Theresa May precisely what she would be risking if we abandon free trade, free movement, environmental protection, workers’ rights and cross-border security co-operation. More than a month on from the referendum, all we have heard from the Tories is that “Brexit means Brexit” – but they have given us no clue that they understand what that means.

 

Premature obituaries

Not long ago, the received wisdom was that all political parties were dying – but lately the supposed corpses have twitched into life. True, many who have joined Labour’s ranks are so hard left that they don’t see winning elections as a primary (or even a desirable) purpose of a party, and opening up Labour to those with a very different agenda could ultimately destroy it.

Our experience has been happier: 20,000 people joined the Liberal Democrat fightback in the wake of the 2015 general election result, and 17,000 more have joined since the referendum. We now have more members than at any time this century.

 

Breaking up is hard to do

Journalists have been asking repeatedly if I want to see the break-up of the Labour Party, with moderates defecting to the Liberal Democrats. I have been clear that I am not a home-wrecker and it is for Labour to determine its own future, just as I focus on advancing the Liberal Democrat cause. Yet I have also been clear that I am happy for my party to be a home for liberals of whatever hue. I enjoyed campaigning in the referendum with a variety of progressive figures, just as moderates from different parties shared platforms in 1975. It struck me that far more unites us than divides us.

That said, not all “moderate” Labour figures could be described as “liberal”, as John Reid demonstrated as Labour home secretary. The modern political divide is less left v right than authoritarian v liberal. Both left and right are looking increasingly authoritarian and outright nasty, with fewer voices prepared to stand up for liberal values.

 

What I did on my holidays

Time off has been virtually non-existent, but I am reading A Wilderness of Mirrors by Mark Meynell (about loss of trust in politics, the media and just about everything). I’m also obsessively listening to Wildflower by the Avalanches, their second album, 16 years after their first. It’s outstanding – almost 60 minutes of intelligently crafted dialogue, samples and epic production.

During the political maelstrom, I have been thinking back to the idyllic few days I spent over half-term on the Scottish island of Colonsay: swimming in the sea with the kids (very cold but strangely exhilarating ­after a decent jog), running and walking. An added bonus is that Colonsay is the smallest island in the world to have its own brewery. I can now heartily recommend it.

 

Preparing for the next fight

The odds are weirdly long on an early general election, but I refuse to be complacent – and not merely because the bookies were so wrong about Brexit. If we have learned one truth about Theresa May as Prime Minister so far, it is that she is utterly ruthless. After her savage cabinet sackings, this is, in effect, a new government. She has refused to go to the country, even though she lectured Gordon Brown on the need to gain the endorsement of the electorate when he replaced Tony Blair. Perhaps she doesn’t care much about legitimacy, but she cares about power.

You can be sure that she will be keeping half an eye on Labour’s leadership election. With Jeremy Corbyn potentially reconfirmed as leader in September against the wishes of three-quarters of his MPs, Mrs May might conclude that she will never have a better chance to increase her narrow majority. Throw in the possibility that the economy worsens next year as Brexit starts to bite, and I rule nothing out.

So, we are already selecting candidates. It is vital that they dig in early. As we are the only party prepared to make the positive case for Europe, such an election would present us with an amazing opportunity.

 

Sitting Priti

David Cameron pledged to take an unspecified number of unaccompanied children from camps across the Continent. I am putting pressure on Theresa May to turn that vague commitment into a proper plan. Having visited such camps, I have been fighting for Britain to give sanctuary to a minimum of 3,000 unaccompanied children, who are currently open to the worst kinds of exploitation. We have heard nothing but silence from the government, with underfunded councils reporting that they are not receiving the help they need from Whitehall.

Meanwhile, it remains government policy to send refugees to Turkey – whose increasingly authoritarian government has just suspended human rights protection.

As if all of this were not grim enough, we have a new Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, who has said that she thinks aid should be used largely to promote trade. As someone who wants our country to be respected around the world, I find this plain embarrassing. Actually, it’s worse. It’s shaming. As with Europe, so with the world: the ­Conservative government is hauling up the drawbridge just when we need more than ever to engage with people beyond our shores.

Tim Farron is the leader of the Liberal Democrats. To join the party, visit: libdems.org.uk/join

Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats.

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue