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.

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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