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.