Demonstrators protest outside Scottish Labour's Gala Dinner this evening. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Ed Miliband's speech to Scottish Labour's Gala Dinner: full text

"I will fight with you with every fibre of my being over these months to show how we can change Scotland," says the Labour leader. 

“We meet here after a tough week for our party in Scotland and after an extraordinary year when Scotland has gone through a profound debate about its future.

“We meet here proud that in September we won the battle to keep our country together.

“And we meet here above all determined to fight to show the Scottish people that Labour can be the change they want to see.

“We heard in the referendum about what the people of Scotland want. There is a deep desire for economic and political change.

“The referendum rejected separation. However much the SNP may try and rewrite the result, the Scottish people voted for us to stay together.

“It means democratic change with more powers for a stronger Scottish Parliament.

“That’s why we are entering the Smith Commission in good faith, working to the timetable that Gordon Brown set down during the referendum campaign.

“We will deliver a Parliament with more control over tax, jobs and welfare.

“We will deliver on a new Scotland Act in our first Queen’s Speech.

“And we will do what the SNP has not done and will never do: deliver an agenda that meets the needs of working people in Scotland.

“We’ll reintroduce a 50p tax rate for people earning over £150,000.

“We’ll tax bankers’ bonuses to pay for guaranteed jobs for our young people.

“We’ll end exploitative zero hours contracts.

“We’ll freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017 and tackle the rip off energy markets.

“And we’ll increase the minimum wage to £8 an hour.

“A pay rise for 100,000 Scots.

“We are just over six months from the general election.

“I look forward to working shoulder to shoulder with whoever the party in Scotland elects as leader to win that election.

“Over its history we have seen the Scottish Labour Party fight for the values our movement holds dear.

“We face a tough fight but no tougher than the fights we have faced in the past.

“The fight for workers’ rights 100 years ago which Scottish Labour led and won.

“The fight for an NHS which Scottish Labour led and won.

“The fight to get rid of the Tories in 1997 and establish a Scottish Parliament which Scottish Labour led and won.

“And the fight to keep our country together which Scottish Labour led and won.

“In the next six months I know the Scottish Labour Party will fight every hour and every day to deliver the changes the working people of Scotland need to improve their lives.

“And I will fight with you with every fibre of my being over these months to show how we can change Scotland.

“Together let's win this fight to change Scotland and change Britain.”
Photo: Getty Images
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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.