After the political success of his proposed energy price freeze, The Staggers has learned that Ed Miliband will make his first major speech since the Labour conference on Tuesday. I’m told by a party source that the address will focus on wages, jobs and policies designed to raise living standards that “do not involve greater borrowing”.
The speech is timed to coincide with Living Wage Week, which will see the new UK and London Living Wage rates for 2013-14 announced on Monday. Policy details will not be released until shortly before, but Miliband has previously suggested that the Living Wage could be made compulsory for all government departments and public sector contractors, and has spoken of his ambition to create “Living Wage Zones”. As outlined by the Resolution Foundation and the IPPR, the zones would operate by transferring some of the savings received by the Treasury through the payment of the living wage (lower benefit payments and higher tax revenues) to local authorities to help them work with businesses to increase wages to living wage levels.
Labour has long believed that the government is vulnerable on wages, noting that real incomes have fallen for 39 of the 40 months that Cameron has been prime minister (the exception being April 2013 when high-earners collected their deferred bonuses to benefit from the abolition of the 50p tax rate) and that the minimum wage is now worth no more than in 2004. Expect Miliband to seek to maximise the coalition’s discomfort next week. As I noted in my PMQs review, when Cameron accuses Miliband of not wanting to talk about the economy, he forgets that, for most voters, living standards are the economy.