As well as Chuka Umunna, last night’s New Statesman party at the Labour conference in Manchester also heard from Ed Miliband. He spoke about why the NS is an “incredibly important magazine”, why the issue of inequality will win Labour the election, and why the Scottish referendum shows the need for far greater change than that offered by the Conservatives.
Here are the key extracts from his speech.
I want to say something about the role of magazines like the New Statesman. Because in the end, I think we’re going to be in government in May 2015, and you can hear me talk a lot in the next couple of days about why we’re going to be in government, and my plan and my programme. But the thing I’ve learned from our history is that, in the end, what propels oppositions into power, and sustains governments in power, is ideas and political culture. People think it’s all about leaders, of course it is about leaders, but it’s about movements, and movements need ideas, movements need culture, movements need challenges, and that’s why the New Statesman is an incredibly important magazine, that’s why it’s always been an incredibly important magazine, and that’s why it continues to be important.
I would urge you, it sounds like a plug for the New Statesman, I would urge you: get involved with the New Statesman, write for the New Statesman … And to all of you on the centre-left and left, this matters, what you write, what you say, the ideas you contribute matter, because in the end it is not monuments that succeed, it is movements, and movements need their ideas and their vibrancy.
My reason why I think we’re going to win the election is that, fundamentally, the question that all developed questions face around the world is the question of inequality. Inequality is why I came into politics, it’s what I care about, it’s what drives my values. Every country around the world, every developed country, is wrestling with this question, which is do we just work for a few people at the top, or can we find a way to work for most working people? And that isn’t just a slogan, that is a reality, that is a fact.
Go to Scotland, or go to England, go to Wales, go to the whole of the United Kingdom, and what people are saying is ‘this country doesn’t work for me anymore. Politics doesn’t care about me, and the economy doesn’t serve me.’ The fundamental question facing all political parties is are we going to change it. As I will say in my speech on Tuesday, our country nearly broke up, and a country that nearly breaks up is a country in need of change.
Now the question we’ve got to answer in the next eight months is what kind of change that is. I think changing the constitution does matter, it’s got to be done in the right way. But fundamentally what I believe is it’s about big economic and social change, and there is a big, big choice which is how a country is run and who it’s run for. And that is the election question. That is the choice we face. The New Statesman, if I can again say to you, Jason, the New Statesman has promoted, talked about, pushed us on this agenda for four years. So enjoy conference, you’re going to be drinking more than me at conference, I think it is fair to say, enjoy this event, contribute your ideas, not just those who write about politics, those who write pamphlets, those who work at think-tanks, your contribution really matters.
Ed Miliband speaking at the New Statesman party. Photo: Jon Lee Parker