The four words in the English language of which the Tories are fondest are “long-term economic plan”. The slogan is designed to convey a resolute focus on the future of the country and a rejection of short-term gimmicks and quick fixes.
In an acknowledgment that this is the territory on which general elections are won and lost, Ed Miliband will use his speech to the Labour conference tomorrow to lay claim to his own “plan” for Britain’s future (one Labour aide described it as “the battle of the plans”). He will outline six “national goals” that the country must achieve over the next 10 years if it is to succeed for “everyday working people”. A Labour spokesman described the speech as “the arch” that straddled “the pillars” of his previous conference addresses: 2011, which outlined his economic philosophy of “responsible capitalism”, 2012, which announced his political project of “One Nation”, and 2013, which identified the defining challenge of our time in the form of the living standards crisis.
Miliband will say:
Strip away all of the sound and fury and what people across England, Scotland and Wales, across every part of the UK, are saying is this country doesn’t care about me. Politics doesn’t listen. The economy doesn’t work. And they are not wrong. They are right. But this Labour Party has a plan to put it right.
For Labour, this election is about you. You have made the sacrifices, you have taken home lower wages year after year, you have paid higher taxes, you have seen your energy bills rise, you have seen your NHS decline, you know this country doesn’t work for you.
We can build that better future for you and your family, wherever you live in the United Kingdom, and this speech is about Labour’s plan to do it: Labour’s plan for Britain’s future. I want to set out six national goals, not just for one year or one term of office, but a plan for the next ten years: Britain 2025.
The six goals that form Labour’s “plan for 2025” are:
1. Giving all young people a shot in life. Miliband will announce a new commitment to ensure that as many school leavers go on to apprenticeships as go to university. This is designed to support those who he described in 2012 as the “forgotten 50 per cent”.
He will say: “A plan for our country, a plan for our families, must have at its heart a future for all our young people. So here we need the biggest national effort that we have seen for generations with young people showing the ambition to get on, schools and colleges offering gold standard technical qualifications, and business and government leading a revolution in apprenticeships.”
2. Tackling the cost-of-living-crisis. He will pledge to reform the economy, so that when it grows, the wages of working people grow at the same rate. At present, despite rising GDP, real wages are still falling. Miliband will promise to ensure that Britain’s “army of self-employed people” benefit from working by stopping them from being locked out of mortgages and pensions.
He will say: “There is only one way to achieve this: to transform our economy so that it starts to create good jobs at decent wages. It means bigger reform of our banks, so they help create those good jobs; it means getting power out of Whitehall; it means businesses and trade unions engaged not in confrontation but in cooperation; and it means this great Party using our historic values to fight for the people in the frontline of the modern workforce – the growing army of our self-employed, five million working people, so often the most entrepreneurial, go-getting people in our country.
“They don’t want special treatment. But they do deserve a fair shot: two thirds have no pension, one in five is stopped from getting a mortgage: it is time to end this modern injustice. The next Labour government will ensure the self-employed are not locked out of the benefits that come from going out to work.”
3. Restoring the dream of home ownership. In addition to the previously announced promise to build more than 200,000 homes a year by 2020, Miliband will make a new commitment to double the number of first-time buyers getting on to the housing ladder each year. Strategists regard this as a politically daring raid on territory traditionally claimed by the Conservatives.
Miliband will say: “The confidence and security that comes from having your own home is missing for so many people in Britain today; that most British of dreams, the dream of home ownership, has faded. We will stop the large developers sitting on land and we will back the thousands of small developers and construction companies with access to new loans, there will be new towns, Garden Cities and suburbs with a half a million new homes, and housing will be a top priority in our capital investment programme – because we need to start Britain building again.”
4. Securing the future The Labour leader’s fifth ambition is to create one million more high-tech jobs by securing the UK’s position as a global leader in green industries.
He will say: “Under this government, Britain lags behind Germany, Japan, the United States and even India and China for low-carbon, green technologies and services. So many of our brilliant businesses are desperate to play their part in creating their jobs of the future but they just can’t do it unless government does its bit. With our plan, we will.
“It is incredibly important to our economy today. And it is the most important thing I can do in politics for the future of my kids and their generation.”
5. Tackling low wages Miliband will pledge to halve the number of people on low pay by 2025, which currently stands at five million – a fifth of all employees – by raising the minimum wage to £8 by the end of the next parliament, strengthening its enforcement, and incentivising employers to pay the living wage through tax rebates worth up to £1,000 per worker.
He will say: “Building a country together means not just using but rewarding the talents of all. The Tories are the party of wealth and privilege. Labour is once again the Party of hard work fairly-paid.”
6. Saving our NHS Finally, Miliband will pledge to build a “world-class, 21st-century health and care service”. Almost every health expert agrees that this will require higher spending, as demographic pressures, the cost of new drugs, and chronic conditions all increase the pressure on the NHS. As I reported earlier, Miliband is expected to announce that he will use the revenue raised by a mansion tax on properties worth more than £2m to fund the service.
He will say: “A hospital is only as good as the services in the community. If people can’t get to see their GP, if they can’t get the care they need at home, they end up in hospital when that could have been avoided. That’s bad for them, and it costs billions of pounds. We know there are huge future pressures facing the NHS: so we are going to have to transform the way it works in the years ahead.”
Labour regards the outlining as of its own long-term plan as a chance to expose the paucity of Cameron’s vision. As figures on left and right complain, beyond winning the election and abolishing the deficit by the end of the next parliament, it is unclear what he stands for. It is also an opportunity to convince voters that Miliband has the ambition and vision required to be a transformative prime minister.
Unlike his previous two conference speeches, Labour sources said that it was “doubtful” that Miliband would deliver another no-notes performance after the Scottish referendum left him with less time to prepare than usual.