Full transcript | Ed Miliband | Speech on "the British promise" | 4 February 2011

"There is now a real fear that the British promise will be broken and the next generation will find

I want to thank you for coming here today to Gateshead.


This is the first time the whole Shadow Cabinet has come together outside London and we are doing it to listen to you.


It is right that we come out of Westminster, to hear your voices.


Now all of you will be worried about the cuts that are being made, and the impact they will have on our communities.


Worried too about the impact on jobs and people's livelihoods.


But I want to focus on something deeper today.


We have always assumed that our kids, the next generation, would do better than us.


Not just the well off, the vast majority can expect that their kids will do better than them.


It is a promise that each generation will pass to the next: a life of greater opportunity, prosperity and wellbeing.

In many ways that is the promise of Britain.


We may not have given it a name in the way that Americans talk about the 'American Dream', but it is there nevertheless.


But for the first time in generations, there is now a real fear that the British promise will be broken and the next generation will find it harder to get on than the last.


Less than one in ten people believe that life will be easier for their children than it was for them, and seven out of ten think it will be harder.


I don't believe it has to be this way.


But to say, if our national debate is about anything it should be about this.


So I hope we can spend some of our time talking about this and about how we restore the promise of Britain.


I'd like to start by telling you what the promise of Britain has meant to me and my family.


My dad and grandfather fled to Britain from Belgium in 1940, just as the Nazis were about to invade.


They arrived with nothing. This country gave them the opportunity to build a new life.


It was the opportunity to go to night school, and then University that enabled my Dad, with my Mum, to build a secure and happy life for me and my brother.


And then it was my local comprehensive school plus the support of my parents that allowed me to take full advantage of the opportunities available in Britain.


So I know from my own family's story what the promise of Britain can mean.


It is a long way from a family of refugees to their son being leader of the Labour Party.


I thank my parents for it but I am also grateful for what this country made possible.


I am in politics because I know that promise was there for me and my family and I want it to be there for future generations.


But we know that the promise of a better life for the next generation is under threat.


These issues aren't just about this Government.


They go much deeper to what is happening to our economy and society and the way we live our lives.


We all know the worries we have about our kids and for some of us, grandchildren.


How are they going to find a good job?


We all know, increasingly, Britain offers good jobs for those who make it to the top.


But for too many, the jobs they find are low paid and without the security their parents enjoyed.


How are they going to buy their first home?


The average age at which young couples can afford to get on the housing ladder is 37 unless their parents can help them out.


And it's not just about jobs and housing, it is about the quality of life that the next generation will have.


When I think about my children, I know that they will be asking me when they grow up whether we were part of the last generation not to get climate changes, or part of the first generation to do something about it.


So the British promise is under threat.


But we know that the breaking of that promise will affect some more than others.


The best off will often be able to buy their way to hand the best chances to get on to their children.


That's because Britain continues to be a country too divided by class, income and wealth.

So these are big challenges that our country faces.

For some, the scale of these challenges is a source of pessimism.


They say, there is nothing to be done - that's the way the world's going.


But that's now how I see it.


It's not the way I see it because it's not the history of my family, and because it's not the history of my party.


My job is to show there is a different course our country can take.


It is the task I believe Labour has always had when it's been at its best in moving our country forward.


We have always been about a society where the promise of Britain can go beyond the most affluent - that lower and middle income families ca n guarantee a better future for their children.


That's what sure-start children's centres are about.


It's what the NHS was about, passing on to the next generation and every future generation healthcare there when you need it, free at the point of use.


In this century we must fight for the right of the many and not just the few to have good jobs and for the right of their children to be allowed to dream.


I am determined that this is the challenge which will be at the heart of the Labour Party I lead.


A Britain which passes on better chances rather than worse ones to our children.


I am sure everyone in this room wants this and every politician wants it too.


But given the scale of the challenge, the question we always must ask is are we moving forward in fulfilling this promise or are we going backwards?


My fear is that instead of a national mission to pass on a fairer legacy to our kids, this Government seems to be ki cking away the ladders.


Take the educational maintenance allowance.


I was at a college recently and student after student told me what a difference EMAs had made to their lives -- it allowed them to buy books or get the bus to college.


Take the trebling of tuition fees and student debt.


Before the vote on tuition fees, I spoke to students in my constituency in Doncaster all of whom told me that whatever it might look like from Whitehall, the huge debts they would face would put them off going to University.


Just today we have discovered their plan to scrap the guarantee of an apprenticeship for those who need them at 17 or 18.


Add to that the scrapping of the child trust fund and the end of the future jobs fund for unemployed young people.


It all adds up to a government which is betraying the promise of Britain to help the next generation get on.


Why are they doing this?


They say they are doing the right thing for the lo ng-term future of the country by cutting the deficit as far and as fast as possible.


They could be taking a more balanced approach to cutting the deficit.


But because they won't they are cutting away the ladders, destroying the chances of children and young people, and undermine Britain's future in a profound way.


Selling out the next generation is the ultimate short-termism.


And you know, I think there's something deeper about why they're doing this.


Because they don't understand we can only fulfil the promise of Britain if we recognise our shared responsibility to each other.


That we all have an interest in young people staying on at school.


That we all have an interest in people going to Higher Education.


That we all have an interest in ensuring that young unemployed are not left on the scrap heap.


That we all have an interest in people getting apprenticeships to get on.


That is what this government do es not understand.

And that is why they are making the catastrophic error that they are.


So my starting point is that we as a party must put the promise of Britain at the heart of what we do.


At this moment, of all moments, after the financial crisis, we need our politics to focus beyond the short-term and pay proper attention to the interests of future generations.


We need to build a different sort of economy if we are to get the next generation better chances than the last.


We can't go on as a country shrugging our shoulders about the quality of jobs we create.


And we must understand that aspiration is about more than the bottom line.


From the environment to the hours families work, we must ask ourselves what kind of Britain we want our children to inherit.


So what needs to change is a politics that genuinely puts priority on the long-term, an economy that works for all not just a few, and a sense of priorities which goes beyond just financial reward.


Our aim must be to restore the sense of optimism that our country needs.


It cannot be good enough that fewer than one in ten people feel that the next generation will do better than the last.


Our national mission should be to deliver on the promise of Britain that the next generation does better than the last.


Our responsibility is to focus our eyes on this debate.


I believe that it's not just young people but their parents and grandparents, all of us, who care about this promise.


As an economy and society we are stronger, more optimistic, more hopeful and will be more successful if we can have confidence about the chances of the next generation.


That is what I hope today can be about and I look forward to talking to you about how we can make that happen.