Ed Miliband – A New Generation
The younger Miliband brother is now leader of the UK Labour Party and this conference address is his first extended speech in that role.
Some commenters here at Policy Progress haven’t been impressed, but I’ve been reading the text of the speech (my preferred approach to taking in these sorts of things) and, while I can’t comment on his skills as an oratorical “performer”, I thought the content was pretty good. He set some distance between himself and New Labour:
New Labour embraced markets in our economy and was right to do so.
But lets be honest we became naïve about them.
. . . We must shed old thinking and stand up for those who believe there is more to life than the bottom line.
The hard truth for all of us in this hall is that a party that started out taking on old thinking became the prisoner of its own certainties.
The world was changing all around us – from global finance to immigration to terrorism – New Labour, a political force founded on its ability to adapt and change lost its ability to do so.
The reason was that we too often bought old, established ways of thinking and over time we just looked more and more like a new establishment.
Let me say to the country:
You saw the worst financial crisis in a generation, and I understand your anger that Labour hadn’t changed the old ways in the City which said deregulation was the answer.
You wanted your concerns about the impact of immigration on communities to be heard, and I understand your frustration that we didn’t seem to be on your side.
And when you wanted to make it possible for your kids to get on in life, I understand why you felt that we were stuck in old thinking about higher and higher levels of personal debt, including from tuition fees.
That comment about tuition fees is rather intriguing. Like others, I’m a little uncomfortable with this and other comments about immigration in the speech but there’s a difference between validating grassroots concerns and being anti-immigrant, and I think he stops short of crossing that line. The speech also has a strong generational theme:
This generation wants to change our economy so that it works better for working people and doesn’t just serve the needs of the few at the top.
This generation wants to change our society so that it values community and family, not just work, because we understand there is more to life than the bottom line.
This generation wants to change the way government works because it understands the power of the state to change lives but also how frustrating it can be if not reformed.
This generation wants to change our foreign policy so that it’s always based on values, not just alliances.
And this generation knows very profoundly that to change Britain we need a new politics.
Above all, I lead a new generation not bound by the fear or the ghosts of the past.
Miliband also returns to his theme about a renewed focus on inequality:
And we need responsibility at the top of society too. The gap between rich and poor does matter. It doesn’t just harm the poor it harms us all.
What does it say about the values of our society, what have we become, that a banker can earn in a day what the care worker can earn in a year?
I say: responsibility in this country shouldn’t just be about what you can get away with.
And that applies to every chief executive of every major company in this country.
As the Guardian said just ahead of the speech, “Ed Miliband is not expected to make any major policy announcements in his speech; he favours a long-term approach using semi-independent policy commissions.” But there’s some interesting hints there of directions to come.