The long election campaign has started but Ed Miliband now face a “job interview”
Miliband characterises his approach as binding and healing, which he summed up in the key word of the speech: together. This contrasts with the “on your own” principle of the prime minister.
Miliband said: “The other guy … stands up for the privileged few. He really thinks a good photo opportunity will fool people into thinking he doesn’t really stand up for the rich and privileged – that he stands up for you and your family.”
Labour is inching towards supporting military action against Isis forces
Months of work in preparing the opening lines of his speech were ripped up when Miliband responded to the overnight air strikes against Isis forces by the US as he said that Labour would not turn its back on internationalism. But the Labour leader, who helped prevent military strikes against the regime of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad last year, indicated that he would be taking a cautious response when he said that a resolution should be put to the UN security council. But he did not demand a vote on a resolution, suggesting that simply discussing military strikes at the UN would satisfy his demand for “international support” to be secured.
Europe will be a major feature of Labour’s election campaign
The Labour leadership has ruled out following David Cameron’s example in calling for a referendum on Britain’s EU membership. But the party has been wary of focusing too much attention on Europe for fear of alienating natural Labour supporters who are Eurosceptic.
Miliband showed he now believes that Labour’s pro-Europeanism is a useful way to burnish the party’s pro-business credentials after Robin Southwell, the British head of Airbus, who is one of the prime minister’s business ambassadors, appealed at the Labour conference for Britain to remain in the EU.
The Labour leader accused the prime minister of marginalising Britain as he appeases Ukip and Eurosceptic Tories. “David Cameron has got no chance of fighting for this country because people think he has got one hand on the exit door and his strategy has failed.”
The NHS will be Labour’s top election issue
The biggest applause followed Miliband’s announcement of plans to recruit 3,000 more midwives, 5,000 more care workers, 8,000 more GPs and 20,000 more nurses. They will be funded by a special £2.5bn “NHS Time to Care” fund to be raised from three resources – a clamp down on tax avoidance, with a focus on loopholes exploited by hedge funds to raise more than £1bn; a new mansion tax on properties worth more than £2m; and extra resources from tobacco companies who “make soaring profits on the back of ill health”.
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, will on Wednesday set out plans to integrate “physical health, mental health and care for the elderly – truly a 21st century National Health Service”.
But the British dream of home ownership is also a priority
In an attempt to steal the mantle of Margaret Thatcher, who explained she was creating a “property owning democracy” after the huge council homes sell-off, Miliband has pledged to revive the “dream of home ownership”. Pointing out that Britain is building fewer homes since the 1920s, he said that by 2025 Britain would for the first time in 50 years build as many homes as it needs – doubling the number of first time buyers.
Developers will also be banned from failing to build on land they own and small developers will be helped as 500,000 new homes are built in a new generation of garden cities and expanded suburbs. Housing would be the top priority for additional capital investment.
The Scottish referendum will cast a long shadow
Miliband attacked the prime minister for failing to rise to the occasion after the result of the Scottish referendum as he outlined a series of constitutional reforms. These include following the example of the franchise for the referendum, by extending the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds, and turning the House of Lords into a regional senate.
The Labour leader accused the prime minister of seeking to divide people after he said that restrictions on the voting rights of Scottish MPs should be introduced at the same time as devolving more power to Holyrood. “David Cameron doesn’t lie awake at night thinking about the United Kingdom. He lies awake at night thinking about the United Kingdom Independence party.”
English identity matters to Labour
Amid nerves among many English Labour MPs that the party is failing to understand the concerns of voters about the devolution of further powers, Miliband spoke of how people can be proud to be English and British.
“We must fight for these traditions and not cede them to others. Englishness – a history of solidarity from the Battle of Cable Street against Oswald Mosley and the black shirts to the spirit of the blitz.”
Labour is looking to own the green agenda
An extra one million “jobs of the future” will be created in green technology by 2025. Labour is committing to take all the carbon out of electricity by 2030, ensuring that the green investment bank has the powers to borrow and attract new investment and guaranteeing that five million homes will be insulated over the next ten years by devolving powers and resources to local communities.
The buzzword is “together”
Learning a lesson from the pro-UK Better Together campaign in the Scottish referendum, Miliband used the word “together” on 44 occasions as he unveiled his new election buzzword to describe his overall unifying approach.
The use of “together”, which is designed to draw a distinction with Cameron, also allows Miliband to repackage well known policies. Explaining his plans to raise the minimum wage, he said the principle of “together” means that the talents of all must not just be used, they must be rewarded.
Labour would therefore raise the minimum wage by £1.50 an hour by 2020 to more than £8 an hour – more than £3,000 rise a year for a full time worker on the minimum wage. He said: “The minimum wage has got to become a root to bringing up your family with dignity.”
Labour would ensure that by 2025 as many young people would go to an apprenticeship from school and college as currently go to university. “This is a absolutely huge undertaking, we are such a long way away from this as a country. It is going to require a massive national effort.”
Labour activists are polite and know what they like
Miliband struggled to inspire his audience in the first half of the speech, which had a slightly slow start after his brief mention of Iraq. But the standing ovation on health lifted the speech which sparked warm and enthusiastic, if hardly ecstatic, applause at the end.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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