Tuesday 18th September 2012
By Ed Miliband, Leader of the Opposition
I am hugely proud of what Labour did in office. But having been in office for 13 years, the British public lost faith in who we stood up for. They thought that we had lost touch.
I am determined that we drive forward with changes in the Labour Party so people understand that we will stand up for all of them and stand up to the powerful vested interests; that we can make the economy work for all working people, not just a few at the top; that we are a party which reaches into communities, not one that just talks to itself; and that we keep the promises we make.
The character of our party means we must always put the national interest above the interest of a small, powerful elite. We must do that even when it is difficult.
We were criticised when we said publicly-owned banks should not be handing out big bonuses at a time when millions of families are struggling to get by.
The Tories said it was anti-business. It was not – it was pro-business. It was standing up for the small businesses that cannot get a loan from the banks giving themselves big bonuses. It was the right thing to do.
It is the same with the big electricity companies or the train firms. They will not like being challenged but in these tough times, people need to know politics can be on their side. We must put our values alongside people’s interests.
We must lead the way in standing up for consumers, citizens, small businesses against unaccountable concentrations of private and public power.
If we are to reach out to people who have lost faith in the political system, we must show people who we stand up for and we know we must change the economy.
Knocking on doors in my own constituency ever since I became an MP, I am struck by who is more likely to engage in politics and who is not.
If you have a family, you may well think the health service, schools, local services, will be better if Labour is in power.
But if you do not spend time using those services, if you do not have kids, and you are simply struggling to get by in an economy where your wages are low, you are more likely to think, it is the same whoever is in power.
Why is that? It reflects what people feel: government has little influence on the kind of economy we have, that globalisation has left us powerless in the face of means and we are powerless in the face of irresponsibility at the top.
Instead, I believe an active government can create a better economy for working people in Britain, with good jobs, good wages and good training; where we can get support to businesses with bright ideas even when their banks are refusing to lend; sustained by a proper plan for growth and jobs rather than just tax cuts for the super-rich; that does not suck all of our greatest talent away from making things and delivery of services into the financial sector.
The character of our party must be one that says we can change our economy so that it always reflects the interests and values of the British people.
That is why we need more change not less in our party to reach out much further and much deeper into every community in Britain.
We know that there is more work to do to ensure that Labour in every part of the country understands the community it seeks to serve. I saw that in Bradford West where we lost the by-election badly.
We have begun a programme to select more candidates from more diverse backgrounds and we are knocking on doors we have not knocked on for years.
I want to make 2015 a change election, and set a target of making voter turnout at the next election the highest since 1997 – the last change election in this country.
Finally, if we are going to change things, we must show that we are different from what people expect from politicians. This government came into office with the benefit of the doubt but it has catastrophically forfeited that with broken promises on everything from child benefit to tuition fees.
They are not the first politicians to lose trust. We did too, including over Iraq.
The Conservative-led government’s broken promises hurt people across the country and they also damage respect for all politics.
We will only make promises we can keep, which makes realistic promises shaped by big ideals for a better way of living together so that together we can build a country not ridden by class, wealth and income but a country where the economy works for all working people, not just a few at the top and a country where we show politics can improve people’s lives.