A Speech for Mr Miliband.

Hasn’t he just blown his last opportunity before the election? Never mind, let’s get with it.

“In a few months, the people of the UK will be voting for a new Parliament and a new Government. We’ll be able to get rid of the ConDems, certainly the worst government to have run this country in my lifetime. They have been almost entirely without principle, apart from the principle that creates systems to award contracts to people and businesses who are natural supporters of and donors to the party.  The damage they have done to the NHS by allowing cost criteria to crowd out care criteria will take years to put right.  
 
The Labour Party is the obvious choice to replace them. But let’s not imagine that it will be the same as last time. 
 
This time will be different, because Labour is different. We are no longer New Labour, but neither are we Old Labour; we are just The Labour Party. 
I served in the last Labour Government, as did my colleague Ed Balls.  We didn’t get everything right, and we got some things  badly wrong. We won’t be doing those things again. 
 
The thing we got most wrong  our relationship with the financial services industry. We believed it was mostly doing good for the country; we needed the tax income it generated. But it distorted the economy in many ways. I won’t discuss detail here, but just look at the results. During our term in office, inequality rose and social mobility fell. The rich got  much richer, and while – for most of our time in power – most people got a little richer, the lions share of the benefits went to the rich.  You expect that under a Conservative government, and that’s what we’ve had for the last five years – only this time, not only have the rich been getting much richer, the poor have been getting much  poorer.  But on our watch, inequality still rose, and most of those rich people who got much richer were working in or associated with financial services. 
 
Now this matters to Labour because we are a party that has egalitarianism in our soul.  We are the party of aspiration, of the rising tide that floats all the ships. Inequality should go down when we’re in charge, but from 1997 to 2010 it didn’t.  The Tories are the party of the wealthy establishment; they don’t mind if the poor stay poor so long as their mates get richer.  But for Labour, it hurts. It hurts me to acknowledge that we didn’t do as well in reducing inequality as we should have done, and dealing with inequality will be top of our economic priorities when we are in power.
 
This is because it matters for the economy.  Not just for social fairness, the things that brought me and my colleagues into  Labour politics. They matter, of course – we forget those basics at our peril. But because too much inequality is bad for the economy.  There’s a growing body of serious economic research that shows for a developed economy, sustainable growth comes best when the economy is more equal.  You may remember a speech Boris Johnson gave last year when he celebrated inequality.  Obviously it suits him and his rich Etonian friends.  And don’t think that we want a system where everyone gets the same, regardless of how much work they do. That’s absolute income equality, and it’s just as undesirable.  We must each be able to get a little richer by working a little harder, and much richer by working much harder. Boris’s argument that because a little inequality is a good thing, a lot of inequality is a better thing  is an example of the drunk’s fallacy. 
 
This isn’t just about  redistributive taxation: increasing taxes on the rich, to pay bigger benefits, wage subsidies and tax credits to the poor. That is   the worst way of all to deal with inequality – It’s better than nothing and it will always be part of the mix, but no one should go into government with it as the only plan. It’s really a sign of failure – that we have an economy that has become so unequal, that we can only correct it by redistributive taxes.  We want an economy that rewards hard work from  the bottom up.
 
For much of our time in power,  inequality was made less bad by the property market. Many people who owned or bought property in that time have done OK. So much so that for millions, the “property ladder” was seen as the best way out of the rut of poverty. People made – and some still make – incredible sacrifices to get their foot on the property ladder, and those that have stuck with it have done OK. But it’s not sustainable, as we are now finding out. The children of those who got on the ladder in the nineties are now finding that the bottom rung is completely out of reach. 
That’s because it was always an illusion. The property ladder can’t help a whole economy out of its own mess. The only ladder that’s any use is the enterprise ladder, and it turns out that no one has really been looking after it properly.  We’ve patched it up, here and there, tried to fix bits of it, but it should be the centrepiece of our economy. It’s much more important than the property ladder. It should be accessible to everyone, and everyone needs to be keen to get on to it.  
 
So in government, we’ll need to make some changes. One, we’ll need to fix the ladder. We won’t repeat George Osborne’s mistake of trying  to fix  the property ladder. His Help To Buy scheme has made it worse anyway. We’ll concentrate on the enterprise ladder. We’ll look at all aspects of starting and growing businesses, we’ll deal with bank lending, we’ll encourage new peer-to-peer funding mechanisms such as equity crowdfunding, things that – as it happens – disintermediate much of the banking sector. We’ll look again at regulations, reforming regulations so that they help enterprises do better rather than hindering them with red tape. We’ll encourage more and more apprentices, making it easy for new businesses to take on apprentices, with schemes that encourage businesses to keep them on with a share of the business once their training is over.   We’ll make business rates cheaper for small businesses, and we’ll look at market for commercial premises.
 
 
We’ll make enterprise, not property,  the focus of a new generation’s aspiration.  For too long, we’ve had a situation where you needed to be on the property ladder to get on the enterprise ladder. As a home owner, you could give the guarantees lenders and landlords needed. That’s the wrong way round! We’ll make it so that the enterprise ladder is the way to the bottom rung of the property ladder. 
Many of the most enterprising people in the country are newer citizens. We welcome the enterprising drive that new immigrants often bring to the country, and we’ll encourage them to share it with those who’ve been here longer.  Integration is key to making a diverse society work, and the workplace is where we should be making it happen.  Let’s all learn from each other.”
 

OK, Ed – got it? Pity you didn’t manage something like this last week. Never mind, you’ll have other opportunities. But for god’s sake, do it.

– man up and admit to the failure on inequality when you were in power;

– Be clear that inequality is BAD FOR THE ECONOMY

– Promise to FIX THE ENTERPRISE LADDER.

 

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