Socialist Worker

Miliband makes promises and commits to cuts in Labour conference speech

The Labour leader’s speech mixed pro-business pledges with vague rhetoric, writes Simon Basketter

Issue No. 2422

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband (Pic: Flickr/Financial Times)


In his final conference speech before the general election Ed Miliband tried to please all people. And that is a problem. 

He outlined his commitment to the NHS. But then stressed the party’s commitment to cuts, insisting a “world class” country can be achieved without “big spending”. 

In other words this was yet again a determined commitment to implement austerity.

Miliband promised a £2.5 billion NHS recruitment drive.

Those paying for the improvement would be tax-dodging hedge funds, tobacco giants “who make soaring profit on the back of ill health” and those wealthy enough to own large homes, he said.

“We built the NHS. We saved the NHS. We will repeal their Health and Social Care Bill and we will transform the NHS for the future.”

The response to the Scottsh referendum was to riff on this year’s speech buzzword.

“Just one word: ‘together’,” said Miliband. “Together we can rebuild Britain, friends, together we can.”

Among a series of stories about ordinary hardworking people Miliband had met, he offered a ten year plan of six goals.

It was meant to show vision. But in reality it is postponing change for some random time in the future.

Homes

Doubling the number of people buying their first homes to 400,000 each year is among six “goals”. But he is not talking about building council homes. 

Miliband pronounced that property ownership is “that most British of dreams” but had “faded” for too many people.

And his promise of helping the low paid was in reality a commitment to £8 per hour minimum wage by 2020 and a promise of yet more tax breaks to bosses who pay a living wage. 

A push for “green” technology jobs also form part of what the party is calling a “national mission”—in reality incentives for business

The day before Miliband spoke, shadow chancellor Ed Balls warned of more “tough decisions”. 

Labour plans to expand Tory attacks on child benefit and increase the pension age even further.

Balls added that the party had been too soft on immigration in the past—a point repeated by a number of politicians at the conference.

Miliband said he wanted to “restore people’s faith in the future” with his own “plan for Britain’s future”.

He added, “The Tories are the party of wealth and privilege. Labour is once again the party of hard work fairly paid.

“I’m not talking about changing a policy, or simply a different programme.

“But something that is bigger—transforming the idea, the ethic, of how our country is run.” 

Which is nice but it doesn’t mean much. Union leaders at the Labour conference have been cautiously welcoming.

Unite’s Len McCluskey demanded lessons be learnt, but was unclear on what they were. 

Unison union general secretary Dave Prentis said Labour has “turned a corner”.

He told Miliband that Unison was “here for you”. But he called on the party to show that it is “there for us” and would look after the “betrayed base” of workers.

And that is the problem.

The visionary soundbites and love for the NHS feels better than what the Tories offer.

But it comes with a commitment to tax cuts for the rich and service cuts for the rest of us. 

With added support for military action in the Middle East, it doesn’t offer enough change and may not even be enough to win the election.


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