Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Strength to change Britain

Ever since he became the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband has been talking about how we need to harness the talents of everyone – and how those in power should be governing for the whole country, not just a few at the top.

That’s what he means when he says that he wants ours to be a One Nation Labour Party – one which is rooted in the lives of men and women in all of our communities and which, in government, will create an economy that works for working people.

Last week at the TUC and over the next week, Ed will set out how we’re going to do that. 

At the TUC  he took aim at the government, who are busy congratulating themselves and saying that they’ve turned the economy around when ordinary families know things are getting harder not easier.

People in our area know the truth. Living standards have now been falling for longer than at any time since 1870. There are a million young people looking for work. Long-term unemployment is higher than at any time in a generation. And there are 1.4 million people stuck in part-time jobs.

In the face of this cost of living crisis what is David Cameron’s priority? Standing up for the wealthiest few by cutting taxes for millionaires while asking everyone else to pay more. The Prime Minister is out of touch, and is failing to turn things around for hard working families in Medway and Aylesford.

Ed has said that if Labour were in power, we would make fundamentally different choices. We would offer a compulsory jobs guarantee to young people, getting them a job with proper training on at least the minimum wage – funded by a tax on bankers’ bonuses. We’d increase the number of apprenticeships, set up a British Investment Bank to get money to small businesses, and build more homes.

And, as Ed has said, we would act to stop the abuse of workers who are being exploited on zero-hour contracts. Some people are on call all day, without any guarantee of going to work. Or, after years on a regular contract, they’re now trapped on zero-hour contracts with no idea of what their wages will be next week. I really welcome Ed’s announcement that the next Labour Government will put a stop to the exploitation of these contracts.

Of course, the headlines out of Ed’s speech are also about his proposed reforms of our relationship with the trade unions. People may wonder why this matters to them.

It matters because we are changing the Labour Party so that we can change the country – and carry out all those reforms that will really make a difference to people’s lives.

The Conservatives don’t represent the whole country as Vince Cable said yesterday. Under David Cameron, they hold working people, as members of trade unions, in contempt – effectively writing off whole sections of our society. Being One Nation is about governing for the whole country – and that’s why Ed is arguing for a new kind of Labour Party. One with a new relationship with individual trade union members.

Currently, we have 3 million working men and women formally affiliated to Labour. But the vast majority of them play no role. They are affiliated in name only. They don’t really have a voice – and we aren’t hearing what they have to tell us. We want to make every member a real part of the Labour Party – and we want people to make a positive choice to join us and to make their voice and their stories heard.

We could become a Labour Party not of 200,000 people, but of 500,000 – or many more. A party that’s rooted in every community. A real movement.

This is of course a challenge, and there are strong views. Like all challenges, it’s a risk.

But it’s a bigger risk not to change. We’ve seen that Ed Miliband is determined that this change will happen. I really support what he’s doing – and want to play my part in getting more working people involved in the Labour Party here in our area. 

If you want to see our country change so that everybody is getting a fair chance, and that our government works for all of us – not just a few at the top – I hope you’ll join me.

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