Labour Party Conference: Ed Miliband invokes Tory ‘One Nation’ speech as Labour leader makes pitch for centre ground
ED Miliband has declared Labour “the One Nation party of Britain” in a bold attempt to seize the political central ground, in his keynote speech to his party’s annual party conference.
• Ed Miliband delivers personal speech at Labour Party Conference
• Labour leader attacks ‘divisive’ Tories
The Labour leader attempted to reinvent himself as the leader of a party that can unite the UK and lead Britain out of the dark days of the economic recession.
The speech in Manchester yesterday also aimed to change his “geek” image to a prime minister in waiting, two years after beating his brother David in the Labour leadership contest.
And Mr Miliband turned to a Tory leader’s philosophy, also spelt out in Manchester 140 years ago when Benjamin Disraeli paved the way for his party’s return to power with a philosophy of One Nation Conservatism.
After a reshuffle in which Prime Minister David Cameron has moved the Conservatives to the right, the new strategy was a clear signal that Labour intends to retake the centre ground it held while Tony Blair was leader and put to rest the image of “Red Ed”. Mr Miliband said: “Let us remember what Disraeli was celebrated for. It was a vision of a Britain where patriotism, loyalty, dedication to the common cause courses through the veins of all and nobody feels left out.
“It was a vision of Britain coming together to overcome the challenges we faced. Disraeli called it ‘One Nation’. We heard the phrase again as the country came together to defeat fascism. And we heard it again as Clement Attlee’s Labour government rebuilt Britain after the war.
“I didn’t become leader of the Labour Party to reinvent the world of Disraeli or Attlee. But I do believe in that spirit.”
In a fierce attack on the Tory-led coalition, Mr Miliband insisted that Disraeli’s heirs had become a party of “two nations”, while only Labour had the same values of the British people.
He highlighted the recent alleged comments by chief whip Andrew Mitchell, who is said to have called a police officer a “pleb”. And he said the government’s decision to take money from pensioners to help pay for a cut from 50p to 45p in the top rate of income tax was giving “£40,000 to each and every millionaire”.
Mr Miliband said: “Have you ever seen a more incompetent, hopeless, out of touch, U-turning, pledge-breaking, make-it-up-as-you-go-along, back-of-the-envelope, miserable shower than this prime minister and this government?”
He warned members, including trade unionists who have tried to force the party back to the days of tax and spend policies, that “there will be no return to Old Labour”. However, he insisted that the party needs to “move on from New Labour”.
He said: “New Labour, despite its great achievements, was too silent about the responsibilities of those at the top, and too timid about the accountability of those with power. In One Nation responsibility goes all the way to the top of society. The richest in society have the biggest responsibility to show responsibility to the rest of our country.
“And I’ve got news for the powerful interests in our country, in One Nation no interest, from Rupert Murdoch to the banks, is too powerful to be held to account.”
Unveiling a series of policies, Mr Miliband proposed a new qualification for teenagers called the technical baccalaureate for the “forgotten 50 per cent who don’t go to university”. He also promised to repeal the NHS bill in England and end competition in the NHS.
But he placed at the top of his list saving the UK from breaking up by winning the independence referendum in 2014.
He said: “There is no more important area of our common life than the United Kingdom itself. Now one of the four countries, Scotland, will be deciding in the next two years whether to stay or to go. I want to be quite clear about this, Scotland could leave the United Kingdom.”
He added: “I believe we would be far worse off as a result. Not just in pounds and pence but in the soul of our nation. You see I don’t believe that solidarity stops at the Border. I care as much about a young person unemployed in Motherwell as I do about a young person unemployed in Manchester.”
He went on: “We have common bonds, we have deep bonds with each other. The people of Scotland and the people of the rest of the United Kingdom.
“And by the way, if you think about the people of Scotland and the Olympic Games, they weren’t cheering on just the Scottish athletes of Team GB, they were cheering on all the athletes of Team GB.”
However, the speech was dismissed by the SNP who said Mr Miliband had sold out to Tory philosophy. Angus Robertson, the SNP’s group leader at Westminster, said: “The extraordinary message in Ed Miliband’s speech is that Labour now amounts to nothing more than a party of One Nation Toryism – even though the nation of Scotland has rejected Tory policies in election after election.”
Conservative chairman Grant Shapps, said: “To prove he is credible, Ed Miliband had to do more than give a speech to rouse the Labour Party faithful; he had to show that he had learned from the mistakes that Labour made in office.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West