Ed Miliband joined his brother David in formally declaring his candidature for the Labour leadership today.
Ed Miliband joined his brother David in formally declaring his candidature for the Labour leadership today. Mr Miliband, speaking at the Fabian Society ‘Next Left‘ conference in central London this morning, said he hoped it would be a “fraternal contest“, not just in terms of his family, but of “all the candidates”.
He described the past week as “a depressing week for everyone in the Labour Party and all who believe in a fairer Britain”, imploring the party to face “uncomfortable truths”, that Labour had lost, that it was the “second worst result” for the party in the past 80 years.
“I am absolutely convinced that if we ask the hard questions as new Labour did in 1994 and the Conservative party did not do after 2005, then we can make sure this is a one-term government and find our place where we want to be: in power, standing up for the people we came into politics to represent.
“But we have to learn the right lessons. We must start by understanding the country we seek to lead again and the reasons why we lost. I will always defend the record of our government because we made this country more prosperous, fairer, greener, more democratic. I am proud to have been part of that government and we should all be proud of what we achieved.
“But there is deep thinking we need to do about what went wrong. But for me there is one central lesson about why we lost. When Labour succeeds it is through a politics always rooted in our a values and always rooted in the lives of the people of Britain. And the truth is that as government wore on we lost that sense of progressive mission and of being in touch with people’s concerns.”
Addressing the issue of immigration, he recalled meeting a constituent who said he was voting BNP because “his friends’ wages were being undercut by immigration from Eastern Europe”:
“Britain’s diversity is an enormous strength: economically, culturally, socially and we should never cease saying it and we should say it more often.
“But the truth is that immigration is a class issue. If you want to employ a builder it’s good to have people you can take on at lower cost, but if you are a builder it feels like a threat to your livelihood. And we never had an answer for the people who were worried about it.
“When competition is driving down your wages and your pension rights, saying globalisation is good for you and for the economy as a whole is an example of what I mean about becoming a technocrat. Because it is a good answer for economists but it is no answer for the people of Britain.
“So, for that voter in my constituency, and many others, we need to rediscover our sense of progressive mission.”
On fairness, he said Labour needed to “rethink what it means to make Britain a fairer country”; on the role of the State, he spoke of the need to understand the “wider issues people feel about the state, and their daily frustrations with it”; and on the future, he said the party had “lost sight of our values and of what people expected from us”.
He concluded with the four key lessons he felt Labour needed to learn going into the next few years:
• A new way of thinking about markets;
• A new way of thinking about the State;
• A need to show that Labour gets “what really matters in life, beyond economics”, that “climate change and the environment needs to be central, not an add-on, to our political vision”.
• A new way of doing politics, following the “catastrophic loss of trust over Iraq” and the expenses scandal.
The Miliband brothers are the only contenders to formally declare, though Ed Balls, Andy Burnham, Jon Cruddas and Alistair Darling are yet to say either way, with Jack Straw, Harriet Harman, Alan Johnson and Yvette Cooper all having ruled themselves out.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.