In his speech today Miliband will set out his 'six national goals' for the country to achieve in the next 10 years.
In his speech today Miliband will set out his ‘six national goals’ for the country to achieve in the next 10 years
Ed Miliband will need to deliver the speech of his life today. According to the latest YouGov polling, just 15 per cent of people think the Labour leader has ‘provided an effective opposition to government’ – 68 per cent believe he has not.
Just eight months out from a General Election it would be a massive understatement to say that this is worrisome for Labour.
To base any conclusions about this dire state of affairs purely on Miliband’s personality would be to miss the point however. According to the same YouGov polling, just 20 per cent think Ed Miliband has made it clear what he stands for.
Certainly there may be issues around Ed’s ‘charisma’, or apparent lack of it; but the bigger problem appears to be Labour’s lack of a convincing story – the party has plenty of policy offerings, but lacks the glue which binds them together. There isn’t enough of a sense of national renewal in Labour’s offering – unlike 1997, for example.
So in his speech today Miliband will set out his ‘six national goals’ for the country to achieve in the next 10 years.
Giving all young people a shot in life
‘Ensure as many school-leavers go on to apprenticeships as go to university.’
This is a hugely ambitious goal, but one which is long overdue. Under the coalition, apprenticeship starts for young people have fallen by more than 11,000. Securing an apprenticeship is now twice as hard as getting a place at university. Labour’s plan not only signals a break from the failing coalition, though – it’s a contrast from more recent Labour governments. Under Labour, university will no longer be seen as the be all and end all, and increased emphasis will be put on things like apprenticeships.
Skilling up the workforce is not only morally just, but will help to ensure that Britain has the skillset to compete in the so-called ‘global race’.
Tackling the cost of living crisis
‘Help working families share fairly in the wealth of our country so, when the economy grows, the wages of everyday working people grow at the same rate.’
Miliband will need to get a bit more specific here. Labour’s critique of the coalition is certainly valid – inflation continues to outstrip wages – the real question is what Labour plans to do about it. Ensuring that the majority of people benefit from growth is also easier said than done. The proposed increase in the minimum wage to £8 an hour is welcome, but is rather conservative – by 2020, when Labour plans to implement the policy, the minimum wage will likely already be close to £8 – even under George Osborne’s plans.
The benefits of growth do need to be shared by all – but Labour must set out in more detail how in government it plans to do that. Policies such as the annual rent increase cap are welcome in this respect.
Restoring the dream of home ownership
‘Meet demand for new homes for the first time in half a century – doubling the number of first-time buyers getting on to the housing ladder a year.’
This will, for obvious reasons, require a large house building programme. Plans announced by Ed Balls earlier in the parliament were certainly promising – he pledged that a Labour government would build 200,000 homes a year by 2020.
It is disappointing, then, that only yesterday Ed Balls said that a Labour government would not lift the cap on council borrowing for house building. As the head of the Lyons review Michael Lyons told the Guardian back in June: “In England there is a specific cap on the council Housing Revenue Account (HRA). The overwhelming weight of the evidence that has come to us from public and private bodies, says ‘for goodness sake lift the HRA cap'”.
Tackling low wages
‘Halve the number of people on low pay in our country, changing the lives of over two million people.’
Similar to point two, albeit slightly less challenging. The minimum wage pledge will help, as will Labour’s pledge to outlaw exploitative zero hours contracts by getting rid of the exclusivity clause.
Labour ought also to emphasise the importance of the trade unions, who have a vital role to play in improving pay and condition. The Tories will no doubt attempt to smear Labour if it so much as mentions trade unionism, but Labour must not be bullied – there is plenty of evidence suggesting a link between low wages and the decline in collective bargaining in the West.
Securing the future
‘Create one million more high-tech jobs by securing the UK’s position as is a world leader in green industries.’
If Britain is to keep up with emerging economies such as China and India, Britain needs to invest in the low carbon, green technology of the future. This really is one of the innovative and rapidly emerging growth sectors – Left Foot Forward will look at this in more detail later on today.
Saving out NHS
‘Build a world-class, 21st century health and care service.’
Classic Labour territory, but hugely important nonetheless. People are starting to notice cracks in the health service – six million people a year are showing up at Accident and Emergency departments because they can’t get a GP appointment, according to a recent study by Imperial College London. According to an investigation by the Sunday Post, 23,000 overnight beds have disappeared from NHS wards over the last four years, leaving patients increasingly vulnerable to local bed shortages.
The Tories are not trusted on the NHS. Labour is. The party needs to capitalise on this by making clear to the public that the NHS may not survive another Tory government. Hopefully Ed Miliband will do that today.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.
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