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- 09/24/13--08:58: _The 5 key pledges f...
- 09/24/13--09:27: _Ed Miliband's speec...
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- 09/25/13--01:38: _Amazon to create mo...
- 09/25/13--01:50: _Dexia agrees to sel...
- 09/25/13--02:51: _Panda diplomats: ca...
- 09/25/13--02:52: _Ed Miliband's criti...
- 09/25/13--03:24: _The gold rush for c...
- 09/25/13--05:02: _The polling that ex...
- 09/25/13--05:44: _Cameron's lack of l...
- 09/25/13--05:54: _New Statesman cover...
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- 09/24/13--08:58: The 5 key pledges from Ed Miliband's speech to Labour conference
- 09/24/13--09:27: Ed Miliband's speech to the Labour conference: full text
- 09/24/13--09:32: More than 1 in 10 children are trapped in child labour
- 09/24/13--23:23: Morning Call: pick of the papers
- 09/24/13--23:55: How Miliband's new slogan was inspired by Blair
- 09/25/13--01:11: Morning Wrap: today's top business stories
- 09/25/13--01:25: Confident Miliband passes the Today programme test
- 09/25/13--01:38: Amazon to create more than 1,500 seasonal jobs in UK
- 09/25/13--01:50: Dexia agrees to sell asset management unit for €380m
- 09/25/13--02:51: Panda diplomats: can you put a price on cuteness?
- 09/25/13--03:24: The gold rush for commodities isn't over yet
- 09/25/13--05:02: The polling that explains Miliband's energy price cap
- 09/25/13--05:54: New Statesman cover | 27 September
- 09/25/13--06:13: Miliband is right to stand up to the energy companies' blackmail
- 09/25/13--07:00: Andrew Mitchell: “Ukip are our cousins and we want them back”
- 09/25/13--08:01: 10 things you wish you didn't know about Michael Gove
- He loves Doritos, Coca Cola, Dairylea Dunkers and luxury coleslaw, and will order them all on Ocado if left unattended. No wonder Jamie Oliver had (hand-reared organic) beef with him.
- He’s learning the ukulele in order to take his mind off the high pressures of a cabinet job, because he loves Mumford & Sons like only the chronically boring can.
- He may or may not own a pinstriped onesie. At least, that’s the appropriate attire – inspired by Winston Churchill – that wife Sarah Vine considers appropriate for straight men over the age of 40.
- There are as many pictures of Margaret Thatcher in his office as there are of his wife and children. No comment needed.
- He finds Angela Merkel ‘as hot as Jennifer Lopez’.
- He loves Wagner so much that he came back from holiday with a pair of lederhosen-style swimming trunks. No, I’m not sure where the connection is either. But what’s important is the mental image.
- It took him seven attempts to pass his driving test. Too many unexpected U-turns.
- While his wife gave birth in the same room, he read a biography of Lyndon B Johnson (over 1,000 pages in 23 hours), proving that his commitment to erasing ‘vapid happy talk’ in favour of memorising facts is faithfully translated into his personal life. He complained once, asking whether he could have ‘a real chair’ instead of a beanbag, drawing happy parallels with his attempts to replace Media Studies with ‘real subjects’.
- He once obsessed about ‘dropping two dress sizes in six weeks’. This is separate to the time he was on the Atkins diet.
- He sings along to The Smiths in the car with his six year old son. ‘What’ll it be today, Billy? Girlfriend in a Coma or Bigmouth Strikes Again?’
From an energy price freeze to after school clubs, the highlights of Ed Miliband's speech.
1. A cut to business rates
"We would use the money that this government used to cut taxes for large businesses to cut business rates for 1.5m small businesses."
2. Breakfast clubs in schools
"We want every school in Britain to have the breakfast clubs and childcare that we need."
3. A freeze in energy bills
"If we win the election 2015, the next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017."
4. An end to land banking
"We'll say to private developers we can't just sit on land: either use the land or lose the land . . . we'll identify new towns and garden cities and we'll have an aim that at the end of the parliament, Britain will be building 200,000 homes a year."
5. An end to the bedroom tax
"David Cameron was the Prime Minister who introduced the bedroom tax. I'll be the Prime Minister who repeals the bedroom tax."
"To make Britain better we have got to win a race to the top, not a race to the bottom."
It’s great to be in Brighton. And I want to start by thanking somebody from the bottom of my heart for the kindest of words. Not Justine …oh, I would like to thank her, a round of applause for Justine please, ladies and gentlemen. Not my mum … but a woman called Ella Philips. It was local election day, Ella rode past me on her bike, she fell off …it’s not funny! I helped her up and afterwards she called me something I had never been called before: she said I was an “action hero”. Why are you laughing? She said I was an action hero “who mysteriously appeared out of nowhere”. And she said, “What added to all the confusion was that Ed was actually attractive and not geeky at all”. I promise you, she did say that. She said, “Even the way he appeared was suave”. I don’t know why you find this so funny, friends. “He was dressed casually, but he had style”. Sounds quite me, doesn’t it? Now I was pretty pleased with this, as you can tell, until something dawned on me: Ella was concussed. She was badly concussed. In fact, she herself said, “I was seeing things because I was still in quite a daze”. Well, Ella, you are not kidding. But let me say, Ella, if you are watching today, thank you, you have made my year.
I want to start today with the simplest of thoughts. An idea that has inspired change for generations. The belief that helped drive us out of the Second World War and into that great reforming government of 1945. An ambition that is more important now than it has been for decades. An emotion that is felt across our country at kitchen tables every night. A feeling that is so threatening to those who want to keep things as they are. Words that are so basic and yet so powerful, so modest and yet so hard to believe. Six simple words that say: Britain can do better than this. Britain can do better than this; we are Britain, we are better than this. Are you satisfied with a country where people are working for longer for less, year after year? Are you satisfied with a country divided losing touch with the things we value the most? Are you satisfied with a country that shuts out the voices of millions of ordinary people and listens only to the powerful? Are you satisfied with a country standing apart as two nations? Well I am not satisfied. We are Britain, we are better than this. And we have to rebuild anew One Nation. An economy built on your success, a society based on your values, a politics that hears your voice – rich and poor alike – accepting their responsibilities top each other. One Nation, we are going to make it happen, and today I am going to tell you how.
I want to start with leadership. Leadership is about risks and difficult decisions. It is about those lonely moments when you have to peer deep into your soul. I ran for the leadership of this party, it was really hard for my family, but I believed that Labour needed to turn the page and I was the best person to do it. I when I became leader I faced a decision about whether we should stand up to Rupert Murdoch. It wasn’t the way things had been done in the past, but it was the right thing to do so I did it. And together we faced them down. And then the other week I faced an even bigger decision about whether the country should go to war. The biggest decision any leader faces, the biggest decision any Parliament faces, the biggest decision any party faces. All of us were horrified by the appalling chemical weapons attacks in Syria, but when I stood on the stage three years ago, when I became your leader, I said we would learn the lessons of Iraq. It would have been a rush to war, it wasn’t the right thing for our country. So I said no. It was the right thing to do. You see, the real test of leadership is not whether you stand up to the weak, that’s easy; it’s whether you stand up to the strong and know who to fight for. And you know I am reminded of a story back when I was starting out, standing to be an MP in Doncaster, with a woman called Molly Roberts. Molly was in her seventies, and there I was candidly trying to get her vote, sitting in her front from sipping a mug of tea. And she said to me, “How can you, who weren’t brought up in this area, possibly understand the lives of people here, their hopes and their struggles?” It was the right question, and here is the answer. For me it lies in the values I was brought up with. You see in my house it was my mum that taught me these values. About the importance of reaching out a listening to people, of understanding their hopes and their struggles. She is the most patient, generous person I have met in my whole life. And she taught me never to be contemptuous of others, never to be dismissive of their struggle. Now she was teaching me a lesson of life. And some people will say, ah yeah but you have to leave decency behind when it comes to politics. Well I say they are wrong, because only if you reach out and listen can you do the most important thing a leader can do, the most important qualification in my view for being Prime Minister. Only then will you have the ability to walk in the shoes of others and know who to fight for, whoever your opponent, however powerful they are, guided by the only thing that matters: your sense of what is right. This is what I believe, this is where I stand, this is the leadership Britain needs.
And when I think about who we need to fight for I think about all the people I have met over the last year. I think of the people Britain and their enormous and extraordinary spirit. I think of our troops, serving so bravely all around the world. Let us pay tribute to them today. You know I have seen in Afghanistan those young men and women, young men and women who are young enough to be my son or daughter serving our country, and it is a truly humbling experience. And the events of the last few days in Kenya remind us of the importance of being ever-vigilant against terrorism at home and around the world. I think of the brave men and women of our police force, who serve with so little credit each and every day for our country. Let us thank them for what they do. And then I think of all the people I have met over the last year. During the local election campaign I did something unusual. I went to town centres, market squares and high streets and I stood on a pallet – not a soapbox, but a pallet. And I talked to people about their lives. I remember this town meeting I had in Cleverly. It was just coming to the end of the meeting and this bloke wandered up. He was incredibly angry. It’s a family show so I won’t exactly repeat what he said. He was so angry he wouldn’t give me his name, but he did tell me his story about how he spent the last ten years looking after his disabled wife, and then another four years looking for a job and not finding one. He was angry about immigration and some people in the crowd booed him. But actually he wasn’t prejudiced, he just felt the economy didn’t work for him. And then I think about the two market traders I met in Chesterfield, standing by their stalls, out in all weathers, working all hours, and they said look this country just doesn’t seem to be rewarding our hard work and effort. There seem to be some people getting something for nothing. This society is losing touch with our values. And then I think about this beautiful sunny spring day I spent in Lincoln. And the face in the crowd, this young woman who said she was an ambulance controller. So proud to be working for our National Health Service. And so proud too of her young son. Because she was a single parent, nineteen years old, and what she said to me was, “Why does everybody portray me as a burden on the system? I am not a burden on the system, I am going out, I am doing the right thing for the country, why doesn’t anyone listen to my voice?” And then I think about this scaffolder I met just around the corner from where I live. I was just coming back from a local café I’d been at. He stopped in me the street, he said to me, “Where’s your bodyguard?” I said I don’t have one, but that’s another story. He told me his story. And what he said to me was “look, I go out, I do the work, I go all around the country, again out in all weathers, I earn a decent wage, but I still can’t make ends meet”. And he said to me, “Is anyone ever going to do anything about those gas and electric bills that just go up and up, faster than I can earn a living?” He wanted someone to fight for him. Now if you listen to these stories – four of millions of the stories of our country – and you have your own, and your friends and family, what do you learn? All of these people love Britain, they embody its great spirit, but they all believe that Britain can do better than this. Today I say to them and millions of others you’re right, Britain can do better than this, Britain must do better than this, Britain will do better than this with a government that fights for you.
But for Britain to do better than this we’ve got to understand why we got here, why things are so tough at the moment even while they tell you there is a recovery and why unless we put things right it will only be a recovery for the few. Now what I’m about to tell you is the most important thing I’m going to say today about what needs to change about our country. For generations in Britain when the economy grew the majority got better off. And then somewhere along the way that vital link between the growing wealth of the country and your family finances was broken. This is, this goes beyond one party or one government. It is more important to you than which party is in power, even more important than that. You see, when I was growing up in the 1980s, I saw the benefits of growing prosperity, people able to buy a house, a car, even a second car, go on a foreign holiday their grandparents would never have dreamed of. Not spend all their hours at work, able to spend time with kids, not working all the hours that god sends, have a secure pension in retirement and also believe that their kids would have a better life than them. That feels a long way away from where Britain is today doesn’t it and that is because it is. You see, somewhere along the way that link got broken. They used to say a rising tide lifts all boats, now the rising tide just seems to lift the yachts. Now I say this to the people of Britain. If I were you I wouldn’t even take a second look at a political party unless they make this their central defining purpose because your future depends on it. Your children’s future depends on it. Britain’s future depends on it. I say we are Britain we can do better than this.
Now I have got a question for you ladies and gentlemen, do the Tories get it?
Oh come on, I didn’t hear you, do the Tories get it?
Ok that is better. They don’t get it do they. I want to say this. I understand why three and a half years ago some people might have thought that David Cameron did get it and that is why people voted for him at the last general election. But they voted for change and I don’t believe they got the change that they were voting for. Let me just explain it this way: next week we are going to see David Cameron resuming his lap of honour for how brilliantly he’s done as Prime Minister. Claiming credit for his enormous achievements, how he has saved the economy as they put it. No doubt he’ll even be taking off his shirt and flinging it into the crowd expecting adoration from the British people like he did recently on holiday and maybe I should make this promise while I’m about it, if I become Prime Minister I won’t take my shirt off in public, I mean it is just not necessary is it. I’ll try and keep the promise. Anyway, back to David Cameron, so he is going on this lap of honour, everything is brilliant, he’s saved the economy, George Osborne, he deserves the garlands as well, you know, aren’t they brilliant. Come on. The slowest recovery in one hundred years. One million young people looking for work. More people on record working part-time who want full time work. More people than for a generation out of work for longer. The longest fall in living standards since 1870. That is not worthy of a lap of honour. That is worthy of a lap of shame and that is the record of this government.
He does have one record though but I don’t think it credits a lap of honour. He has been Prime Minister for 39 months and in 38 of those months wages have risen more slowly than prices. That means your living standards falling year, after year, after year. So in 2015 you’ll be asking am I better off now than I was five years ago? And we already know the answer for millions of families will be no. You’ve made the sacrifices, but you haven’t got the rewards. You were the first into the recession but you are the last one out. Now of course it would have taken time to recover from the global financial crisis whoever was in power. But when these Tories tell you that the pain will be worth the gain, don’t believe them. They can’t solve the cost of living crisis and here is why. The cost of living crisis isn’t an accident of David Cameron’s economic policy it is in his economic policy. Let me explain why. You see he believes in this thing called the global race, but what he doesn’t tell you is that he thinks for Britain to win the global race you have to lose, lower wages, worse terms and conditions, fewer rights at work. But Britain can’t win a race for the lowest wages against countries where wages rates are pennies an hour and the more we try the worse things will get for you. Britain can’t win a race for the fewest rights at work against the sweat shops of the world and the more we try the worse things will get for you. And Britain can’t win a race for the lowest skilled jobs against countries where kids leave school at the age of 11. And the more we try the worse things will get for you. It is a race to the bottom. Britain cannot and should not win that race.
You see it is not the low achievements of these Tories that really gets me. That is bad enough. It is their low aspirations; it is their low aspirations for you. It is their low aspirations for Britain but their high hopes for those at the top. The City bonuses are back. Up 82% in April alone thanks to the millionaire’s tax cut. So when they tell you the economy is healing, that everything is fixed, just remember, they are not talking about your life, they are talking about their friends at the top. That is who they are talking about; it is high hopes for them. And every so often you know the mask slips doesn’t it. The other day a man they call Lord Howell, he was I think their advisor on fracking at one point… There is nothing funny about that. He said it was wrong to frack in some areas but it was ok in others, it was ok in the North East of England because he said, and I quote ‘it was full of desolate and uninhabited areas.’ In one casual aside dismissing one whole region of the country. Let’s tell these Tories about the North East of England and every other part of Britain. People go out to work. They love their kids. They bring up their families. They care for their neighbours. They look out for each other. They are proud of their communities. They are proud of their communities. They hope for the future. The Tories call them inhabitants of desolate areas. We call them our friends, our neighbours, the heroes of our country. They are fed up of a government that doesn’t understand their lives and a Prime Minister who cannot walk in their shoes. We are Britain, we are better than this.
Now, to make Britain better we have got to win a race to the top, not a race to the bottom. A race to the top which means that other countries will buy our goods the companies will come and invest here and that will create the wealth and jobs we need for the future but we are not going to be able to do it easily. It is going to be tough and let me just say this friends. You think opposition is tough, you should try government. It is going to be tough; it is not going to be easy. And I’m not going to stand here today and pretend to you it is. We are going to have to stick to strict spending limits to get the deficit down. We are not going to be able to spend money we don’t have and frankly if I told you we were going to you wouldn’t believe me, the country wouldn’t believe me and they would be right not to believe me. But we can make a difference. We can win the race to the top and let me tell you how. It is about the jobs we create, it is about the businesses we support, it is about the talents we nurture, it is about the wages we earn and it is about the vested interests that we take on. Let me start with the jobs of the future. The environment is a passion of mine because when I think about my two kids who are 2 and 4 at the moment and not talking that much about the environment, more interested in The Octonauts. There’s a plug. In 20 years’ time they’ll say to me ‘were you the last generation not to get climate change or the first generation to get it?’ That is the question they’ll be asking.
But it is not just about environmental care. It is also about the jobs we create in the future. You see some people say, including George Osborne, that we can’t afford to have environmental at a time like this. He is dead wrong. We can’t afford not to have an environmental commitment at a time like this. That is why Labour will have a world leading commitment in government to take all of the carbon out of our energy by 2030. A route map to one million new green jobs in our country. That is how we win the race to the top. And to win that race to the top we have also got to do something else, we’ve got to support the businesses of the future. Now many of the new jobs in the future will come from a large number of small businesses not a small number of large businesses. And this is really important. If you think 15 years ahead, the rate of change and dynamism is so great that most of the new jobs that will be being done will be by companies that don’t yet exist. Now that changes the priorities for government. When this government came to office, since they came to office they cut taxes for large business by £6 bn but raised taxes on small businesses. Now I don’t think that is the right priority. Yes we need a competitive tax regime for large businesses but frankly they’ve short-changed small business and I’m going to put it right. If Labour wins power in 2015 we will use the money that this government would use to cut taxes for 80,000 large businesses to cut business rates for 1.5 million businesses across our country. That is the way we win the race to the top. One Nation Labour. The party of small business. Cutting small business rates when we come to office in 2015 and freezing them the next year benefitting businesses by at least £450 a year. That is how we win the race for the top friends, and to win that race to the top we’ve also got to nurture the talents of the next generation. The skills of people. There are so many brilliant businesses in our country who provide amazing training for the workforce, but look, we have got to face facts, leading businesses say this to me too which is there aren’t enough of them and we have got to work to change that so we will say if you want a major government contract you must provide apprenticeships for the next generation. And we’ll also say to companies doing the right thing, training their workforce that they will have the power to call time on free-riding by competitors who refuse to do the same. That’s how we win the race to the top friends.
It’s not just business that has to accept responsibility though, it’s young people. We have a tragedy in this country. Hundreds of thousands of young people who leave school and end up on the dole. We’ve got this word for it haven’t we? NEET: Not in education employment or training. Behind that short word is a tragedy of hundreds of thousands of wasted lives. If the school system fails our young people they shouldn’t be ending up on benefits. They should be ending up in education or training so they can get back on the road to a proper career. That requires them to accept responsibility but it requires government too to accept our responsibilities for the next generation in Britain, and that's what we'll do.
But to win the race to the top we've also got to take advantage of the talents of Britain's 12 million parents. Justine and I had one of the great privileges in any parent’s life this year, which was taking our son Daniel to his first day at school. He was nervous at first, but actually pretty soon he started having fun; it’s a bit like being leader of the Labour Party really. Well it’s not exactly like being leader of the Labour Party. But look, for so many parents in this country the demands of the daily school run, combined with their job are like their very own daily assault course and we’ve got to understand that. Because we can’t win the race to the top with stressed out parents and family life under strain – we’ve got to change that.
In the last century, schools stayed open till mid-afternoon and that was okay back then because one parent usually stayed at home. But it's not okay now: that's why we want every primary school in Britain to have the breakfast clubs and after school care that parents need and that's what the next Labour government will do.
To win the race to the top we've also got to deal with the issue of low pay. The National Minimum Wage, one of the last Labour government’s proudest achievements, friends. But we have to face facts: there are millions of people in this country going out to work, coming home at night, unable to afford to bring up their families. I just think that's wrong in one of the richest countries in the world. The next Labour government must write the next chapter in dealing with the scourge of low pay in this country. And to do that though, we've got to learn lessons from the way the minimum wage came in, because it was about business and working people, business and unions working together in the right way so we set the minimum wage at the right level and we’ve got to do the same again. The minimum wage has been falling in value and we’ve got to do something about it.
There are some sectors, and I don’t often say anything nice about the banks but I will today, there are some sectors which actually can afford to pay higher wages, and some of them are - a living wage in some of the banks. So we've got to look at whether there are some sectors where we can afford a higher minimum but we’ve got to do it on the right basis – business and working people working together. That’s what we will do: the next Labour government will strengthen the minimum wage to make work pay for millions in our country. That’s how we win the race to the top.
And to win that race to the top we’ve got to call a halt to the race to the bottom, between workers already here and workers coming here. I'm the son of two immigrant parents. I'm proud of the welcome Britain gave me and my family, and we've always welcomed people who work, contribute and are part of our community. Let me say this, if people want a party that will cut itself off from the rest of the world, then let me say squarely: Labour is not your party. But if people want a party that will set the right rules for working people then Labour is your party, the only party that will do it. Employers not paying the minimum wage and government turning a blind eye - it's a race to the bottom; not under my government. Recruitment agencies hiring only from overseas – it’s a race to the bottom; not under my government. Shady gang masters exploiting people in industries from constructing to food processing - it's a race to the bottom; not under my government. Rogue landlords, putting 15 people in tied housing - it's a race to the bottom; not under my government. And our country, sending out a message to the world that if you need to engage in shady employment practices, then Britain is open for businesses? It's a race to the bottom; not under my government. And in case anyone asks whether this is pandering to prejudice, let’s tell them, it isn’t. It’s where Labour has always stood – countering exploitation, whoever it affects, wherever they come from. We've never believed in a race to the bottom, we've always believed in a race to the top, that is our party.
And to win the race to the top we’ve also got to take on the vested interests that hold our economy back. In the 1990s we committed to a dynamic market economy. Think of those words: ‘dynamic, ‘market’, ‘economy’. And then think about this, what happens when competition fails? What happens when it just fails again and again and again? Then government has to act. Train companies that put the daily commute out of reach. Payday lenders who force people into unpayable debt. Gas and electric companies that put prices up and up and up. It’s not good for an economy. It’s not a dynamic market economy when one section of society does so well at the expense of others. It’s bad for families, it’s bad for business and it’s bad for Britain too.
Now some people will just blame the companies but actually I don’t think that’s where the blame lies. I think it lies with government. I think it lies with government for not having had the strength to take this on. Not having stood up to the powerful interests. Not having the strength to stand up to the strong.
Take the gas and electricity companies. We need successful energy companies, in Britain. We need them to invest for the future. But you need to get a fair deal and frankly, there will never be public consent for that investment unless you do get a fair deal. And the system is broken and we are going to fix it.
If we win the election 2015 the next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017. Your bills will not rise. It will benefit millions of families and millions of businesses. That's what I mean by a government that fights for you. That's what I mean when I say Britain can do better than this.
Now the companies aren’t going to like this because it will cost them more but they have been overcharging people for too long because of a market that doesn’t work. It’s time to reset the market. So we will pass legislation in our first year in office to do that, and have a regulator that will genuinely be on the customers’ side but also enable the investment we need. That’s how Britain will do better than this.
So, making Britain better than this starts with our economy – your economic success as a foundation for Britain’s economic success. But it doesn't just stop there it goes to our society as well. I told you earlier on about those market traders in Chesterfield and how they felt that society had lost touch with their values. I think what they were really saying was this: that they put in huge hard work and effort, they bring up their kids in the right way and they just feel that their kids are going to have a worse life than them. And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to renting or buying a home.
There are 9 million people in this country renting a home, many of whom who would want to buy. 9 million people - we don't just have a cost of living crisis, we have a housing crisis too. In 2010 when we left office there was a problem. There were one million too few homes in Britain. If we carry on as we are, by 2020 there will be two million too few homes in Britain. That is the equivalent of two cities the size of Birmingham. Wave got to do something about it and the next Labour government will. So we'll say to private developers, you can't just sit on land and refuse to build. We will give them a very clear message - either use the land or lose the land, that is what the next Labour government will do.
We'll say to local authorities that they have a right to grow, and neighbouring authorities can’t just stop them. We'll identify new towns and garden cities and we'll have a clear aim that by the end of the parliament Britain will be building 200,000 homes a year, more than at any time in a generation. That's how we make Britain better than this.
And nowhere do we need to put the values of the British people back at the heart of our country more than in our National Health Service, the greatest institution of our country. You know I had a letter a couple of months back from a 17 year old girl. She was suffering from depression and anxiety and she told me a heart-breaking story about how she had ended up in hospital for 10 weeks. Mental health is a truly one nation problem. It covers rich and poor, North and South, young and old alike and let's be frank friends, in the privacy of this room; we've swept it under the carpet for too long. It's a bit of a British thing isn’t it; we don’t like to talk about it. If you’ve got a bad back or if you’re suffering from cancer you can talk abbot it but if you’ve got depression or anxiety you don’t want to talk about it because somehow it doesn’t seem right – we’ve got to change that. It's an afterthought in our National Health Service.
And here’s a really interesting thing – so you might say, it’s going to be really tough times Ed, you told us that before. You said there would be really difficult decisions in government, and that’s true, so how are you going to make it work? Well here's the thing, the 17-year-old said in that letter, look if someone had actually identified the problem when it started three years earlier I wouldn't have ended up in hospital. I wouldn’t have ended up costing the state thousands of pounds and the anguish that I had. So it's about that early identification and talking about this issue.
And if it's true of mental health, it's true in an even bigger way about care for the elderly. There’s so much more our country could be doing for our grandmas and granddads, mum and dads, nuclease and aunts. And it’s the same story. Just putting a £50 grab rail in the home stops somebody falling over, prevents them ending up in hospital with the needless agony, and all of the money that it costs. The 1945 Labour government, in really tough times, raised its sights and created the National Health Service. I want the next Labour government to do the same, even in tough times, to raise our sights about what the health service can achieve, bringing together physical health, mental health, and the care needs of the elderly: a true integrated National Health Service. That’s the business of the future.
But we don't just need to improve the health service, friends; we've got to rescue it from these Tories. And the Liberals too. Now look, before the election, I remember the speeches by David Cameron. I remember one where he said the three most important letters to him were NHS. Well he has got a funny way of showing it, hasn’t he? And when they came to office, they were still saying how brilliant was in the health service, how the health service was doing great things and the doctors and nurses and so on. Now have you noticed they have changed their tune recently? Suddenly they are saying how bad everything is in the NHS. Now the vast majority of doctors and nurses do a fantastic job. Sometimes things go wrong. And when they do, we should be the first people to say so. But hear me on this. The reason David Cameron is running down the NHS is not because the doctors and nurses aren’t doing as good a job as they were before. It is because they have come to a realisation that the health service is getting worse on their watch and they are desperately thrashing around trying to find someone else to blame. Blame the doctors, blame the nurses, blame the last Labour government. That is what they are doing. Well let me tell you about the record of the last Labour government. When we came to office there were waiting time targets of 18 months that were not being met, when we left office there were waiting time targets of 18 weeks that were being met. When we came to office there was an annual winter A&E crisis, when we left office the people had A&E services they could rely on. When we came to office there were fewer doctors and nurses, we when left office more doctors and nurses than ever before. And when we came to office people said well the health service, it was a good idea in previous generations but I don’t really believe it will be there in the next, and we left office with the highest public satisfaction in the history of the health services. Yes friends, we did rescue the National Health Service. So when you hear David Cameron casting around for someone to blame for what is happening in the NHS just remember it is not complicated, it’s simple, it’s as simple as ABC: when it comes to blame, it is Anyone But Cameron. We know who is responsible, the top-down reorganisation that nobody voted for and nobody wanted, the abolition of NHS Direct, the cuts to social care, the fragmentation of services. We know who is responsible for thousands of fewer nurses, we know who is responsible not just for an annual A&E crisis, but an A&E crisis for all seasons. It is this Prime Minister who is responsible. So friends it is the same old story, we rescue the NHS, they wreck the NHS and we have to rescue it all over again. And that is what the next Labour government will do.
Right, I have explained to you how we can make Britain better by changing our economy and changing our society, and now I want to talk about how we change our politics. And here is the bit you have all been looking forward to: party reform. Now look let me say to you, change is difficult, change is uncomfortable. And I understand why people are uncomfortable about some of the changes, but I just want to explain to you why I think it is so important. With all of the forces ranged against us, we can’t just be a party of 200,000 people. We have got to be a party of 500,000, 600,000, or many more. And I am optimistic enough – some might say idealistic enough – to believe that is possible. And the reason it is possible in our party is the unique link we have with the trade unions. The unique link. I don’t want to end that link, I want to mend that link. And I want to hear the voices of individual working people in our party, louder than before. Because you see, think about our history. It is many of you who have been telling us that actually we haven’t been rooted enough in the workplaces of our country. And that is what I want to change. And that is the point of my reforms. See my reforms are about hearing the voices of people from call centre workers to construction workers, from people with small businesses to people working in supermarkets at the heart of our party. Because you see it is about my view of politics. Leaders matter, of course they do, leadership matters, but in the end political change happens because people make it happen. And you can’t be a party that properly fights for working people unless you have working people at the core of your party, up and down this country. That is the point of my reforms. And I want to work with you to make them happen so that we can make ourselves a mass-membership party. Friends, let’s make ourselves truly the people’s party once again.
But to change our politics we have got to a lot more than that. We have got to hear the voices of people that haven’t been heard for a long time. I think about our young people, their talent, their energy, their voices. The voices of young people demanding a job, the voices of young people who demand that we shoulder and don’t shirk our responsibilities to the environment. The voices of gay and lesbian young people who led the fight and won the battle for equal marriage in Britain. And the voices of young people, particularly young women, who say in 2013 the battle for equality is not won. You see they are not satisfied that 33% of Labour MPs are women, they want it to be 50% and they are right. They are not satisfied that 40 years after the Equal Pay Act, we still do not have equal pay for work of equal value in this country. They are not satisfied and they are right. And they are not satisfied that in Britain in 2013, women are still subject to violence, harassment, and everyday sexism. They are not satisfied and they are right. Friends, let’s give a voice to these young people in our party. And let’s give a voice to these young people in our democracy, let’s give the vote to 16 and 17 year olds and make them part of our democracy.
But you know we have got to win the battle for perhaps the most important institution of all, our United Kingdom. Friends, devolution works. Carwyn Jones, our brilliant First Minister of Wales, he is showing devolution works. And let’s praise the leadership of our Scottish Joanne Lamont for the brilliant job she is doing against Alex Salmond. Now that referendum on September the 18th 2014, it is going to be conducted on the basis of fact and figures and arguments and counterarguments, but I have a story I want to tell you which I think says even more. It’s the story of Cathy Murphy. Cathy Murphy lives in Glasgow, she worked in the local supermarket. In 2010, Cathy was diagnosed with a serious heart problem, but she came to Labour conference nonetheless in 2011 as a delegate. She fell seriously ill. Her family were called down from Glasgow. The doctors said to her that to save her life they’d have to give her a very long and very risky operation. She had that operation a few weeks later at the world-leading Liverpool Broadgreen hospital. Cathy pulled through. She went back to Glasgow some weeks later. She comes back down to Liverpool every six months for her check-up. Now she said to me the nurses and doctors don’t ask whether she is English or Scottish, the hospital doesn’t care where she lives. They care about her because she is Scottish and British, a citizen of our United Kingdom. Friends, Cathy is with us today, back as a delegate. Where is she? Cathy’s here. Friends, I don’t want Cathy to become a foreigner. Let’s win the battle for the United Kingdom.
So I have talked to you today about policy and what a Labour government would do, how it would make Britain better and win a race to the top in our economy, put our society back in touch with people’s values and change our politics so it lets new voices in. But the next election isn’t just going to be about policy. It is going to be about how we lead and the character we show. I have got a message for the Tories today: if they want to have a debate about leadership and character, be my guest. And if you want to know the difference between me and David Cameron, here’s an easy way to remember it. When it was Murdoch versus the McCanns, he took the side of Murdoch. When it was the tobacco lobby versus the cancer charities, he took the side of the tobacco lobby. When it was the millionaires who wanted a tax cut versus people paying the bedroom tax, he took the side of the millionaires. Come to think of it, here is an even easier way to remember it: David Cameron was the Prime Minister who introduced the bedroom tax, I’ll be the Prime Minister who repeals the bedroom tax.
You see here is the thing about David Cameron. He may be strong at standing up to the weak, but he is always weak when it comes to standing up against the strong. That is the difference between me and David Cameron, so let’s have that debate about leadership and character, and I relish that debate. And we know what we are going to see from these Tories between now and the general election, it is the lowest form of politics, it is divide and rule. People on benefits versus those in work. People in unions against those outside union. People in the private sector versus those in the public sector. People in the north against those in the south. It is the worst form of politics. Like sending vans into areas of Britain where people’s mums and granddads have lived for years, generations, and telling people to go home. I say we are Britain, we are better than this. Telling anyone who’s looking for a job that they are a scrounger. However hard they are looking, even if the work is not available. I say we are Britain we are better than this. So come on. So David Cameron I have got a message for you. You can tell your Lynton Crosby, it might work elsewhere, it won’t work here. We’re Britain, we’re better than this.
Friends, the easy path for politics is to divide, that’s the easy part. You need to know this about me, I believe in seeing the best in people, not the worst. That’s what I am about. That’s how we create One Nation. That’s how we make Britain better than this. That’s how we have a government that fights for you.
Now, it is going to be a big fight between now and the general election. Prepare yourself for that fight. But when you think about that fight, don’t think about our party, think about our country. I don’t want to win this fight for Labour; I want to win it for Britain. And just remember this, throughout our history, when the voices of hope have been ranged against the voices of fear, the voices of hope have won through. Those who said at the dawn of the industrial revolution that working people needed the vote and they wouldn’t wait - they knew Britain could be better than this, and we were. Those that said, at the birth of a new century, those who said at the birth of a new century that working people needed a party to fight for them and the old order wouldn’t do – they knew Britain could be better than this, and we were. Those who said at our darkest hour in the Second World War that Britain needed to rebuild after the war and said ‘never again’, they knew Britain could be better than this, and we did. Those who said, as the 20th Century grew old, that the battle for equality was still young; they knew Britain could do better than this, and we did.
And so now it falls to us, to build One Nation, a country for all, a Britain we rebuild together. Britain’s best days lie ahead. Britain can do better than this. We’re Britain, we’re better than this. I’ll lead a government that fights for you.
The number of child labourers has decreased by a third since 2000, but there are still 168 million child workers.
The number of child labourers has declined by a third since 2000, a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found, but there are still 168 million child labourers, accounting for 11 per cent of children aged 5-17.
The ILO definition of child labour does not include all children in employment, but refers to “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.” Of the 168 million child labourers, 85 million are engaged in hazardous work, defined as work that directly endangers their health, safety and moral development.
Sub-Sahara Africa has the highest rate of child labour, with 59 million or 1 in 5 children affected, but Asia-Pacific has the highest overall number of child workers, with 78 million.
The report reveals a few unexpected features of child labour. Firstly, it finds that child labour is not limited to the world’s poorest countries, suggesting that the factors affecting the number of child workers are more complex than poverty alone. Although the percentage of child labourers is highest in low income countries, the overall numbers of child workers is greater in middle income countries. Within countries, child labour isn’t confined to the poorest households.
Secondly, it notes that while child labour is highest in the agricultural sector, as might be expected, the number of children employed in the service sector has increased. This means policy-makers need to ensure that their interventions target the service and manufacturing industries as well as farming.
Finally, the report has found that child labour has decreased at a faster rate for girls than for boys (40 per cent versus 25 per cent.) However, it says it can be harder to monitor child labour among girls, particularly if they are doing domestic work in private households. This points to a broader problem with child labour: it’s very hard to measure. It’s often illegal and concentrated in the informal economy, and governments in the countries with the highest rates of child labour are unlikely to have strong data collection abilities.
UNICEF, for instance, publishes data on child labour by country, but many countries don’t submit any data for this. Of the countries reported on in its State of the World’s Children 2013 publication, Somalia, Benin and Burkina Faso were the worst offenders, with the percentage of child labour at 49 per cent, 46 per cent and 39 per cent respectively. Beyond Sub-Saharan Africa, Cambodia has the highest rate of child labour, at 36 per cent.
Even accounting for significant constraints in data collection, however, the rate of child labour is worryingly high, with ILO set to miss its target of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016.
He should learn from Gordon Brown's mistake and have the courtesy to get the Lib Dems' name right.
In 2010, as Gordon Brown was desperately trying to strike a deal with the Lib Dems, Peter Mandelson warned him: "you must stop calling them the Liberals". The third party, a merger of the Liberal Party and the SDP, doesn't take kindly to being referred to by the name of its former incarnation. That Brown didn't even have the courtesy to get their name right was one reason why many Lib Dems concluded that they couldn't do business with him.
But today, in defiance of this precedent, Ed Miliband spoke of how Labour needed to rescue the NHS "from these Tories. And the Liberals too." For a politician more pluralist than many in his party, it was an oddly tribal note. With a hung parliament the most likely outcome of the next election, Miliband, like Brown, can't afford to be so careless. If both Labour and the Tories win enough seats to form majority governments with Lib Dem support, he will need to do everything he can to persuade Nick Clegg, against his ideological instincts, to side with him.
But with this in mind, it was striking that the line quoted above was the only reference to the party in the speech. Ahead of a possible coalition in 2015, has Miliband decided that it's best not "to diss" the Lib Dems?
The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.
1. Ed Miliband unveils his route map to power (Daily Telegraph)
Now it’s up to the voters to decide if the Labour leader’s job application is worth considering, says Mary Riddell.
2. Behold, Ed Miliband's new populism of the left (Guardian)
The Labour leader offered the faithful a policy-packed speech to sell his party – and himself – on the doorstep, writes Jonathan Freedland.
3. Voters remember what politicians forget (Times)
You can’t tinker with a party’s image, writes Daniel Finkelstein. It takes years, if not longer, to change the way people think.
4. Miliband returns to the politics of the Seventies (Daily Telegraph)
Labour's leader offered nothing on the deficit, or fiscal discipline, or welfare reform, or Europe, or the need to raise educational standards, says a Daily Telegraph leader.
5. Germany’s strange parallel universe (Financial Times)
A huge structural current account surplus exports products – and bankruptcy, writes Martin Wolf.
Miliband needs a rethink on one of his key ideas, argues Ian King.
7. The HS2 shambles reveals how our politics can’t cope with planning (Independent)
Planning far ahead does not fit the marketing needs of political campaigning, writes Andreas Whittam Smith.
Labour's leader is starting to shape a new social democratic programme, writes Seumas Milne. But if he bows to austerity it will be suffocated.
9. Kenya attack jeopardises justice (Financial Times)
The siege reminds the west that it needs Kenyatta and Ruto, writes Michela Wrong.
10. BlackBerry’s fall is a symptom of technology’s new world order (Independent)
Global sales of smartphones have now passed those of regular phones, writes Hamish McRae.
The Labour leader's new motif, "Britain can do better than this", is an echo of the title of the party's 1997 manifesto: "Britain deserves better".
After introducing the "one nation" theme last year, Ed Miliband adopted the slogan "Britain can do better than this" in his speech yesterday. In doing so, he drew inspiration from an unlikely source. As the image below shows, Miliband's new motif is uncannily similar to the title of Labour's 1997 manifesto: "because Britain deserves better".
Peter Mandelson, for one, will be pleased. Earlier this week, in an article for the FT, he wrote that "One Nation is a good line for a banner but needs an argument to support it nd to set out an alternative. In 1997, our rallying cry was 'Britain deserves better'. It is time to bring out a new, distinctive version of this election-winning argument."
He may have kept his promise to "turn the page" on New Labour but, on this occasion, Miliband borrowed unashamedly from the Blair playbook.
News stories from around the web.
Alibaba abandons $60bn Hong Kong listing (FT)
Alibaba has abandoned plans for a $60bn-plus listing in Hong Kong and has begun work on a US share sale instead after it failed to convince the city’s exchange to allow an unusual board control structure.
Nokia chairman admits mistake in Elop pay-off description (BBC)
Nokia's chairman, Risto Siilasmaa, has admitted that he accidently gave misleading information about former chief executive Stephen Elop's pay-off.
Ed Miliband admits pledge to freeze energy prices could lead to higher bills before next election (Telegraph)
Ed Miliband has admitted that his pledge to freeze energy prices could lead to higher bills for consumers ahead of the next election.
ICAP staff face Libor charges (FT)
US authorities are set to bring criminal charges against current or former employees of ICAP, the world’s largest interdealer broker, as part of their investigation into the manipulation of benchmark interest rates, including Libor, people familiar with the matter say.
JPMorgan eyes $4bn ‘pay for peace’ deal (FT)
JPMorgan Chase is in talks to pay over $4bn in a “pay for peace” deal with US authorities to settle a host of allegations of wrongdoing in the mortgage securities market, according to people familiar with the matter.
Unlike on previous occasions, when he has struggled to flesh out the meaning of his cerebral speeches, the Labour leader has signature policies that he is prepared to defend.
After the conservative press responded to Ed Miliband's pledge to freeze energy prices until 2017 by branding him as a 1970s-style socialist and the energy companies warned of power blackouts, the Labour leader was called for the defence on the Today programme this morning.
To the former charge, he argued persuasively that it was Labour that was "the pro-competition party, the pro-market party" because it wanted "markets to succeed, not fail" by working "in the public interest". To the latter, he said that on "any reasonable scenario", the companies would be able to cope, implying that they were resorting to scare tactics. He conceded, however, that in the event of major price shocks, "companies could make their case to the government."
On the danger of firms hiking prices in advance of the election in order maximise their profits, he replied: "we will make sure that this is a genuine freeze and we will take action to make sure that happens." That implies that Labour would seek to peg prices to their 2014 level were companies to raise prices in 2015. Milband added that the freeze would not be extended beyond 2017 because he expected to have "reformed the energy market" by then.
One important test of a conference speech is whether it can withstand scrutiny the following day and Miliband ably cleared that hurdle this morning. Unlike on previous occasions, when he has struggled to flesh out the meaning of his cerebral addresses, he came armed with signature policies that he was prepared to argue for. He has also adopted a notably softer and more measured speaking style.
By taking on the energy companies, Miliband is confident that he has picked a battle that can only have political benefits. In highlighting threats of blackouts from the sector, Tory MPs have walked straight into his trap by appearing to side with the companies over the consumers. Labour is confident that voters will agree that, in Miliband's words, "the fundamental problem at the heart of the market is that wholesale prices go up and people pay more, and wholesale prices go down and people still pay more."
The online retailer plans to hold more products at its fulfilment centres this year.
Global e-commerce giant Amazon will hire more than 1,500 seasonal positions across its eight UK fulfilment centres and Edinburgh customer service centre to meet customer demand for the upcoming Christmas and holiday season.
The seasonal jobs are currently available at the retailer’s fulfilment centres in Doncaster, Dunfermline, Gourock, Hemel Hempstead, Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Rugeley and Swansea Bay.
Catherine McDermott, director of operations at Amazon.co.uk, said: “During the Christmas season, seasonal associates play a critical role in making sure we meet increased demand from customers. As we continue to expand our UK operations, we expect many hundreds of these temporary associates to move into permanent positions as has been the case in previous years.”
Amazon noted that customers ordered a total of 3.5 million items in 24 hours at a rate of 44 items per second in one day during Christmas season last year.
The company is planning to hold more products than ever before at its UK fulfilment centres this year. It created 10,000 seasonal jobs for Christmas season last year.
Amazon, which offered permanent employment to 1,000 temporary staff up to January this year, plans to offer permanent jobs for 500 temporary associates by the end of 2013.
Since 2008, the company opened five new fulfilment centres in the UK.
Dexia Asset Management has €74bn in assets under management.
The Franco-Belgian financial group Dexia has signed an agreement to sell its asset management unit to New York Life Investments for €380m ($512m).
The sale is part of a deal with European regulators in exchange for bailout Dexia Group received in recent years.
The purchase will bring New York Life Investments’ total assets under management to more than $480bn.
John Kim, chairman and CEO of New York Life Investments, said: “The acquisition of Dexia Asset Management will provide our clients with access to the company’s highly-rated funds, strong European platform, and established Australian equities business. It builds upon the strong momentum we’ve achieved in our third-party global asset management business and positions us for further growth in key markets around the world.”
Naïm Abou-Jaoudé, CEO of Dexia Asset Management, said: “We look forward to building upon a complementary and shared long term vision with the benefits, support and resources of New York Life and believe our clients and staff can anticipate this partnership with confidence.”
Dexia Asset Management, which has €74bn in assets under management as of 31 July 2013, provides investment solutions to a diversified client base across 25 countries with centres in Brussels, Paris, Luxembourg and Sydney.
New York Life Investments, a wholly-owned subsidiary of New York Life Insurance Company, has $388bn in assets under management as of 31 July 2013.
The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close by the end of this year.
Earlier in July, Dexia Group’s deal to sell the asset management unit to Hong Kong-based GCS Capital for €380m was collapsed.
How China uses pandas to help secure long-term trade deals.
The pictures of the 14 baby panda cubs born at a breeding centre in Chengdu in China were published around the world. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by their cuteness (in my completely objective view) – but can you attach a monetary value to how adorable they are? A report by Cambridge University suggests you can. It explores the way in which China uses loans of giant pandas to strengthen its trade relations and secure long-term, multi-billion pound contracts for the raw materials it so desperately needs.
The lending of Tian Tian to Edinburgh Zoo in 2010 occurred alongside negotiations over a ₤2.6bn deal to supply China with salmon meat, land rover cars, and petrochemical and renewable energy technology. China’s 2012 panda loan to France coincided with a $20bn trade package, and the loan of a pair of pandas to Canada was perfectly timed with China’s $2.1bn purchase of the oil sands company Opti Canada and the purchase of seal meat. China is particularly hungry for uranium, because of its plans to expand its production of nuclear power, and this accounts for panda loans to Australia and France, according to the report’s authors.
Similarly, China has asked for loan pandas to be returned as a way of signalling discontent with other governments. For instance, China asked for two US panda cubs to be returned after China warned that if Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama, this would damage trade ties.
One of the reasons pandas are such useful diplomats is because of how popular they are with zoo goers, firstly because of their distinctive teddy-bear like appearance, and secondly because they are rare – there just under 2,000 left in the world. A panda loan attracts a lot of positive publicity for China, and domestic zoos can expect increased ticket sales and merchandise deals.
When China first started exploring the potential of panda loans, it sought to profit in a more direct way, charging local zoos $50,000 a month as a fee, as well as a percentage of merchandising sales. Even today, China retains ownership of any cubs that are born overseas, and charges $500,000 if a panda dies due to human neglect.
Their usefulness as goodwill ambassadors is good news for pandas, too – it gives Chinese authorities an extra incentive to keep up captive breeding projects and protect the remaining 1,600 wild pandas.
The energy companies are squealing over the Labour leader's proposed freeze on energy prices, warning of blackouts. They ignore the fact that the lights are already going out - for the 4.5 million people living in fuel poverty.
Ed Miliband’s pledge yesterday, to freeze energy prices until 2017 while reforming the market, appears to have plucked a rather sensitive chord. The reaction is, to a large extent, par for the course. Nobody truly expected the energy industry or right-wing press to welcome these developments. The knee-jerk reaction has been predictably swift and forceful. In my years working for a regulator, I can scarcely remember an industry representative faced with any kind of intervention who has not claimed that this would immediately bring about the end of their industry and civilisation as we know it.
The initial reaction from commentators was that Miliband has proven he does not understand how free markets work, followed by a number of irrelevant comparisons with inappropriate markets. All this has served to prove, is that the commentators in question don’t understand how a free market works or, indeed, what one looks like.
Energy supply in the UK is not just any market and it is as far away from a "free" market as one could get, skewed as it is by a long list of factors. Forgive the boring economic bit – I will attempt to make it as brief and simple as I can. Skip, if you must.
The market is an oligopoly (controlled by very few giant players). It is vertically integrated (the same companies which sell us energy at the retail level, largely sell it to themselves at wholesale level). There are significant barriers to entry (the costs and difficulty of setting up an energy company to compete are massive). There are asymmetries of information and barriers to switching at consumer level (because of a proliferation of tariffs, schemes and guarantees it is difficult to glean the cheapest supplier and, even if one does, switching is not easy). The aggregate retail market for energy is an essential commodity with very few realistic alternatives (it’s not like we could stop consuming the stuff or switch to burning government white papers for heat and light). In short, if an economics professor were trying to give an example of a market with the potential to be dysfunctional and require state regulation, energy would not be far from the top of the list.
Next, came the "poor energy companies making no money, really" defence. It was spearheaded by Angela Knight, the former Conservative MP who represented investment managers and stockbrokers during the decade of that industry’s worst excesses, was in charge of defending the British Bankers’ Association during the financial crisis, and assured the nation in 2008 that Libor was "a reliable benchmark". She made much of the fact that almost half of the energy retail price can be accounted for by the wholesale price, while dishonestly obscuring the fact that it is largely the very same companies that set and profit from the wholesale price.
Finally, the most desperate and starkest of warnings: "the lights will go out". What about the Californian energy shortages and blackouts, asked Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics? I don’t know whether this comparison was cynical or ill-informed. The “California Electricity Crisis” was not the result of regulation, but a process of deregulation which started in 2000-01. What is more, it has since been shown to have hinged on unlawful manipulation of supply by disgraced energy giant Enron. If ever there was a compelling example in favour of the tightest regulation of energy markets, it is this precise instance.
Centrica, a company which announced a near 10 per cent rise in its profit this year while simultaneously issuing a price rise warning, has threatened to quit the UK altogether over this perceived outrage. Other energy companies have made similar noises. And yet, “the big six” operate in a multitude of countries where degrees of price regulation, in many cases much harsher and more permanent than what is being proposed here, are in effect. As a matter of fact, only nine of the twenty-seven EU member states do not exercise some form of price regulation of energy retail prices, much to the chagrin of the European Commission.
One of the biggest players, Électricité de France or EDF to you and me, is owned by the French state and provides electricity to its French customers at heavily regulated and considerably lower prices than its British ones. Britain has one of the highest rates of energy inflation in both the EU and the OECD and has done for many years. Amid significant and evidenced allegations of "ripping off" and "market rigging" how can anyone support the notion that government just needs to step out of the way and let markets do their magic? Households today spend double the proportion of their income on energy bills than they did a mere eight years ago.
The counterargument, that energy companies will simply hike prices before the election, is naïve. Politically, they are pretty snookered. A hike before May 2015 would make this even more of an election issue – perhaps a transformative one. Helping install a Labour government is the very last thing these conglomerates would want right now. Not to mention that it may force Cameron into a similar pledge. The idea that they will put up prices immediately after the freeze is similarly misconceived; ignoring, as it does, that the reason for it is to facilitate deeper market reform by 2017.
At its heart, this hysteria over the Labour leader’s pledge betrays an evangelical belief in free markets self-correcting, whatever the cost; the very same misplaced faith which meant few predicted the global financial crisis. We continue to anthropomorphosise – markets are nervous, markets are jittery, markets are pleased, markets are calm – sacrificing figurative goats to appease volcanoes. Forgetting all the while, that these artificial constructs – markets, companies, banking, lending, money – were put in place to facilitate our existence, not the other way around. When they cease to enhance the lives of the vast majority, it is time to go back to the drawing board.
"The lights will go out," we are warned. The single pertinent fact, which seems to have escaped every single detractor, is that the lights are already going out for the 4.5 million households living in fuel poverty in the UK, right now. Reform is not only desirable, but absolutely essential.
...despite claims the super-cycle is dead.
We've been here before, haven’t we? Perhaps the clamour of Cassandra-like voices was not so great in 2011 when Spear’s previously wrote about the supposedly imminent demise of the commodities super-cycle, but it was nonetheless already a clamour. The past nine months or so have heard that clamour amplified several times over.
The Financial Times declared that the super-cycle was dead at the end of June, only to declare about ten days later that rumours of its death were greatly exaggerated. Most recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that the broad consensus of analysts and investors has called the end of the super-cycle.
But super-cycles tend to die slowly. The first identifiable commodities super-cycle in modern times lasted from 1894 to 1932, peaking in 1917, according to academics Bilge Erten and José Antonio Ocampo. The second lasted from 1932 to 1971, peaking in 1951, and the third lasted from 1971 to 1999, peaking almost as soon as it began.
Given that these three previous super-cycles lasted for twenty years or more, it is hardly unreasonable to expect the current super-cycle to last for another couple of decades.
The current super-cycle, which began in 1999 and may not yet have reached its peak, was founded on China’s urbanisation programme and construction boom, which began in the late Nineties. In 2011 China accounted for 40 per cent of global demand for iron ore and aluminium, 42 per cent of zinc and coal, 43 per cent of copper and lead, and 50 per cent of lean hogs.
If China’s GDP growth drops from around 10.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent over the next few years, as its policy-makers switch into a different growth model based on services and consumerism, will that translate into falling commodity prices?
While many analysts remain bearish, based on the assumption that the Chinese economy will experience a hard landing, Société Générale has come out strongly with a prediction that while gold prices are likely to fall further in 2014, to around $1,050 an ounce, the outlook for commodities will remain positive.
"It would take something dreadful to happen to make the super-cycle suddenly end," Michael Haigh, SocGen’s head of commodities research, told a media briefing in July. If you believe that the current super-cycle "is a function of population and urbanisation, you’re looking at another fifteen to twenty years. But it’s not going to be an upward price for all."
Haigh is not alone. Another analyst who doubts that the super-cycle is over is Eugen Weinberg, head of commodity research at Commerzbank in Germany. "Price movements in the market indicate an end to the commodities super-cycle," he has said.
"But we do not believe the super-cycle is coming to an end. It’s just taking a break. Twenty million people a year move from the countryside to the cities, triggering a huge demand for better infrastructure."
That infrastructure is likely to be more "steel-intense", with the demand for steel in residential construction expected to peak at around 2024, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia, at a level 30 times higher than in 2011.
The switch of those new Chinese town-dwellers to a diet consisting of more animal protein, combined with a global reduction in the amount of arable land, will drive up grain prices, as the cultivation of animal feeds and crops for biofuel compete for land use with other forms of agriculture.
Although the value of gold is not determined by industrial use, its price is nonetheless subject to many more factors than mere investor confidence. The fall in the gold price to well below $1,200 an ounce in June was largely the result of speculative trading in the futures market. (Goldman Sachs is thought to have made 15.5 per cent on its own book as a result of gold’s price fall.)
Meanwhile, central banks around the world have been building up their gold reserves. Russia, Turkey and Brazil have all been big buyers, but the main player has been the People’s Bank of China, which has a long-term plan for the renminbi to supplant the US dollar as the global reserve currency. To achieve that, the People’s Bank needs far greater reserves.
During 2012, according to Thomson Reuters GFMS, net gold purchases by the world’s central banks increased by 17.4 per cent on the previous year — the highest level in 50 years. We have no idea how much China’s reserve bank is spending on buying gold, for the simple reason that it does not want to tell us. China is on the horns of a dilemma.
On the one hand it wants to build up its gold reserves — from around 1,000 tonnes to 10,000, some say — but on the other hand it wants to avoid triggering a devaluation of the $3.14 trillion it holds in foreign exchange reserves. It wants to reduce its exposure to US dollar-denominated assets, yet at the same time it wants the value of those assets to be protected.
Investors may have fallen out of love with gold, but there is no shortage of counterparties ready to buy up physical gold. Far from damping down demand for gold coins, this year’s price fall has presented a price opportunity for numerous private buyers. Demand for South African Krugerrands and American Eagles has soared, while in India and China the demand for physical gold in the form of jewellery and bars continues to grow.
Indeed, India is importing so much gold (around 80 per cent of its current account deficit) that it has been toying with the idea of raising import duties on it. A third of the world’s annual retail demand comes from India, where gold is often bought during religious festivals, while China, the world’s largest producer, buys all its own production (about 361 tonnes per annum).
It is ten years since the first gold ETF was launched. Today, over 2,000 tonnes of physical gold are held in ETFs, making the ETF market the sixth largest holder of gold. Around 300 tonnes have flowed out of ETFs since the beginning of the year, a shake-out of nervous investors who had been nursing earlier profits. Gold still counts as sound collateral in a world of fiat currencies in economies seemingly hooked on quantitative easing.
Just as with the ‘peak oil’ theory, there is a "peak gold" theory. According to this, declining ore grades and rising production costs mean that annual gold production is unlikely to exceed the current level of 2,700 tonnes, and future demand will easily outstrip supply.
There is a precedent for believing this year’s gold sell-off is a correction rather than the bursting of a bubble. At one point during its upward trajectory in the Seventies, gold lost half its value, only to go on to increase in value by eight times thereafter.
Wherever one looks, and with certain exceptions such as coal, commodity prices seem to be going through a lull rather than an outright decline. One intriguing indicator that the game is not yet up is the fact that pension funds have stepped up their buying of commodities, believing them to be a compelling long-term, strategic play.
The Chinese economy will probably have a softer landing than some have predicted, with growth of around seven to eight per cent sufficient to guarantee rising prices. But the other key factor is the marginal cost of production. When mining companies are no longer able to afford the cost of extraction, supply dwindles and prices creep upwards.
Voters rate action to reduce household bills above tax cuts, wage rises, more affordable housing and more affordable childcare.
Labour knew that Ed Miliband's speech needed to contain an emblematic policy that would clearly show how the party intends to tackle the "cost of living crisis", but why did it choose to make a cap on energy prices the centrepiece? Simple; polls consistently showed that rising gas and electricity prices were voters' number one concern.
The graph below, cited by the Resolution Foundation's James Plunkett, is a particularly striking example. Voters rate action to reduce household bills above tax cuts, wage rises, welfare reform, job creation, more affordable housing and more affordable childcare.
As for the policy itself, one senior Labour strategist told me after the speech that focus group approval was "off the scale". It's this that explains why, in taking on the energy companies, Miliband is so confident that he has picked the right battle.
In contrast to Labour's legacy on international development, the Prime Minister has failed to put the work in to deliver radical change for developing countries.
This week the UN General Assembly is hosting a Special Event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which seeks to rally support to accelerate progress. It will also clarify the road ahead for the negotiations and agreement on what will replace the MDGs when they expire in 2015. With less than a thousand days to go, this is an important moment which will shape the future of global development.
By virtue of David Cameron's co-chairing of the UN High Level Panel on the post-2015 development framework and the G8 Presidency in 2013, the UK is exceptionally well placed to lead global policy in this area. But Cameron is proving time and time again that he is failing to provide this leadership. He will not attend the UN Special Event on the MDGs this week, nor did he show up for half of the panel meetings of which he was a co-chair. Despite warms words to the effect, the Prime Minister failed to put the work in to deliver radical change for developing countries at the G8 Summit earlier this year. He has also failed to articulate a credible, inspirational vision for development, his "Golden Thread" theory having been widely criticised as ill-defined.
Cameron's lack of commitment and leadership threatens to tarnish Britain's global reputation and stands in stark contrast to Labour's legacy on international development. In 2005, a Labour government used the G8 chairmanship at Gleneagles to increase aid by $50bn by 2010 and brokered ambitious commitments on debt relief and climate change. At the 2009 meeting of the UN General Assembly, Gordon Brown and Douglas Alexander led the push to tackle maternal and child mortality by negotiating deals with African leaders to scrap health user fees in Nepal, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Burundi. While Labour's leaders fought tirelessly to change the world, this Prime Minister doesn't even turn up for work. Worse still, Cameron reportedly blocked consensus on the inclusion of a goal on universal health care coverage in the High Level Panel's final recommendations.
Whilst in government Labour changed the world on international development and we are working still to make a difference from opposition. I have laid out our post-2015 vision for a new "social contract without borders" which brings together the world's poverty reduction and sustainability objectives.
At conference I announced that we are in the process of developing a centre-left progressive coalition of politicians who share Ed Miliband's vision that now is the time for radical change in the world, not tinkering at the edges. We favour big structural change on tax, trade, climate change and inequality as part of the new UN development framework to be adopted in 2015. We want to see an end to poverty by 2030 but also an end to aid dependency with new relationships between nations built on reciprocity and shared values.
In the months ahead, Ed Miliband and I will be working to build this coalition and the vision we share for the new development framework.I also announced that Tessa Jowell has launched a global petition calling on the UN Secretary General to ensure that a focus on early childhood development and a commitment to integrating the care, support and services to give a child the best start in life should be at the heart of any new global development framework that replaces the MDGs in 2015. We know from experience and evidence in the UK that investing in a child's earliest years makes the biggest difference to that child's life. If it is right for our children, then surely it should be right for some of the poorest children in the world.
The Special Event on the MDGs this week is more than just another international meeting; it provides the opportunity to build global consensus around a new, ambitious agreement on international development. It is about eradicating poverty, putting an end to the scourge of hunger and malnutrition, protecting our planet and ensuring every child reaches their full potential. It is about what kind of world we want to live in and what kind of world we want to leave our children. It is a shame that David Cameron doesn't see this potential and has squandered the opportunity for Britain to show real leadership on the world stage.
Ivan Lewis is shadow international development secretary
A first look at this week's cover.
Canadian artist Rosea Lake has seen her artwork appropriated by a far-right political group in Belgium and used to oppose 'Islamification'.
Rosea Lake's original artwork
When Canadian artist and graphic design student Rosea Lake released an artwork that criticised society’s view of women, she could have never guessed that it would go transatlantic. Even less likely was that in doing so, it would end up in the hands of a far-right political group in Belgium who would appropriate it, and then spearhead their campaign against 'Islamification’ with a xenophobic version.
While at university in 2012, Lake shared a piece online that she had created for a design project. It featured a woman’s legs and a skirt, with terms from ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ to ‘prudish’ and ‘matronly’ written at the appropriate measuring points. Almost immediately, the image went viral.
‘We measure women the same way we measure cylinders,’ she told The Huffington Post that year, in an interview that followed up her startling internet success (over 100,000 reblogs in 24 hours), ‘but no one says it because it’s mean.’ Clearly, terms like ‘asking for it’ – another example from the artwork – are meaner than stating the situation outright.
Fast forward a few short months, and Lake is now leading a Facebook campaign in support of ‘artists who have been ripped off everywhere’ following the unauthorised use of her image by Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest.) The group has a murky history, originating from a party (Vlaams Blok) that was effectively shut down by a court ruling in 2004 declaring it racist. Vlaams Belang is supposedly a less extreme version of its predecessor, which advocates strict limits on immigration and opposes multiculturalism.
Anke Vandermeersch, senator of the Vlaams Belang party and President of related group Women Against Islamification, apparently lent her own legs for a recreation of the image which uses the words ‘steniging’ (stoning) at the top, ‘gematigde Islam’ (moderate Islam) at the ankles, and the self-explanatory ‘Sharia-conform’ underneath the feet.
On the Women Against Islamification website, an article by Anke Vandermeersch states that the group are against ‘the authentication of mosques, the subsidisation of Muslim associations, Quran schools and mosques, the payment of imams, etc.’ She also warns, in the scaremongering tones so beloved of the far right, that ‘[i]f Europe does not strike back, the dire menace of Islamic colonisation will sooner [or] later become true.’ There is more than a trace of irony in the fact that Lake named her original artwork ‘Judgments’ (Vlaams Belang reimagined it as ‘Vrijheid of Islam? [freedom or Islam?]’)
Lake, who intended her original work to promote tolerance and discussion, says that she does not have the means to pursue legal action against Vlaams Belang or Anke Vandermeersch. In her original Tumblr post sharing her work, she wrote: ‘I used to assume that all women who wore Hijabs were being oppressed, slut-shame, and look down on and judge any woman who didn’t express her sexuality in a way that I found appropriate. I’d like to think I’m more open now.’ Sage advice that Vandermeersch and her compatriots would do well to follow themselves.
Meanwhile, Lake hopes to use the same social media tactics which made her artwork so successful in the first place to spread the word about Vlaams Belang’s underhanded tactics. Although financial compensation seems logistically impossible to guarantee, she considers it important from both a political and artistic perspective to raise awareness.
It remains to be seen whether the Vlaams Belang party or the Women Against Islamification project will pay her any attention – one of many debts which they owe her.
Were trade unions threatening to plunge the country into darkness, Cameron would be calling in the troops.
Ed Miliband's promise to fix energy bills for 20 months if Labour win the 2015 election will remove some of the pressure that ordinary people across the country feel every day. Households are already paying £2bn more for their gas and electricity after the last hikes in November 2012. Now the energy companies are looking to add another £1.4bn onto bills this coming winter. This has added £300 to the average bill in this parliament. This cannot go on.
Immediately after Ed’s announcement, the usual shouts came that this was "meddling in the free market". "Back to the seventies" and "you can't beat supply and demand" echoed on. Let us put aside the fact that the average yearly growth in the 1970s, 2.88%, is more than the economy has grown in total since Quarter 3 2010. The energy market in this country is not a free market, it is a racket. Six multinational companies dominate, and in much of the country choice is reduced still further. These companies are now threatening blackouts if their profits are in any way challenged by an elected government. Were this a trade union threatening to plunge the country into darkness, Mr Cameron would be calling in the troops. Yet when it is time to challenge a private cartel about that classic seventies question, “who runs Britain?” this government is silent.
Npower were first out of the traps on Tuesday, with their spokesman decrying these "easy answers", and that the "global market" would drive costs regardless of what they did. The biggest shareholders in Npower, or to give it its proper name Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk Npower plc, are a group of German towns and cities. In other words, the profits Npower extracts from the British people allow German municipalities to keep the rates down. The people of Middlesbrough are effectively paying rent to the people of Münster. It seems state intervention is acceptable when investing in your corporation, but bad when it seeks to limit your profits.
This confused attitude to the "free market" runs through all the "Big Six". Iberdrola, owners of Scottish Power, are kept liquid by €27bn in state backed loans and massive subsidies from the struggling Spanish government. Both Centrica and Scottish and Southern Electric are receiving over £50m each in subsidies just for wind power. E.On’s decision whether or not to build a new biomass generator in Bristol was not dependent upon ‘market forces’, but how much tax-payer money the Department for Energy and Climate Change would promise it.
Perhaps the greatest example of state interference however is Électricité de France, EdF, controlled by the French state. They are the company that we are turning to to build a new generation of nuclear power stations. Britain, which built the first commercial nuclear generator in the world at Calder Hall, must now wait on the whim of the French President.
Has it really come to this? That a country once the workshop of the world relies on the French to build its power stations? On the Danes to forge its turbines? On Norwegian gas to keep our lights on? Is Britain a ‘third world’ country that it has to beg for foreign investment to upgrade its infrastructure?
I welcome companies from all around the world who want to set up shop in Britain. This nation gains greatly from international firms bringing their skills and expertise here, and we are richer for it. Our membership of the European Union and good working relationship with our European neighbours is a key part of this attraction. But those meetings must always be as equals, not as supplicants.
The repeated refusal of the British state to back its own people has led to the basics of life; from water, to energy, to transport being sold off not to thousands of plucky entrepreneurs, but to American corporate titans, Chinese and Arab sovereign wealth funds, or the state-backed enterprises of our savvier European cousins. Rather than invest in our own youngsters, our own infrastructure, our own future, a small elite have skewed our economy not by accident, but by design. As Ed said on Tuesday, Britain can do better than this.
Andy McDonald is the Labour MP for Middlesbrough
Andrew Mitchell talks to Jemima Khan about the NHS, nicknames, and what life would be like if his preferred candidate had beaten David Cameron to the Tory leadership.
The facts we've all been subjected to, compiled for your viewing pleasure.
The long-suffering Sarah Vine has been revealing the innermost indulgences and divulgences of her husband, Michael Gove in her new Daily Mail column. Don't have the time or inclination to trawl the annals of the online right wing media? I've gathered the most succulent offerings for you below.
The over-share has become so severe a problem that even the Daily Mail has been horrified in the past (‘Oh Minister, what toe-curling secrets will your wife reveal about you next?’ asked one scandalised DM journalist.) That was before they even hired her to continue the tirade of uncomfortable truths - and in doing so, created a monster. A monster no doubt fed with a large amount of financial encouragement.