One Nation Labour will reach out to voters alienated in the 80s and resist vested interests, party leader will tell Fabian Society
Ed Miliband is to set himself apart from old and New Labour when he declares that both strands in his party’s postwar history have lost relevance in 21st-century Britain.
In his first speech of the new year, Miliband will say his new one nation Labour will reach out to voters alienated by the party in the 1980s while standing up to the vested interests courted by the party in government over the past decade.
“New Labour rightly broke from old Labour and celebrated the power of private enterprise to energise our country,” Miliband will tell the Fabian Society on Saturday. “New Labour, unlike old Labour, pioneered the idea of rights and responsibilities. From crime to welfare to antisocial behaviour, New Labour was clear that we owe duties to each other as citizens.”
But Miliband will say that New Labour, which was famously launched with a “prawn cocktail” charm offensive in the City of London, failed to stand up to big businesses. He will say: “By the time we left office, too many of the people of Britain didn’t feel as if the Labour party was open to their influence, or listening to them.”
The Labour leader sees this speech as a chance to show that his address to the Labour conference last year, in which he first spoke of creating a one nation party, was not just a simple political slogan.
He regards it as a coherent political project which will achieve two broad goals: give an honest account of the party’s past and set out a governing framework for the economy, society and politics.
On the economy, Miliband believes a Labour government would provide greater opportunities than the Tories and New Labour, which “skewed the system to the powerful few”, in the words of one source.
Miliband believes his society theme highlights his determination to focus on greater responsibility from top to bottom, with bankers expected to show restraint in remuneration and responsibility in lending, and welfare recipients expected to seek work.
On the politics theme, Miliband will also focus on empowerment – helping people to feel involved and appreciated.
One example is on immigration, as Miliband makes clear that people should feel free within certain bounds to voice concerns.
He will distance himself from his mentor, Gordon Brown, who famously described the Rochdale pensioner Gillian Duffy as a “bigoted woman” after she raised concerns with the then PM about immigration during the election.
Miliband will say: “I bow to nobody in my celebration of the multi-ethnic, diverse nature of Britain. But high levels of migration were having huge effects on the lives of people in Britain – and too often those in power seemed not to accept this. The fact that they didn’t explains partly why people turned against us in the last general election.”
Miliband will also say that his new approach stands in stark contrast to what is described as the government’s “old trickle-down divisive ideology” in which taxes are cut for the rich while benefits for the poor rise below the rate of inflation.
He will say: “Can David Cameron answer this call for one nation? This week shows yet again why he can’t. At the Ronseal relaunch, all we saw was an empty tin with no vision for the future of our country and an attempt to divide the country between scroungers and strivers.”