Labour Party Conference Bulletin 22 September 2014

24 September 2014, Blog

The party conference today has been dominated by Ed Miliband’s speech in which he has put forward his ten year plan for Great Britain.

The atmosphere is buoyant at conference but the Labour Leader still faces criticisms from within his own party, and outside, about whether he is suitable to be Prime Minister. However, it is far too late for those dissidents to act and the party appears to be united behind their man as we are eight months away from the General Election.

In general terms the Labour Party’s membership seem buoyant by recent polls and an increasing possibility that they can still win the General Election.

Miliband makes his pledge

Today at 2.30pm the Conference Hall was full. The over flow rooms were also at maximum capacity and a few intelligent Labour members had managed to find a local Irish pub that was showing the speech. This was the greatest level of interest in a Labour Party leadership speech in recent year and certainly the biggest speech of Ed Miliband’s political career.

He also took the opportunity to discuss Scotland and raised his concerns about the current state of the United Kingdom. He said that we “nearly broke up” and more must be done to fix this relationship. Yet again he targeted the Prime Minister, David Cameron, when he said that he was more focused on battling UKIP than actually focusing on the interests of the United Kingdom. He also congratulated the Former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and Former Chancellor, Alistair Darling, for all of the work that they had done during the Scottish Referendum. He announced that the Labour Party would lower the voting age to 16, something which Alex Salmond had been very vocal about previously and the referendum saw 16 year olds participate in the vote. Ed took another swipe at David Cameron and it has become apparent that he disagrees with some the Prime Minister’s view about Scottish MPs voting in Westminster. This is because David Cameron had said that English MPs should decide English law when Scotland has devo max.

Mr Miliband outlined his six priorities for Government and said that it would require ten years for him to make these changes. Some observers were amused that Mr MIliband’s speech was calling for two terms before he had even won one.

The first of these was to increase the number of people doing apprenticeships so that it was equal to the number of young people going to universities. Blair’s proclamation that one in two young people should attend university seems a long sound bite away . His next declaration was that Labour would tackle the cost of living crisis. Whilst he accepts that there has been economic growth he still feels that a large number of people within society are being left behind.

The third priority was around home ownership and increasing the number of young people who have access to the market. He said that the Labour Party would increase the number of properties being built so that they would be able to meet demand.

His fourth priority was to tackle low wages by increasing the minimum wage to £8 by 2020. He announced that if he were Prime Minister he would halve the number of people on low pay in the  United Kingdom, this would benefit over 2 million people.

He declared that a Labour Government would make the green industries in the UK number one in the world and create 1 million jobs within the sector.

However, the crowd did become more active and applaud when he finally got around to discussing the NHS and his proposed changes. This was the final priority and the Labour Leader promised to protect the NHS that his party created. These would see an increase in the number of NHS personnel by 20,000 nurses, 8,000 GPs, 5,000 careworkers 3,000 midwives by 2020.  This would be funded through the mansion tax and a tax on tobacco companies. The amount of investment would be £2.5bn and would be channelled through the “Time to Care Fund” which has been set-up to reduce the amount of burden currently placed upon NHS staff.

It is becoming clear that the May 2015 General Election campaign has started and it will certainly be an aggressive and ferocious matter. Miliband’s pledge on the NHS does create a dividing line between Labour and the Tories, whom he feels are putting the future of the NHS at serious risk.

Social media wasn’t particularly complimentary about the Labour Leader’s speech. He was attacked by a number of users for the frequency in which he used the word “together” and “friend”. Social media can certainly be harsh and I suspect Mr Miliband certainly won’t be searching online this evening.

He was also lambasted for the number of time he discussed talking to members of the public and how they influenced his policy. The biggest element of humour was the decision to make reference to somebody called Gareth who was struggling to get on the housing market.

It was very impressive that Ed Miliband was able to deliver the speech without notes. However, it has since been noted that he forgot to mention the sections on immigration and the deficit. This has been confirmed as the full speech, provided by the Labour Party, was available on the New Statesman website and includes a section on immigration and the deficit. Conservatives were initially very critical that he failed to mention the deficit….I am sure David Cameron will be making sure he doesn’t make the same mistake next week.

The Fringe Events

Amidst the hype of Mr Miliband’s speech there have also been a number of fringe events going on today.City UK and Reform jointly hosted a fringe debate called “Finance the future: Business done differently under a Labour Government”. The panellists, who included Shadow Treasury Minister, Cathy Jamieson, argued that it was important to rebuild a “social contract” between financial services and society.

Following on from Mr Miliband’s apprenticeship announcement the UK Youth, CIPD and Young Enterprise hosted an event “Do young people lack the skills to succeed in the labour market?”  The groups called for greater career advice for young people, which will assist Britain in having a strong and effective workload for the future generations.

The British Computer Society also held an event where Shadow Business Minister, Chi Onwurah, announced that data privacy and sharing would be a key issue for the Labour Party  in the next Parliament.

What’s happening tomorrow

Tomorrow will kick off with Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, discussing health and social care. This is likely to include further information about Ed Miliband’s announcements today. This will take place at 10.30. It is then followed by a speech from Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Sadiq Khan, and Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, about stronger safer communities.

The conference will close with a General Election Report from Shadow Foreign Secretary and Labour’s Chief of Strategy, Douglas Alexander, and a closing speech from Deputy Labour Leader, Harriet Harman….who knows the next time that she speaks at conference she could be the Deputy Prime Minister.

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