Labour’s UK leader Ed Miliband spoke in Clydebank this morning and set out why a Labour government redistributing wealth across the UK is the only route out of Tory austerity.
It is great to be here in Clydebank, home of the shipbuilding industry that made Scotland strong, and home of the people who built our movement. And it is great to be here with Gemma Doyle and of course our brilliant and tireless Scottish Leader Jim Murphy.
We are just six and a half weeks from the general election. It is going to be one of the hardest fought election campaigns any of us have ever seen. But we are up for this fight.
Not a fight for ourselves but a fight for the people of Scotland. A fight for the values we believe in. A fight to change Scotland with a Labour government. And a fight to get rid of a rotten, unfair, discredited, Tory government.
I know the people of Scotland want change. People want change because they know the economy doesn’t work for them. They want change because they know politics doesn’t hear their voice. They want change because they know our society is unfair and unequal. They want change because of the injustice and the inequality they see all around us.
And between now and the general election we will show to the people of Britain, the people of Scotland, that it is this party, not the Tories, not the Liberal Democrats, and not the SNP, that can bring that change.
I am here to say: in 6 and a half weeks, if you choose us, the next Labour government will deliver the change Scotland needs. That’s what this general election in Scotland and right across Britain is about. A better plan for a better future. And that’s what I want to set out today.
Our plan is based on our core beliefs. The beliefs that led me to join the Labour Party nearly 30 years ago. The beliefs that led me to run for the Labour leadership. My belief in greater equality. Of income. Of wealth. And of power.
And at this election, our plan gives expression to those beliefs. An economy that works for all. A politics where everyone’s voice is heard. A society based on the common good.
This means I believe some simple truths:
- Everyone’s hard work should be rewarded, not just those on the six figure bonuses. So we will raise the minimum wage to more than £8 an hour.
- Everyone deserves security at work and no-one should have to endure Victorian working conditions in the 21st century. So we will ban exploitative zero hours contracts and if you do regular hours, with a Labour government, you will get a regular contract not a zero hours contract.
- Every powerful interest should be held to account, and no-one whoever they are should be able to rip people off. So we will freeze energy bills until 2017 so they can only fall and cannot rise, and give the energy regulator the power and the mandate to cut bills this winter.
And in place of the unfair and regressive taxation of the Tories we will have fair taxes:
- A 10p starting rate of tax to save money for working families.
- A Mansion Tax to fund a thousand nurses here in Scotland.
- An end to tax avoidance by the hedge funds, the tax havens and an end to big companies doing sweetheart deals with HMRC.
- A bank bonus tax to put young people back to work.
- And an end to the cruel, vindictive Bedroom Tax in every corner of the UK.
An economy which works for all and a politics that brings power closer to people.
So we will deliver a Home Rule Bill for Scotland in our first Queen’s Speech. More powers over social security benefits, over jobs, and over income tax. The Vow delivered, on time and in full by a Labour Government. And democratic change doesn’t stop there.
We want to do what should have been done a long time ago. We will abolish the House of Lords, and replace it with a new Senate of the Nations and Regions.
And we will deliver a country where our public services are there for everyone when they need them, not one where the very fabric of our country is undermined.
That is what I mean by the common good: the services we all rely on, that we pay for through taxation, across the United Kingdom. These are not simply services we consume they are the rock of stability, decency and solidarity on which all working people stand. And they are on the ballot paper at this election. And today let me explain why.
Tory austerity makes it harder for us to educate the young. Tory austerity makes life more insecure for the old. Tory austerity undermines our NHS and our vital public services in every single part of the United Kingdom.
So we will put paid once and for all to Tory austerity with a Labour Government.
Ending Tory austerity means making a fundamental break from this Tory government and their ideas. A fundamental break from their deadly cocktail of extreme spending cuts and unfair taxes from George Osborne.
If you ever had any doubt about why it’s necessary just look at last week’s Tory Budget. Because for all of the spin and all of the warm words from George Osborne, what did we see? Tory austerity revealed in tooth and claw.
According to the official Office of Budget Responsibility, deeper and more savage cuts in the next two years than at any time in this government. Hacking back our services to the very bone. After all the pain of these last five years, under the Tories there is worse to come.
And what drives this Tory austerity isn’t just a political strategy or a different economic policy. It is a fundamentally different set of values. George Osborne is cutting not because he has to, but because he wants to.
These Tories have their own vision. They believe that wealth comes just from a few at the top. Because they believe in a smaller state. The market left to run riot and working people left to fend for themselves.
That’s why they’ve got these extreme plans to reduce public spending even if it puts our NHS at risk. And that’s why we will be voting against the Tory Budget tonight.
And the pain won’t just come through the cuts, but through their tax plans. The Tories will always try to let those at the top off the hook and place the burden on ordinary families. We saw it with their millionaires’ tax cut. £43,000 to every single millionaire in the country. We saw it when they stood idly by when it comes to tax avoidance and tax evasion too. And we’ve seen it too on VAT.
Remember before the last election? They said they had “no plans to raise VAT”. And they then did just that. They said they wanted taxes to come down. And they’ve gone up by the equivalent of 8p on the basic rate of income tax.
There have been 24 Tory tax rises since 2010. It is that kind of unfairness which tells you all you need to know. It is time to get rid of these Tories. It is time to put an end to their extreme plans. It is time for a Labour Government.
A Better Plan
Of course we know we do need to bring the deficit down. But our plan is fundamentally different from the Tories’. It is different in its goals, in its approach and in its values.
Different in goals because we want to balance the books and invest in our future, not to cut back spending regardless. Different in approach because we know you can only cut the deficit if you combine a stronger economy with higher living standards, fair taxes, and spending restraint. Different in values because we want a government that supports working people, not a government that cuts back to the bone.
So our better plan starts with a tough but balanced approach to balancing our country’s books. We will cut the deficit, every single year. We will get the national debt falling. And we will balance the books as soon as possible in the next Parliament.
What we won’t do is what this Tory Government wants to do. Which is not simply balance the books, but go a lot further, irrespective of the impact on public services.
We also differ in our approach to get the deficit down. What is the lesson of the Tory failure? David Cameron promised five years ago he would balance the books. He’s made the cuts but he hasn’t cut the deficit as he promised. And why? Because he’s never understood the fundamental lesson that your economic strategy must support your deficit reduction plan.
You can only pay down the deficit, when you have an economy with higher living standards. We can’t succeed as a nation with low skill, insecure jobs. People don’t make enough money. And tax revenues go down.
That’s what’s happened.
But when people have well-paid, secure jobs and earn good wages – wages that rise year after year – that enables us to pay down the deficit. And that is what we will do.
And to pay down the deficit it also means that those with the broadest shoulders should bear the greatest burden. It’s why we will restore the 50p rate of tax so that millionaires pay their fair share. It’s why we will clamp down on tax avoidance. And we will make fair choices not unfair choices.
And we will combine that with commonsense reductions in spending outside protected areas. But we will protect key services like health and education.
And Scotland will get its fair share from the fair tax decisions we will make, like the mansion tax, the bank levy and changes to pension tax relief for the highest earners.
So our plan is built on an economy that works for working people. Born of the fact that Labour has different values and different goals. We believe in a more fair, more just and more equal society. For Scotland and all across the United Kingdom. Improving people’s living standards. Protecting our public services. At the same time as we bring the deficit down.
Now, of course, Nicola Sturgeon also says she opposes Tory austerity. She says that the SNP could balance the books and move on from the Tories’ plan. But Nicola Sturgeon is wrong for a very simple reason.
Because the SNP are committed to the idea of full fiscal autonomy.
Only Scottish taxes will be able to fund Scottish spending. That means the SNP fight this election still proposing to end the sharing of resources across the United Kingdom. They’re campaigning for end of the Barnett formula. Replacing it with reliance on risky and unpredictable oil revenues. Revenues which even Nicola Sturgeon now admits are astonishingly hard to predict.
But that has real consequences for Scotland. Because fiscal autonomy would make it impossible for Scotland to end Tory austerity. Worse than that it would extend it. New figures recently published by the Scottish Government show it would mean huge cuts to the funding of health, education and policing. In total on the basis of the budget, £7.6 billion lost to the people of Scotland.
So the SNP’s proposals for fiscal autonomy would cost Scotland billions. Money that would have to come from cuts to the fundamental public services on which all the people of Scotland rely. Or from new taxes on working people.
And this is the contrast. While the SNP want to end redistribution across the UK, we want to enhance it. A UK-wide mansion tax to pay for more staff for our NHS. A bankers’ bonus tax to help young people get into work. A rise in the top rate of income tax.
That is why only Labour can bring the progressive change that Scotland and Britain needs.
Friends, we are facing the tightest general election in generations. Every vote in this election that might allow the Tories to be the largest party is a vote for Tory austerity to continue.
Because these Tories don’t need a majority. They will do anything they can to remain in power. And Scotland cannot take that risk.
I know there has been much talk of coalitions in recent weeks. There isn’t going to be a coalition between Labour and the SNP after the election. There is only one coalition we want. A coalition with working people across Britain to change who our economy works for. And the way to achieve that is with a majority Labour government.
We want a country run on the truth that when working people succeed, Scotland succeeds. And at this election when you go out on the doorstep and people ask you the difference between a Labour Government and a Tory Government let’s tell them.
Hard work rewarded. Young people put back to work. The exploitation of zero hours contracts banned. The health service properly funded. Time called on tax avoidance. The richest paying their fair share. The bedroom tax abolished.
That’s the difference between a Labour Government and a Tory Government. All based on a different set of values. Values that are part of Scotland’s DNA. Fairness. Social justice. Equality.
Scotland cannot afford another five years of the Tories. On May 7, only a vote for Labour can secure the change we need. A better plan. For a better future.
Let’s go out and change Scotland. Let’s go out and end Tory austerity. Let’s go out and make Britain work for working people once again.