Ed Miliband tells Labour conference: We're the one-nation party


Ed Miliband's speech in full to the Labour Party conference

Ed Miliband has attempted to snatch the centre ground of British politics by declaring that Labour is now the "one-nation" party.

The phrase - normally associated with moderate Tories - was repeatedly used by the Labour leader as he roamed the conference stage at Manchester.

He spoke for more than an hour, without notes, in a highly personal speech that contained few new policies.

He vowed to unite the nation and lead it through tough economic times.

BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson described the speech as an "audacious" attempt to "steal a traditional Tory slogan" and "fill the space he believes has been vacated by David Cameron in the centre ground of British politics".

He said it was greeted by Labour activists in the hall with what seemed to be a sense of relief that they had chosen a leader who might yet take them to Downing Street.

During his 65-minute address to the packed hall, Mr Miliband invoked the spirit of the Olympics and World War Two as examples of what Britain can do when everyone pulls together, while criticising the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

'Change the medicine'

He got a standing ovation when he called Prime Minister David Cameron and the coalition government a "U-turning shower".

But he also went out of his way to court disillusioned Tory voters, telling them he understood why they had voted for Mr Cameron in 2010.

Start Quote

The aim of the speech was clear: to shift Labour into the middle ground of British politics, a space that Mr Miliband claims the Conservatives have vacated”

End Quote

He said Mr Cameron had let them down and he mounted a sustained attack on the coalition government's efforts to stimulate an economic recovery.

He said: "When David Cameron says to you 'Let's just carry on as we are and wait for something to turn up', don't believe him, don't believe him. If the medicine isn't working, change the medicine.

"And I tell you what else to change - change the doctor too, and that is what this country needs to do."

Mr Miliband said the country could not carry on as if it were, "as two nations, not one, the bankers and the rest of the country".

"We must have a one-nation banking system as part of a one-nation economy."

The Labour leader cited as his inspiration a former Conservative Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, who made a famous speech on One Nation Conservatism in Manchester's Free Trade Hall, now a luxury hotel opposite Labour's conference venue.

'Forgotten 50%'

He said Labour would not be able to reverse all of the coalition's spending cuts if it won the next election but promised a fairer approach to cuts and policies to promote growth.


  • Conservative politician Benjamin Disraeli is the UK's only Jewish prime minister, having served twice in the office in 1868 and between 1874 and 1880
  • A best-selling novelist, he was a favourite of Queen Victoria and was ennobled as the Earl of Beaconsfield in 1879
  • In a speech at the Manchester Free Hall in 1872, he said the "wellbeing" of all citizens, including the working classes, should be improved
  • Although he did not use the phrase "one nation" in the speech, he became widely associated with it and a particular brand of conservatism adopted by future prime ministers
  • Years earlier, in his novel Sybil, he had warned of the dangers of "two nations" where rich and poor lived on "different planets"

The speech contained few new policy announcements but Mr Miliband did unveil proposals for a new qualification - the technical baccalaureate - to be taken at 18.

This would transform the lives of the "forgotten" 50% of young people in England who do not go to university, the Labour leader said.

Mr Miliband, who praised the work of the police and armed forces, also talked about growing up as the son of Jewish refugees who fled the Nazis.

"My family hasn't sat under the same oak tree for the last 500 years," he said.

"I was born at my local NHS hospital, the same hospital where my two sons were born. And I went to my local school with people from all backgrounds.

"My school taught us a lot more than just how to pass exams: it taught people how to get on with each other, whoever they are and wherever they were from."

Mr Miliband declared that the next Labour government would reform education and apprenticeships - in partnership with business - to create a more highly skilled and highly paid workforce.

The new certificate would replace the dozens of existing vocational qualifications with a single "gold standard" exam, which would also include maths and English.

Labour would also reform apprenticeships, giving control of the £1bn budget for on-the-job training to business and allowing firms more of a say in setting the standards for vocational qualifications, he said.

'Labour isn't learning'

Start Quote

The extraordinary message in Ed Miliband's speech is that Labour now amounts to nothing more than a party of one nation Toryism”

End Quote Angus Robertson SNP

Mr Miliband also stressed that being a one-nation party meant fighting to preserve the United Kingdom in the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum - prompting scathing response from the Scottish National Party.

"The extraordinary message in Ed Miliband's speech is that Labour now amounts to nothing more than a party of one nation Toryism," said SNP MP Angus Robertson.

A Lib Dem spokesman said Mr Miliband had "attempted to airbrush out his and Labour's record in power".

"On taxes, youth unemployment and taking on vested interests, Liberal Democrats in the coalition government are delivering where Labour failed," he added.

Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps also accused Mr Miliband of failing to learn "from the mistakes that Labour made in office".

"Instead he failed to back our welfare cap, failed to back our immigration cap and still stands for more spending, more borrowing and more debt - exactly what got us into this mess in the first place. Sadly, Labour isn't learning."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    After being swept along (blindly!) by the enthusiasm of Blair and brought to my knees by the deception of Brown, I was hoping that Cameron had some substance and a plan. Alas not! Now hoping that maybe Labour can come to its senses around Ed Miliband. With this speech, it doesn't seem so. It looks like all politicians really are the same.

    Maybe still time for David Miliband?

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    They should all save time and money and have a liblabcon conference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    Can't see myself voting Tory, Labour, or LibDem at the next election. Not going to vote for a one issue fringe party either. Between them they have managed to destroy any interest I had in politics. They are all the same, the lot of them.

    I want to vote, having a say is important. But what do you do when all the choices are as bad as each other?

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    What Miliband should have admitted, is that the Labour Party is now, (and has been for some time), the "one nation" new Tory Party. An alternative, mass working party, is sorely needed. One that really represents ordinary people against the oppression of the rich and the powerful, and their puppet media machine. I don`t care what the enemies of that analysis think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Is it any wonder that voting levels seem to be decreasing when all the main parties act exactly the same with the only difference being them slagging each other off? The country has spent far too much in the past due to numerous governments and no one now can figure a way out of the ruin, neither tory, labour nor lib dem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Years ago kids who didn't go to Uni went into factories (boys) and shops, typists (girls). It worked. Now there are few factories and 'traditional' womens jobs are gone too(typing). The leader of Unite should remember this - high wage costs mean the jobs go abroad or just go altogether. Kids who don't go to Uni should not stay at school until 18 let them leave at 16 and create relevant jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    This party was in power during the period that I suffered the worst financial disaster in living memory coupled with overt policies that put me out of work..

    I am still suffering the consequences.

    Let's have level pegging. You are out of work and your next opportunity to find work is years away. Given your age, you are completely unemployable and should go away and rot.

    One Britain?

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    No surprise for Ed Milliband to go on the one-nation theme, after all: he is a tory.
    Isn't he just jumping on that ever-so-successful "We're all in this together" mantra of the other Tory party?

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    1 Minute Ago
    As a senior officer once said of a junior 'His men follow him merely out of curiosity',

    Or another said "He sets himself very low standards and continually fails to achieve them".

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    "ONE NATION PARTY", I find that kind of statement to be completely arrogant, no ONE party can and ever will represent everyone.

    It just shows how out of touch they still are to make a ridiculous statement like that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Mr Milliband, can you please tell us about the "Diploma" your last administration introduced in schools?
    How successful was it?
    What was the cost per pupil?
    Are employers hiring because of it?
    Before you spout off on new qualifications, I think you need to come clean.

    And for a start on tax, you can make sure a certain Mr Tony Blair pays 45% tax on ALL of his earnings. Then I might believe you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Labour have 1 policy which is to spend money and as much of it as they can on people who may vote for them. Unfortunately at the moment there isnt any money so they have little in the way of policy. The way Ed Milliband speak is so patronising its cringe worthy. The problem the Tories have is that they are useless and selling themselves to the electorate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Milliband spouts on about One Nation (blatently steeling a version of what the Conservatives say) and then in the same speech tells us all he is better than Cameron as he is not a toff with a privelidged background! So were one nation apart from those that went to Grammar school or had a private education, they are scum are they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Says he is going to help the "forgotten 50%" - those who don't go to university.

    Forgive me, but wasn't it the Labour Party that has banged on for 10 years 'go to university or you are a failure'???

    The result is that half the people going to uni shouldn't be there and are doing laughable degree courses that no employer wants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    If Ed Miliband is a Tory, then he is my favourite Tory.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    The triumph of the geek ? This geek is Labour party aristocracy who was able to enter Oxford with below standard A levels because of connections. He has never had a proper job except as tea boy to a mad Scotsman and now he tells us he is a one nation socialist . He's a nice Jewish boy from North London with Fatty Balls pulling all his strings . The union barons can smell the beer and sandwiches

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    One-Nation Party.. mmmmm has Ed not heard of Pauline Hansen from Ipswich, Australia and the One Nation Party. I would drop this strap line if I was him as the association will do him no good whatsoever. CLANG!! Or maybe we can look forward to Pauline joing the next Labour government here. She did try living here for a few months but found it too "diverse" so went back down under.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Milliband, Cameron and Clegg : white, male, Oxbridge graduates that look and sound the same.

    Nothing against those universities or their graduated per se but we need more variety at the top. A social worker from Hull, a manager from Leeds, a headteacher from Devon, a GP from Liverpool etc

    Or will it be Boris? Oxford graduate. Cameron's classmate...

    It's a club. A select club.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Hard to credibly call Labour a 'one nation' party when they are trying so hard to create a divide by chiding their Tory counter parts for being 'posh' - all in spite of the fact that there is little difference in either the background of the membership or the current substantial policies of either party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Ed Miliband is so Tory he doesn't even know it.


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