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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  • Comment number 1430.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1429.

    Duplicitous attempt to reposition Labour from their unpopular policies on devolution and multiculturalism. But the damage has already been done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1428.

    #1421 crap.....its like saying we were 2-0 up with 10 mins to go and lost 3-2..... because we had a bad goalie.....so after 11 years why were not the casino bankers stopped?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1427.

    Decent suit, his tailor should take some credit for the performance. End

  • rate this

    Comment number 1426.

    Bla Blar Blair
    If we don't wake up and stop flip flop voting between two equally vacuous and useless parties, we will finally destroy ourselves. The present Three stooges that “lead” the parties are wet behind the ears, clones.
    Don't vote for them, it only encourages them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1425.

    1421. Name Number 6
    1419. organum

    They just airbrushed out 13 years of mostly disastrous policies
    Actually 11 good years of growth until the casino bankers messed it up for everyone
    11 years is quite a run of luck in the casino, but everybody's luck runs out in the end - that's why it's called gambling - and all the time they were telling us to invest for our future!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1424.

    APOLOGY. In the past with phrases such as; 'who is he?', 'People think his brother is better.' and 'I can't make out a word he's saying.' We've given the impression that Ed Miliband is frankly not very good and a bit of a lightweight. After his unifying one nation speech we now recognise he is The Greatest Orator of the age. Leading some to call him the 'British Obama' and the 'new John Kennedy'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1423.

    to avoid the disaster of a milliband government ,with more mass immigration, the tories need to listen to UKIP urgently.....Ukip will split the tory vote...dont listen.... and we have the prospect of a miliband government which will wreak even more havoc on this depressed country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1422.

    Labour 'now the one-nation party'
    .... headline comes across as a statement of fact?

    Labour 'now the one-nation party' - claims Miliband
    .... would be an impartial reporting of the news!

    Dear BBC, you only have yourselves to blame for political bias with this sort of sloppy language.

    If you were to be tested, would 77% of you fail a Use of English exam?
    .... probability, quite high!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1421.

    1419. organum

    They just airbrushed out 13 years of mostly disastrous policies.
    Actually 11 good years of growth until the casino bankers messed it up for everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1420.

    Then judgeandjury, I apologize I did not scrolled so deep to see that captainalishah's post, but I agree with you he not right. For me culture is more than religion or believe system. "Culture bond" is a behavioral group sympathy for example: have the same sense of humor, share the same moral, same problems, same dreams (expectations), etc...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1419.

    It's always the same. Labour get elected, spend more money than we have, and the county has to be rescued again by unpopular policies.

    They just airbrushed out 13 years of mostly disastrous policies.

    Sadly the electorate has short memories.

  • Comment number 1418.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1417.

    For me, the speech just brought back memories of Neil Kinnock trying to be trendy at the 1992 conference. It's painful to think that politicians feel that they have to show the voters character traits that they just don't possess. As a 45 year old, self employed man without children, maybe I'm just more interested in giving to than taking from this wonderful country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1416.

    Immigration, Non Christians? Culture equals Religion ? As far as I can see nobody was talking about religion until your post, at least for me. I don't want start a psychoanalysis session on how people construct their own perception of the reality but as a deist, sounds like Stradivarius into my ears because its just reinforce my thesis that religion is a anthropological phenomena often used by ..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1415.

    I wish I had time to dream the dream ED, it will be more of nightmare, more divided, more what if, lets face it you and your colleagues couldn't get it right in 13 years. So carry on dreaming the dream and you will then start believing what you say!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1414.

    Labour is nothing, nothing special either; but Labour will win the next election guaranteed.

    People are blaming the Tories for the cuts, cuts they have been forced to make thanks to Labour; and the LibDems have shown themselves to be hypocrites and falling over the Tories. People think any vote other than these three parties is a "wasted vote", and so Labour will win.

    It's not rocket science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1413.

    Whenever I hear politicians giving speeches containing the usual self agrandizement and vague promises of Utopia it automatically triggers my brain to recall the Blairs manifesto skit from Monkey Dust. I would love to know how the double 'Eded MilliBalls - plan to get us out of this mess they were / are complicit in creating

  • rate this

    Comment number 1412.

    1402. judgeandjury

    Major immigration to the UK has been from Eastern European countries, not from any non christian country, so before you cave in the phobia of bashing,it will be of great help to you to get some of your information right....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1411.

    The majority praising Millilbland for this speech seem to talk about his delivery, poise, improvement etc, but there was no substance. Just Labour saying anything catchy-sounding in an attempt to fool Joe-Public into letting them back to waste more of OUR money (again). Who cares that he's one of the people, I'd be embarassed if he represented us on the world stage.


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