‘Britain can do better’, Miliband tells Labour conference
Opposition leader promises tax breaks for small business by cancelling corporation tax cut
Britain’s opposition Labour party leader Ed Miliband delivers his speech at the annual Labour party conference in Brighton. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
British Labour leader Ed Miliband promised today to help businesses and families cope with the rising cost of living, as he said his mantra was that “Britain can do better than this”
In his keynote speech to Labour’s annual conference in Brighton today, Mr Miliband compared his mantra with the emotion that had powered Britain out of the Second World War under a reforming Labour government.
“A feeling that is so threatening to those who want to keep things as they are, words that are so basic and yet so powerful, so modest and yet so hard to believe.
“Six little words that say: Britain can do better than this. We are Britain, we can do better than this.”
“Are you satisfied with a country where people are working harder, for longer , for less?” he asked — a country which was “divided, losing touch with the things we value the most”, which “shuts out the voices of millions of ordinary people and listens only to the powerful ” and is “standing apart as two nations”. He said: “I’m not satisfied.”
Mr Miliband said Labour wanted “an economy built on your success, a society based on your values, a politics that hears your voice. Rich and poor alike, accepting their responsibilities to each other. One Nation — we are going to make it happen and today I’m going to tell you how.”
The Labour leader promised an £800 million (€950m) tax break for small businesses, and revealed he is planning a new generation of new towns and garden cities in England to ease the housing shortage.
He announced that he will pay for reductions in small business rates by cancelling a planned 1 per cent reduction in corporation tax scheduled for 2015.
Mr Miliband said the link between national economic growth and individual household prosperity has been “broken” by the coalition Government, with the proceeds of recovery largely going to a “privileged few”.
Borrowing a slogan from Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 bid for the US presidency, Mr Miliband said that at the 2015 general election, voters should ask themselves: “Am I better off now than I was five years ago?”
He said he wanted to claim the mantle of “the party of small business” for Labour, and pledged that if he wins power, his first act will be to reverse a hike in small business rates due in April 2015 and to freeze the levy the following year.
The move will be paid for by scrapping the coalition’s planned cut in corporation tax from 21 per cent to 20 per cent.
Speaking without notes, Mr Miliband accused the Conservatives of pursuing a “race to the bottom”, in which prosperity for a few is bought at the cost of worsening wages, conditions and workplace rights for the majority of workers.
Labour would instead offer “a race to the top”, with support for small firms to become the wealth and job creators of the future.
He said that he had shown leadership in running against his brother for Labour’s top job, in standing up to media mogul Rupert Murdoch and in opposing the Government’s attempt to secure parliamentary approval for UK involvement in military action in Syria.
Mr Miliband said: “Leadership is about risks and difficult decisions. It’s about those lonely moments when you have to peer deep into your soul.” The leadership contest was “really hard for my family, but I believed that Labour needed to turn a page and I was the best person to do it”, he said.
On standing up to Mr Murdoch, he said “it hadn’t been done in the past, but it was the right thing to do, so I did it”.
And on Syria, he said: “It would have been a rush to war, it wasn’t the right thing for our country, so I said No. It was the right thing to do.”