Thank you for the invitation to address you. It is always a privilege to address such an influential meeting of trade unionists and socialists.
We are a few days away from the major TUC demonstration on October 20th. It is important we make this a big success.
The Coalition Government will only be pushed off course by a massive opposition movement.
Cameron has said that there will be no change in the Government’s course. He wants to make a virtue out of consistency, rather than admitting failure. If you recall, austerity was going to be good for us because it would:
- Return the economy to growth
- Lead to a march of the manufacturers
- Increase private investment to cover public sector cuts
- And reduce the public sector spending deficit.
But by all of these measures, the Government has failed:
- Far from expanding the economy, it has gone back into recession – down 0.6% since the Spending Review.
- Manufacturers are not marching - they are stagnating along with the rest of the economy.
- Far from a boost to private investment, we see a strike by private investors.
- Far from a shrinking public deficit, it is growing – 9 billion pounds higher, so far, this financial year – compared to last year.
The major disaster is the economy, but the failure of the Government to change course is disastrous too.
There are some things which we can immediately take heart from .
The collapse of the deal between the Coalition partners on the reform of the constituencies and the House of Lords is encouraging.
It now seems very likely that the Government will not serve its full term.
It is also most likely – and the bookies agree on this - that the next Government will be a Labour Government.
With the opinion polls turning our way, I cannot understand why some in our ranks now want to turn towards to the Liberal Democrats.
We have the prospect of a majority Labour Government.
The electorate need to know that we are confident it will make a positive difference to their lives.
The Lib Dems are today making the Coalition Government viable. They provide the alibis, while the Tories commit the crimes.
Come the General Election, both parties will take a hit for this rotten Coalition.
Now we must concentrate on explaining our alternative. This must be understood as a fundamental difference - not some seamless transition from one Coalition to another.
Should we fail to get a majority, then we would consider our attitude to the Lib Dems. But that would be the result of our failure. We must not prepare for failure now.
Our aim is a Labour victory – no ifs or buts.
For our alternative, the TUC adopted a very good starting point.
Congress agreed that the banks already in majority Government ownership - particularly RBS - should be directed by the Government towards supporting growth, by increasing lending to promote investment.
Congress went so far as to call for the nationalisation of the entire financial sector.
Certainly a publicly owned banking service would allow real investment in the future of our country - offering an end to the scourges of unemployment, housing shortages and declining public services.
Clearly the Labour leadership is someway yet from drawing the same conclusions on economic policy.
The 5 points of the Party for immediate action were good enough. But the economy has taken a further turn for the worse since these were formulated.
Ed Balls today announced some additional encouraging measures - particularly a further expansion of housing.
He had made a break through with his Bloomberg speech in 2010, which correctly predicted the disastrous outcome of austerity during a recession.
We still need a “Bloomberg 2” where he outlines how Labour will return the economy to sustained growth.
One policy that is completely unacceptable is the suggestion that wage rises threaten employment.
We are then urged to accept a wage freeze , or wage cuts, as a way of defending jobs.
Over 200 years of our own history shows that lifting living standards is a way towards security of employment.
Or just look at the impact of austerity across Europe today.
The constant barrages of cuts in countries like Greece and Ireland are making employment ever less secure.
The countries with the best relative wages - Germany and the Nordic countries - also have the best regulated labour markets with the greatest security of employment.
The reality is that employment is dependent upon economic expansion. Recession and stagnation create unemployment.
If we want to see more jobs then we have to have economic expansion through a Government led investment programme.
Labour’s position in the polls is very encouraging but this must be consolidated outlining a narrative which restores a sense of hope to the electorate.
Ed Miliband positioned the issue nicely when he spoke of the breach of the national promise to young people that their living standards would be higher than their parents.
What follows then is how will Labour restore the promise.
I think that Labour has to show that by investing in the economy it is able to educate, employ and house the next generation.
Such an approach will reach across the different age group of voters. Not just the young, but also their parents and grandparents want to see opportunities again for the young.
This is a challenge which a majority Labour Government can and will honour, if the whole of the Labour movement pushes it to.
Thanks for listening