UK Needs Growth Not Just Austerity: Opposition Leader

The UK needs a new economic plan for the 21st century that rewards the real wealth creators and not just "predators who are just interested in the fast buck", the Labour party leader - the UK’s main opposition party - Ed Miliband said on Tuesday.

Ed Miliband, UK Labour party leader
Photo: Offriorob
Ed Miliband, UK Labour party leader

Speaking to his party’s annual conference in Liverpool, the Labour leader attacked the coalition government’s austerity plan saying the current government’s policy was making things worse for the UK economy.

The coalition government has in recent months come under attack for failing to stimulate growth in the UK economy, but finance minister George Osborne has vowed to stay the course on the government’s austerity measures pointing out that most other European nations have adopted the same policy.

But the Labour leader called for a new era of wealth creation saying it was not possible for the country to spend its way towards economic recovery.

Miliband also attacked those he described “asset strippers” among whom he counted private equity firms.

"Look at what a private equity firm did to the Southern Cross care homes. Stripping assets for a quick buck and treating tens of thousands of elderly people like commodities to be bought and sold," he told delegates.

“They may not have sold their own grandmothers for a fast buck. But they certainly sold yours.”

The Labour leader said Britain could not spend its way out of trouble adding: “We can’t pay our way unless as a country we invent things, make things, and sell real services and products,."

“Britain’s future will be built not on credit default swaps but on creative industries. Not low wages and high finance, but low carbon and high tech. Not financial engineering, but real engineering,” he added.

He also accused the Conservative party of failing to understand which people really brough wealth into the UK economy.

“They [the Conservative party] talk as if the CEOs and the executives are the only people who create wealth. Of course great business leaders make a huge difference to our country, and I applaud them. But the small businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy are also the wealth creators,” he said.

However, he steered clear of all out attack on the banking industry telling voters financial services were still important to Britain but that they must change and “become part of the solution to our economic future.”

The Labour leader admitted the party would not be able to reverse many of the cuts the coalition government had made if it returned to power in 2015.

He added: “And let me tell you, if this government fails to deal with the deficit in this Parliament, we are determined to do so.”

The Labour leader also apologized for the party’s mistakes in government acknowledging it had “lost trust on the economy.”

“Under my leadership, we will regain that trust. I am determined to prove to you that the next Labour government will only spend what it can afford. That we will live within our means. That we will manage your money properly,” he said.

The Labour leader’s speech came on the first anniversary of his narrow defeat of his brother, the former foreign secretary David Miiband, in the Labour leadership election following its defeat at the general election in May 2010.

It also came as a new opinion poll published by The Independent newspaper showed Labour failing behind the Conservative party for the first time in nearly a year. The ComeRes poll for the newspaper put the Conservative party on 37 percent of the vote, Labour on 36 percent, the Liberal Democrats on 12 percent and other political partys on 15 percent. Were there to be a general election tomorrow Labour would be 12 seats short of an overall majority in parliament.

Billed by some in the press as a make or break speech, party insiders said it would aim to set out the Labour leaders values rather than set out any firm policies.

So it was in his speech. “So people need to know where I stand,” Miliband said. “I’m not Tony Blair. I’m not Gordon Brown either. Great men, who in their different ways, achieved great things."

"I’m my own man. And I’m going to do things my own way. That is what it means to lead and I know this. Nobody ever changed things on the basis of consensus, or wanting to be liked or not taking risks or keeping your head down.”

And he launched personal attacks on both Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and the prime minister David Cameron.

Mocking the Lib Dem leader he told delegates constituency boundary changes proposed by the Electoral Commission would mean Nick Clegg’s constituency would be represented in the future by a Conservative MP “So there’s no change there then,” he added.

But it was for the prime minister that the Labour leader reserved his angriest comments.

“When I look at everything this Tory [Conservative] government is doing, it is the NHS that shocks me most,” Miliband said.

“David Cameron knew the British people did not trust the Tories with our NHS. So he told us he wasn’t the usual type of Tory. And he asked for your trust. And then he got into Downing Street. And within a year – within a year – he’d gone back on every word he’d said.

“Hospitals to be fined millions of pounds if they break the rules of David Cameron’s free-market healthcare system. The old values that have failed our economy now being imported to our most prized institution: the NHS,” he added.

“Let me tell David Cameron this. It’s the oldest truth in politics. He knows it and now the public know it. You can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”