by Tim Lezard Unions have given their verdict to this afternoon’s speech by Labour leader Ed Miliband. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This was a speech that spoke to the real problems and worries of working people – jobs, living standards …

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, UCATT, UK unions, Unison, Unite,

Ed Milibandby Tim Lezard

Unions have given their verdict to this afternoon’s speech by Labour leader Ed Miliband.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This was a speech that spoke to the real problems and worries of working people – jobs, living standards, homes and a secure future for the NHS. Its policy agenda, genuinely ambitious but believable, is exactly the way to reconnect politics to voters.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Ed Miliband’s speech today gave a clear message of hope to the millions of people who have suffered under the cruel economic and social policies of the coalition since it came to power in 2010.

“He was right to stress that the damage done by Tories and their Liberal Democrat allies to the fabric of society will take many years to repair.

“He pinpointed the fundamental difference between the Tories and the Labour party – that under the Tories you are on your own in a frightening world, but with Labour you are not alone, but a member of a society which is committed to a better and fairer world for all. Voters have a crystal clear choice next May.

“The damage wrought by this government has been so immense, whether it is to the NHS, our manufacturing capacity, the moribund house building programme or to the lives of millions who have had to bear the brunt of the austerity measures of this government, while the rich and powerful have been let off the leash by David Cameron and George Osborne.

“He outlined a vision of fairness to help those without work and those being abused by the zero hours contract culture. He gave hope to those increasingly worried about the soaring waiting NHS lists and what’s going to happen to Aneurin Bevan’s creation, if the speculators of the private healthcare industry take over.

“Ed Miliband demonstrated his commitment to the NHS with the pledge of 36,000 more NHS doctors, midwives and nurses paid for out of a mansion tax on homes worth more than £2 million, tax on tobacco profits and a crackdown on tax avoidance. The NHS will be safe in Labour’s hands.

“Social justice is not an issue for any one country of our isles – it is for all of us to give our children and grandchildren a decent start in life, to safeguard our NHS and eradicate the cancer of insecurity that blights the lives of millions.

“The future constitutional settlement of the UK should not be a cosy stich-up by a Westminster cabal – but one forged in the crucible of the widest possible debate across the four countries of the UK.

“In eight months, the British people can vote in the general election for hope, against despair. What we have heard in Manchester this week is that beacon of hope.

“Ed Miliband is our Prime Minister – the keys of Number 10 are within his grasp. He is the only political leader that can re-energise a united Britain to face the daunting economic, social, constitutional and foreign challenges that lie ahead.”

UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy said: “Ed Miliband today set out his vision for the next decade which will create a fairer more equal society. His goals on wages, apprenticeships and pay will ensure young workers gain the skills they need to succeed while also ensuring that workers are properly and fairly paid for the work they do.”

UCATT delegate Suzanne Kervin said: “Labour’s commitment to build more houses is good news for construction workers. While the pledge to increase houses for first time buyers is welcome, we also need a firm commitment for a dramatic increase in council housing.”

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “This was a good speech well delivered. It contained no personal ambition and was focused on the deep seated problems in the country about which he said are no quick fixes.

“It was a direct appeal to the millions who stopped voting for us saying “come home to Labour to save the NHS, we can do it together”. There was the same direct appeal on quality apprenticeships, living standards and affordable housing.

His starting point is that politics are broken, we have to rebuild – with a vision for a different future. GMB welcomes this.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “We needed to hear from Ed what he would do as Prime Minister to tackle austerity and to change people’s lives for the better.  We got that today.  No-one can say that they don’t know what the next Labour Government will do in power.

“He answered the questions: what are you going to do to help the young and unemployed; what are you going to do about housing; what are you going to do about the economy; what are you going to do about our NHS; what are you going to do about low pay?

“There is clear water between a Labour government with Ed Miliband as Prime Minister and this wretched coalition with its wrecking, self-centred, selfish policies. Obviously, we still need to deal with the issue of public sector pay and funding. Our members have borne the brunt of cuts in spending.

“Activists will have concrete policies to engage with people on the doorstep to help persuade them to vote for a better way of sharing out the wealth of this nation, a better society, a better government.”

Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: “There is no doubt that people are feeling disconnected from politics and Ed Miliband understands that. So alongside his vision for working people, he is right to want to change the way the country is governed so that together we can restore faith in the future.

“Ed Miliband has put the cost of living crisis at the heart of his vision for Britain, because so many people are struggling to make ends meet after years of prices rising higher than wages. The Tories have left low-paid and vulnerable workers on their own.

“Ed’s priority to halve the number of workers on low pay, with wage growth linked to growth in the economy so incomes are not left behind again, will make a real difference to our members.’

NUS president Toni Pearce said: “We’re all interested in issues; from climate change to racism, from education to crime. Voting is the fundamental way that we have our say on issues, and we think that at 16, young people are mature enough to be properly listened to.

“It would need to come alongside some real and meaningful political education in schools and colleges through citizenship classes, which would help people become civically and politically aware and help them to apply politics to their everyday lives.

“Stopping 16 and 17 year olds from voting and having the chance to be heard sends a signal to them and to society, especially politicians, that their views aren’t valid and that they aren’t real citizens.

“At a time when people feel that politics isn’t relevant to them, young people need to be encouraged to take part in democracy, not kept out from it.”

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “I welcome the emphasis Ed Miliband placed on apprenticeships today. We want people to see an apprenticeship as a genuine alternative to university. However, for that to happen we need proper funding for our colleges who will play a key role in delivering high quality apprenticeships.

“The inherent value of education makes the case for continued and increased investment in vocational education. We have long called for a radical overhaul of apprenticeships and want to see longer courses to deliver a much more rounded education.

“Apprenticeships need to be high quality, lasting a minimum of three years and lead to recognised and worthwhile qualifications.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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