Ed Miliband interview: We put your questions to the Labour leader
Friday 13 December 2013
The Chancellor is saying that people will have to work until they are 70. Do you not think it would be more advantageous to leave the retirement age at 65, thus opening the jobs market for graduates and school leavers who struggle now to find employment?
Ron & Sheila May, Letchworth Garden City
As life expectancy rises there will have to be rises in the state pension age so that the system is sustainable and affordable for the future. But we are committed to keeping an independent review to make sure changes are done in a fair way, look at the impact on different groups of people and give people proper notice and certainty.
Last time Labour were in power they stated no more "boom and bust". Why should your party be trusted with the economy once again?
Labour was in power in the middle of a global financial crisis and, from the start of my leadership, I have said that along with other governments in the world we should have done more to properly regulate the banks. We know the next government will inherit a significant deficit because this government has wasted three years when it should have been rebuilding our economy. That is why Ed Balls and I have already said we won't borrow more for day-to-day spending in 2015.
The biggest question for the future is how to tackle Britain's cost-of-living crisis. Prices have risen faster than wages in 40 out of the 41 months that David Cameron has been Prime Minister, a record shared by no other Prime Minister. This isn't an accident, it is a consequence of this government's economic policies, based on the idea that the way an economy should grow is by looking after a tiny privileged few at the top and squeezing everybody else.
A Labour government would build a new economy which re-establishes the connection between the success of the country as a whole and the success of Britain's working families. That means action on jobs, wages and prices – beginning with real reform of the gas and electricity market that has over-charged millions of British families and businesses.
As Tories continue to chip away at the credibility of Ed Balls as a future Chancellor, is it not now time to replace him with Alistair Darling, someone universally respected and thus feared by the Tories?
Frank Nield, Kenilworth
No. All the noise the Tories make about Ed Balls shows how worried they are that he and the Labour Party are making the running on the cost-of-living crisis. With Ed Balls as shadow Chancellor going into the next election we will continue to set the agenda and show how working people will be better off with Labour.
Labour's shadow Chancellor Ed Balls You say the "rich should pay their fair share of income tax". Presently the top 1 per cent of earners already pay nearly 30 per cent of all the income tax received by the Treasury. So what exactly do you consider to be a "fair share" for the rich to pay?
Rob Falconer, Port Talbot
The top 1 per cent pay a significant share of income tax because they are the highest earners. Those with the broadest shoulders should always bear the biggest burden. So when ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet, it was wrong of the Tory-led Government to prioritise a tax cut for the very richest people in our country. Labour will ensure we have a fairer tax system.
What can you do to help the North-east? Iron, steel, coal, shipbuilding are all gone. Areas of the North are being left to die.
A One Nation Labour Government will never turn its back on any region of the United Kingdom. We are developing plans for how the next Labour government can drive growth across our country from day one. We've also set out the case for a network of regional banks to ensure businesses get the finance they need.
As part of the Blair/Brown project you said and did nothing to protect traditional Labour voters. You speak of the cost-of-living crisis we face today, but low-paid immigrants have put me on the dole, cut my pay and now, at 5.30am, I'm going to work on the minimum wage! "British jobs for British workers" – Brown lied, so why should we trust you when at least the BNP mean it when they say they will put British workers first?
Jim Burns, Manchester
We have to stop the race to the bottom in wages and conditions between workers coming here from abroad and those who have spent all their lives here.
I would introduce specific measures to drive out exploitation and drive up skills. We would increase fines 10-fold for unscrupulous employers who pay less than the minimum wage, stop them using tied housing to avoid the law, ban recruitment agencies hiring only from abroad, strengthen gangmasters' legislation.
We've also got to do more to equip our young people and businesses with the skills they need to succeed. That is why, as part of a programme to raise up the number of high- quality apprenticeships in Britain, we would require large employers who hire skilled labour from outside the EU to train someone here.
Over the course of a Parliament, this could lead to as many 100,000 new gold standard apprenticeships. The BNP have no answers to the problems that people are facing, they just want to stir up division and hatred.
The Blair/Brown years still loom heavily for Labour Why have you allowed the Coalition to promote the myth of "Labour's mess" and Gordon Brown's personal responsibility for the economic downturn, almost unchallenged? It is frustrating for Labour supporters and the Tories can't believe their luck as most of the electorate believe it, too.
You are right to point out that there was a global financial crisis which affected economies around the world. Where the last government made mistakes, such as on banking regulation, we have stood up and said so.
Our focus now is on the cost-of-living crisis and how we create a better economy for the future with a recovery built to last. The Government has nothing to say on this agenda and wants only to reheat its slogans from the last election while standing up only for a few. We won't let them off the hook.
As a former middle-ranking NHS manager I view the disastrous reforms of the service by the former Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, as the worst in my 37 years' experience. Will the next Labour Government repeal this legislation and introduce fresh legislation to recreate a truly National Health Service?
We will repeal the legislation the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats passed. The last government got waiting times down to their lowest-ever level, gave it record numbers of doctors and nurses and left with the highest-ever public satisfaction rates for our NHS.
The next Labour government will start to put NHS values back at the heart of it. We would reinstate the Secretary of State's duty to provide a comprehensive health service. The next Labour government will stop fragmentation and the privatisation so we keep it as a truly national service and begin rebuilding the ethos of our NHS.
To what do you attribute our ever lowering position – now at 24th – on the Pisa world education table? Exactly what would you do about it?
The Pisa report should be a wake-up call for everyone, especially a Government which has sent unqualified teachers into the classroom and prevented effective collaboration between schools. Because David Cameron and Michael Gove have failed to deliver a reform agenda that will raise the quality of teaching and learning in all of our schools, they are charting a course that will make our international standing worse, not better.
I would ensure that there is rigorous local oversight of schools, that schools collaborate to raise standards and that all teachers have or are working towards a teaching qualification.
Given that climate change is the biggest danger facing our planet, what will you do, both in the UK and internationally, to address this?
Ronnie Kershaw, Lancaster
I have committed Labour to a world-leading decarbonisation target for our electricity supplies of 2030. And we will work internationally for a tough international agreement in 2015, a crucial year for climate change negotiations.
I was proud to be the Climate Change Secretary in the last Labour government because I want my kids to grow up knowing that we were the first generation to "get" climate change, not the last to do so.
I live in Barrow-in-Furness where children are living in extreme poverty. How do you plan to end this sad situation (and food banks) in our country? It's an absolute disgrace!
I find it shocking and shameful that we live in a country where the number of people relying of food banks has trebled in just one year – with the Trussell Trust saying the Bedroom Tax is one of main causes.
Recent figures show a majority of families living in poverty now, for the first time, have someone in work.
We would make different choices to stand up for ordinary families with measures such as scrapping the Bedroom Tax, freezing energy bills for 20 months, and make work pay, giving employers incentives to pay the Living Wage, and improving childcare provision for working parents.
Will Labour announce a policy of ending the franchise system on the railways and replacing operators with not-for-profit companies?
Chris Slight, Pontypool
The Government has wasted £50m during the collapse of the West Coast Main Line franchise. Labour is focusing on developing a plan for the railways that will lower the cost of commuting and provide best value for money. We don't want a narrow-minded approach which automatically says "private sector good, public sector bad". As the experience of West Coast shows, what matters to the train passenger and the taxpayer is what works. That is why we have said the government is wrong to go ahead with the ideological privatisation of the East Coast Line.
Instead of saying you will force energy companies to freeze their prices, why don't you tell the public that you will renationalise them – and rail operators and the Post Office? That's a Labour Party I could vote for.
David J Day
The next Labour government will have very limited resources and my priority is tackling the cost-of-living crisis. On energy, that means taking immediate action to stop families and businesses being ripped off while we reset the market with a proper regulator which can ensure wholesale price cuts are passed on to the consumer. I believe in a dynamic market economy but competition must be made to work for people.
How are Labour going to improve poor management in the public sector and bring it up to the standard of the private sector?
Judy Vero, Atherstone, Warwickshire
You're right that it is not a straight split between public sector and private sector. Some of the most brilliant, innovative ideas come out of people running our schools, hospitals and local government. The issue is when it doesn't work – what I have called an irresponsible capitalism and unresponsive state. You will have already seen new policies from Labour to tackle both – from the reform of energy markets and banks, to integrating health and social care.
Will you prevent David Cameron's intent to make China an integral part of our economic fabric?
Noel Sweeney Worle, North Somerset
China is set to become the biggest economy in the world and is hugely important to Britain. The British brand is strong – we have world-leading firms, world-leading products, and world-leading expertise – but we need to do more to help firms exporting into China.
But the way we compete with China is not in a race to the bottom with low skills and low wages but through building a high skill, high-tech, high wage economy.
As many Britons are worried about the growing numbers of EU economic migrants coming to this country and the strain that they are putting on housing, schools, etc, will you hold a referendum on Britain leaving the EU?
People are worried about immigration and that is why the next Labour government would offer a different approach, maximising transitional controls on EU accession countries, as well as driving out exploitation and driving up skills to reduce demand for low-wage workers from abroad.
Earlier this year Labour proposed clarifying and strengthening rules around access to benefits, including a three-month presence test. We don't believe it is right now to commit to an in/out referendum in four years' time, creating real uncertainty among potential investors in our country.
Is it too much to ask of the more moderate of our political leaders, that they display enough moral courage to emphasise and justify the economic and cultural benefits of immigration? Will you be the first to break ranks and do this?
Lionel Beale, Carlisle
Our diversity makes Britain stronger. Britain has benefited over many centuries from immigration and this will continue to be the case in an ever-more global economy.
I'm the son of immigrants myself and hugely proud of my heritage. But we must also address people's legitimate concerns. Those concerns aren't based on bigotry. They are real anxieties about the way our country works for working people.
We need to ensure the prosperity that immigration can help build is fairly shared. We need to drive out exploitation and drive up skills. But we must also do more to strengthen the ties which bind us together. We should ensure that people coming here from abroad learn our language so they can succeed and that people in public-facing public sector jobs have good standards of English.
How far would you go to protect Gibraltar?
Labour fully supports and will uphold the right of Gibraltar and its people to remain under British sovereignty. Spain must understand that. Its recent actions only serve to increase tension and foster mistrust and ill-feeling.
Ed Miliband says he would support Gibraltar's right to remain under British sovereignty Private life
When was the last time you cried?
Watching the film Philomena at the cinema. It's a deeply moving story about a young woman in Ireland whose child was taken from her at the age of three. I don't think anyone noticed me welling up – except Justine.
How do you think the British public perceive you?
George Allen, Hull
I hope they see that I am showing the difference a Labour government would make on the issues that matter, like the cost of living crisis or the NHS. And that I am willing to stand up for what's right even when its difficult – taking on big vested interests like Rupert Murdoch and the energy companies.
What will you write in your brother's Christmas Card?
Mike Doyle, London
What I always say. Happy Christmas... lots of love, Ed. Justine and the kids will sign it too!
Ed Miliband will still send his brother David (right) a Christmas card What's the best advice you've ever been given?
I remember speaking to my Dad shortly before he died. I said I didn't want to be an academic like him but to try to change people's lives through politics. He told me to be true to myself. That's what I'll always try to do.
People and politics
Why do you think the majority of the public has become disenfranchised by the current political system and what are you doing to get them back?
David Stanford-Beale, Reading
The most depressing thing when I travel round the country is not people saying they will vote for one of the other parties, it is when I hear people say "you're all the same".
We must change our politics to change our country which is why I've embarked on the biggest reform of the Labour Party for a generation – so we can hear the voices of individual working people louder and clearer than ever before.
But I also believe that if we can show people that politics can make a difference to them, they will vote. And we need to increase young people's engagement in politics, for example by giving the vote to 16-year-olds and make them a real part of our democracy.
Is it likely that the Labour Party will ever again be led by a person who has actually spent some of their life "doing a job", or are we now stuck with professional politicians?
Stephen Morley, Midhurst
We need a politics that represents people from all walks of life. I am really proud of the diversity of the candidates Labour is selecting like Sophy Gardner, a former RAF wing commander in Gloucester, Lee Sherriff, a care worker in Carlisle, and James Frith, a small businessman in Peterborough.
People in politics must have the right values and ideas, as well as a capacity to listen to people.
The Scottish National Party has gathered strength by winning over Labour voters. How is Labour going to win back its support and thwart the Nationalists?
John Taylor, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway
Johann Lamont is doing a fantastic job taking on Alex Salmond. The SNP only has one agenda: it wants to separate Scotland from its shared history, culture, and future with the rest of us.
Alex Salmond wants people to believe that the United Kingdom will not vote for the progressive future that Labour offers. He is wrong. They will vote Labour in Scotland and in the rest of the UK because people share the same essential concerns.
People are worried about the Bedroom Tax. They are struggling with low wages. They are being ripped off by prices that are too high. And only the Labour Party, in Holyrood and Westminster, will do anything about it.
Miliband disagrees with Alex Salmond on Scottish independence Isn't it time politicians looked into the possibility of bringing in e-voting and allowing voters to engage in the political process via electronic means?
Stephen Parry, Erdington, Birmingham
We have opened up our policy process to everyone – just go to yourbritain.org.uk. Take a look and participate in developing the agenda for the next government.
One of the ideas we're working on as part of our policy review and is increasing political engagement from every walk of life.
Will a Labour government work towards reducing the number of legislators in both Houses of Parliament to a reasonable number?
Dave Oakley, Worthing
The Government has been increasing the cost of politics with the appointment of a large number of peers. But I believe the link between a member of Parliament and the tens of thousands of constituents they represent is important and the way to rebuild trust in politics is about what MPs do and what policies we pursue.
How can you justify the subsidy of alcohol in the Houses of Parliament? Why should taxpayers pay for your drinks?
Sharon Wears, Drighlington, Bradford
It's really important that public trust in politics is improved. That's why we now have an independent system for expenses. It is also why I am against MPs getting a 9 per cent pay rise at a time when nurses, teachers and others are facing a continued squeeze in their living standards.
What does the Labour Party plan to do if another hung Parliament occurs in 2015? Do you have any contingency plans regarding forming a coalition with another party?
Alistair Drennan, Hull
Everything I do is focused on winning the majority Labour needs – and Britain needs. I am not going to be distracted from that task.
How will you stop my fellow middle-class voters falling in love with the right at the next election – I mean a Conservative Party driven to distraction by Ukip, and indeed the ever mightier Ukip themselves?
I don't believe the people of this country share the values of Ukip. A vote for Ukip is a vote for higher taxes for families while the rich pay even less, deeper cuts to the public services you rely on and getting out of Europe which would damage British jobs and business.
The next election will be a high-stakes election. There will be two very different choices available for Britain. A Labour government focused on tackling the cost of living crisis for ordinary families. Or a Tory government saying Britain should keep on going as it is, with a government that stands up just for a privileged few.
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