Labour will give all chance to be middle class, says Milburn

Labour will give everyone the chance of enjoying the benefits of a middle-class lifestyle if it wins a third term, Alan Milburn, the party's election co-ordinator, has said.

Labour will give everyone the chance of enjoying the benefits of a middle-class lifestyle if it wins a third term, Alan Milburn, the party's election co-ordinator, has said.

A pledge to sweep away the old class system and allow the poorest people in Britain to improve their lives will be one of the "big ideas" in Labour's general election manifesto, which will be discussed by the Cabinet on Thursday. Tony Blair is expected to announce a 5 May election a week today.

Mr Milburn told The Independent: "One of the problems that has bedevilled Britain for generations, if not centuries, has been an entrenched class-based society. What we want to do in a third term is to drive forward an opportunity society where you open up British society to the talents of everybody. That doesn't mean you level down. It's the reverse - you level up.

"Our agenda is about breaking down barriers, opening doors and providing opportunities so that more people get the opportunity to join the middle class."

Class is a sensitive issue for Labour because of the party's traditional working-class base. John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, was rebuked by his own father when he described himself as "pretty middle class". John Major, the former Tory prime minister, promised to create a "classless society" but Labour claims he failed to bridge the gap and wants to make the "opportunity society" a key dividing line between it and the Tories at the election.

Labour strategists insist the party is neither launching a new "class war" on the privileged or turning its back on the working class. One said: "It's not about making everyone middle class but giving everyone the opportunity to have a middle-class life: a decent education, a fulfilling job and career, the stabilities of middle-class life that give people security and opportunity in their daily lives, which should be open to everybody.

"We want to make Britain into a genuinely open, mobile and meritocratic society. How do you do that? You beat back child and pensioner poverty and poverty pay, give people a foot on the housing ladder, open up more choices for patients and parents, give every child the best start in life, make sure everybody who wants a job can have one and make training and high skills available to all," Mr Milburn said.

In a speech to a Fabian Society conference tomorrow, Mr Milburn will say: "This has to be a society based on worth, not birth, where the barriers that hold people back are banished forever. In the 20th century, Britain was held back by class. In the 21st century, if the country is to succeed, it has to consign the old class system to the history books."

A major theme in Labour's manifesto will be a commitment to eradicate poverty and inequality and enhance personal ambition and aspiration. Labour hopes it will appeal to progressive voters, many of whom are threatening to abandon Mr Blair because of the Iraq war, and working-class supporters who feel he has devoted too much energy on wooing the middle classes.

The manifesto will restate Labour's pledge to halve child poverty by 2010 and abolish it by 2012 and announce new measures to help achieve it. These include a firm commitment to increase the national minimum wage and tax credits for children and pensioners and in effect raise the school leaving age to 18 by ensuring all 16 to 18-year-olds are either in education or training, with "staying on" allowances of up to £75 a week.

Tributes continued to pour in for Lord Callaghan, the former Labour prime minister, who died on Saturday aged 92, 11 days after his wife, Audrey. A former Inland Revenue clerk, he became a trade union official and rose to the position of chancellor of the exchequer, home secretary and foreign secretary before entering 10 Downing Street in 1976. He was the last prominent Labour politician to emerge from the trade union movement.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?