Miliband to target 'bad business' in key speech


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Indy Politics

A future Labour government would punish "bad" businesses through the tax and regulatory systems and reward "good" firms , Ed Miliband will announce today.

Offering a "new bargain with a different set of values" , the Labour leader will tear up the political consensus since the Thatcher era under which Conservative and Labour governments have normally kept off the backs of business.

In his speech to Labour's conference in Liverpool, Mr Miliband will declare: "Let me tell you what the 21st century choice is: Are you on the side of the wealth creators or the asset strippers? For years as a country we have been neutral in that battle. They've been taxed the same. Regulated the same. Treated the same. Celebrated the same. They won't be by me."

Although he will insist that Labour will remain "pro-business", his words will alarm some business leaders and will be seen as a departure from New Labour. But he is convinced the country's mood has changed after the behaviour of bankers. He is ready to challenge "fast buck" capitalism that rewards greed and short-termism and will speak of a "quiet crisis" suffered by millions of victims of a failed system.

He will start to map out the dividing lines between the parties ahead of the next election. He believes the country needs "not a different set of managers but a new way of doing things".

While Labour pledges to change an economy and society which often do not reward "the right people with the right values", Mr Miliband will paint the Tories as being on the side of the current system – and acting as if chief executives and other senior figures are the only people who create wealth. "The small businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy are the wealth creators," he will say. "The scientists and innovators are our wealth creators. And the young apprentices are the wealth creators."

Positioning his party as one that will fight for the silent majority, he will blame the "the failure of a system, a way of doing things" for a crisis affecting law-abiding citizens.

"There is a quiet crisis which does not get the headlines. It's about people who don't make a fuss, who don't hack phones, loot shops, fiddle their expenses or earn telephone number salaries at the banks."

Labour would bring in incentives for firms to provide "long-term value" and investment. Those winning government contracts would have to offer apprenticeships. This "something for something" approach would be replicated in the welfare and education systems, Mr Miliband will say.

He will announce that a Labour government would change the public housing allocation rules so that councils must take account of whether applicants are in work, doing voluntary work, are good neighbours and look after their property. Final decisions on how to operate the reformed "points system" will be left to local authorities.

Warning his party he will take "tough decisions" on welfare, Mr Miliband will say: "The hard truth is that, even after reforms of recent years, we still have a system where reward for work is not hard enough, where benefits are too easy to come by for those who abuse the system and don't work for those who do the right thing."

The Labour leader will put social mobility at the top of his agenda, blaming "low aspiration and low ambition" in schools for the fact that many bright children do not apply for university. He will criticise a system that allows 3,000 state school pupils to miss out on top universities even though they get the right grades. "We can't afford to carry on with so many young people locked out of opportunity," he will say.

Urging universities to "open your eyes, open your doors," he will say: "Our country can't afford ambitions betrayed."

Ed does holiday homework

* Ed Miliband started work on his Labour conference speech back in July and spent some time on it during his holiday in Devon, but his team was still agonising last night over the wording of its crucial passages.

He has leant heavily on Lord (Stewart) Wood and Greg Beales for advice on the general thrust of the conference speech and its key themes.

Lord Wood, a former adviser to Gordon Brown, was a central figure in Mr Miliband's leadership campaign and is a trusted confidant.

Mr Beales also worked for the former Prime Minister, specialising in health and welfare, and is now head of policy for the Labour leader.

Tom Baldwin, a former journalist with The Times and now Mr Miliband's director of communications, was responsible for honing the phrases that Labour hopes will make it on to the television bulletins and newspaper front pages.

Nigel Morris