Ed Miliband unveiled a new role model for his economic vision yesterday – the family that created the chocolate bar. The Labour leader said George Cadbury, the son of the chocolate pioneer John Cadbury, believed his business would be more successful if his workforce were treated well.
Mr Miliband claimed that the coalition's policies, of rewarding the wealthy at the top of society at the same time as forgetting those at the bottom, were in direct conflict with the Quaker philosophy of Cadbury Jnr, whose factory and workers' homes were built 150 years ago not far from the conference centre in Birmingham where the Labour leader was addressing his party's "People's Policy Forum".
Cadbury "had a simple idea", Mr Miliband said: "His business would be more successful if his workforce was well-motivated and lived in decent homes with decent conditions. That is the idea that should guide us to the change we need today. But it hasn't been the way our economy has been run for a long time. And it certainly isn't the direction offered by this Government. They think wealth comes from a few at the top. I know wealth comes from the forgotten wealth-creators. The people who work in the supermarkets, the factories, in small businesses on your high street, doing the shifts, putting in the hours. It's they who have got to be rewarded and supported in this country."
Last year Mr Miliband borrowed from another 19th-century figure, Disraeli, to unveil his vision for "One Nation" Labour. Mr Miliband pledged that Labour would rescue the UK economy from a "lost decade" with a tax on bankers' bonuses to pay for a young persons' jobs guarantee, a British Investment Bank, and a cut in VAT. Firms bidding for government contracts would have to take on apprentices.
He was presenting more details of his economic vision in the wake of last week's Budget, which was marred by government confusion over its "Help to Buy" policy, dismal growth forecasts and the threat of a fresh downgrade for the UK economy within weeks. Lord Mandelson, the former business secretary, took a swipe at Mr Miliband and Ed Balls for refusing to face up to deficit reduction.
Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, said yesterday: "The Conservatives are dealing with the big challenges facing our country – backing people who want to work hard and get on in life so Britain can succeed in the global race.
"We've cut the deficit by a third, we're capping benefits – so no one can claim more than the average working family earns – and we're cutting taxes for millions of hardworking people in a fortnight's time.
"But Labour don't get it. They haven't learnt from their mistakes. All Ed Miliband offers is more spending, more borrowing and more debt – exactly how Labour got us into this mess in the first place."
Meanwhile, in an email to Liberal Democrat members yesterday, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, revealed that he agreed details of the Budget with David Cameron, George Osborne and Danny Alexander over a late-night meal of cottage pie in Downing Street on Mothering Sunday.