Speeches sourced from the Labour party’s online archive More…

Britain needs real change, not false promises

Today I have come to Thurrock to talk to you about Thurrock’s future and the country’s future.

I have come after the local and European elections.

In ordinary times, the point of me being here would be to come and tell you that these elections show Labour can win.

That’s the typical politician thing to do.

But these elections show something much more important; which goes beyond the fate of any one party or any one government.

For those who voted for UKIP, those who came to Labour, to the millions who didn’t vote at all, the resounding feeling was one of deep discontent with the way the country is run.

So I am not here simply to tell you Labour can win.

But to tell you why we must.

And to talk about the larger lessons in the results for our party and our country.

To understand these elections we shouldn’t look just at the last three weeks, not simply at the last three years but much further back: the last three decades.

Big changes have happened to Britain.

Economically, socially and to our politics.

And millions of people now feel that our country does not work for them, politics does not listen to them and cannot answer them.

They believe the people who work hard, try and support their families and build a better future have been left behind, and the major parties work for others and not for them.

Some of those voted for UKIP in these elections.

And far more people did not vote at all.

These are challenges for all political parties.

It’s up to other leaders what they say, but I’m not going to shy away from these challenges or pretend they don’t exist.

If Labour’s going to change things, we have to be in communities all over Britain talking about the issues that matter.

And that’s why I am here.

I want to start by talking about some people I met here with Polly Billington, local Labour candidate, on Sunday.

Because they tell us so much about Britain today.

Jade’s here today.

She’s twenty.

She has got good college qualifications.

But she’s only able to find work for 12 hours a week.

She thinks she might be better off on benefits.

But she’s working because that’s the way she was brought up. That’s the value she believes in.

For her, the link between hard work and being able to do better feels like it has been broken.

Jade’s experience is reflected across Thurrock, England and all over Britain in people’s experiences.

On Sunday, I also met Carol, who had just turned 65, who is also here.

She’s got grown-up kids, with kids of their own.

Her kids have good jobs and decent homes.

But Carol worries about her grandkids.

She told me on Sunday: “The low paid jobs they can get mean they just won’t be able to afford their own home.”

And of course, lots of the people I talked to on Sunday were talking about immigration and the changes people had seen here in Thurrock.

Builders from Eastern Europe, care-workers from overseas who sometimes don’t speak fluent English.

Big changes happening to this community.

These are the realities of work, of family and of community.

Realities like those I have seen so often in my constituency in Doncaster.

Realities that are reflected across the country.

Now it so happens that the people I spoke to on Sunday weren’t necessarily UKIP voters, but they knew people who were.

One person said to me: “The ordinary man in the street is not being heard enough anymore. They thought UKIP heard them.”

What she was saying was that some of the people who voted for UKIP came from that part of working Britain who work hard for a living, in tough jobs and seek to provide for their family.

People who love our country.

But feel left behind by what has happened.

Some people who in years gone by would have been Labour till they die.

Their parents certainly were.

Their grandparents too.

So how have we got to this point?

And what do we do about it?

Let me tell you how I see it.

More than anything it is about the big economic change we have seen.

The industry of our country, the docks near here, the mines in Doncaster, my constituency, provided a decent wage, a decent life, a decent pension.

A job was not just a job.

It was the foundation of community.

And about thirty years ago these secure jobs with good prospects started to disappear.

And they weren’t replaced by similar jobs for the future.

At the same time, immigration has been changing communities fast, including here in Thurrock, with people seeking to build a better life here.

And the pace of change is quicker than it has ever been.

So over the last decades there were big changes happening in our country.

And fewer and fewer working people thought the country worked for them.

That was made worse when political scandals happened, like MPs’ expenses.

And as a result by 2010, too many came to think that no party was standing up for them, including Labour.

You in Thurrock know that the last Labour government did great things: rescuing our NHS, investing in schools and supporting working families with tax credits.

But they were not enough by themselves.

Because ordinary working people, people who weren’t rich, felt life was getting harder.

Our embrace of the future meant that some people thought we didn’t respect the loss they felt from the past.

Our embrace of openness made some people feel we didn’t understand the pressures immigration put on them.

Our embrace of economic change, on the one hand, and our determination to do right by the very poorest, on the other, led people to believe that we didn’t care enough about ordinary working people.

Looking to the future, openness, concern for the poorest and a belief in the modern economy were not wrong.

They were right.

But it was not enough.

That’s why as I have said since I became leader, there is no future for Labour saying we should simply pick up from where we left off in 2010.

Labour was founded on standing up for working people.

But for too many that link was lost.

That is what UKIP has sought to exploit.

We know what their appeal is.

They provide a simple explanation of the cause of our country’s problems: Europe and foreigners.

And they have an apparently simple solution: to get out of the European Union.

I have to say: this is not the answer for our country.

This will never be Labour’s mission or policy under my leadership.

Our future lies in looking outward to the world.

As the people of Purfleet, Tilbury, South Ockendon and Grays have always known.

And that’s the argument we’re going to have to have in the next year.

Some people will tell you that closing ourselves off from the world will deliver for working people.

It won’t.

It will harm working people.

Think of all the jobs here that still rely on trade.

That’s why our future lies in the European Union.

What does it mean for immigration?

I am the son of immigrants.

I am proud of the contribution my parents made to this country.

I believe immigration benefits our country as a whole.

But it needs to be properly managed.

I have changed Labour’s position on immigration since 2010 because it is not prejudiced to worry about immigration, it is understandable.

Labour would have controls when people arrive and leave here, we will tackle the undercutting of wages, we will ensure people in public services speak English and people need to earn their entitlements.

But a Labour government won’t make false promises, or cut ourselves off from the rest of the world because it would be bad for Britain.

These are the right principles for our immigration policy.

And in the end, if we are to meet the concerns people have, we need to do far more than have the right immigration policy.

We need more change in the way this country’s economy works for the people I am talking about.

People who work hard, do the right thing, but feel the country doesn’t work for them.

The normal politician thing to do is to come along and just announce a simple answer.

But sometimes there is no simple answer.

The changes I am talking about in our economy have taken generations to unfold.

It will take more than one year or even five years to make the transformation we need.

But I believe we can give hope to all the people who feel that politics doesn’t answer their concerns.

There is a different journey this country can take to get to a better future.

This is the journey Labour is on.

But we need to go further and faster.


A big change in our economy, so we make sure there are good jobs in successful businesses, which are properly paid, and not the insecurity that comes with zero-hours or short-hours that leaves people short-changed.

Building homes again in our country, so that Carol doesn’t feel that a home is out of reach for her grandchildren.

Rebuilding solidarity and a sense of community where people live, because people need to recognise the rules, whether they are on benefits, have just come to Britain, or are at the very top of our society.

And what brings all this together, one thing more important than anything, linking the wealth of our country back again with ordinary family finances, so that we can fight the cost-of-living crisis, and ensure that hard work means that people can build a better future for their family.

This is the right mission for Labour.

I believe this is the biggest single question facing our country.

It goes beyond one party or one government.

And it is at the root of so much of what we are talking about.

Changing our economy to ensure we have the good jobs of the future for people here in Thurrock.

You know some people have said at times when I have announced our energy price freeze, policies on rents, policies on banks that Labour has been too radical.

I believe this is dead wrong.

To meet the challenges we face we need more change, not less.

To meet the generational challenge I am talking about, Labour needs a radical and bold offer at the next election.

And that is what we shall do.

We are in the final stages of our Policy Review over the coming months.

And will be showing how we can create the wealth of the future, ensure decent jobs, raise wages and have a better start in life for our young people.

Jon Cruddas who is a neighbouring MP in Dagenham and Rainham is leading our Policy Review.

He is here with me.

We want to listen and learn from you.

About how we address the issues you face here in Thurrock.

So that Thurrock works for working people again.

And so the basic building blocks of the good life – work, family and community – can be part of Thurrock’s future once again.

What I know is that the only way we can change this country is by working together.

And the only way Labour can change this country is being in the heart of each and every community it seeks to represent.

That’s why I am here today.

The whole idea of One Nation is a country that brings people together from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all classes.

That is the party I want to lead.

We know we have work to do to reach out to millions.

Here in Thurrock and across the country.

And that is what I am absolutely determined to do.

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech