A collection of zingers
Speaking passages offered to Ed Miliband, without reply. Available to others on application to firstname.lastname@example.org
On Andy Coulson
“David Cameron says that the British people are tired of hearing about Andy Coulson. They want politicians to deal with big issues like the crisis in the eurozone. Our own dismal economy. Jobs, pensions, crime, immigration, schools. I agree with him. All of these problems, and many more, demand exceptional leadership and decision-making. That is why it is tragic for our country to have a Prime Minister who makes bad decisions, refuses to take responsibility for them and cannot secure even minimal standards of competence and honesty in the people he chooses for jobs at the heart of Number Ten.
“David Cameron keeps talking about giving Andy Coulson a second chance. I’m all for giving people a second chance, but you don’t have to bring them to Downing Street. David Cameron’s supposed to be running a government, not a probation hostel. I’m more worried about people who don’t even get a first chance under this Tory-led government. The old people facing pain and poverty at the end of their lives… the young people full of talent, energy and skills, with no future except to fight each other for the chance to work for nothing … the families who have to work harder and longer, just to keep one step ahead of ruin… I think all of them deserved a chance ahead of Andy Coulson.”
Rioting and responsibility
All over this country are millions of people who are maintaining their standards despite poverty and adversity. They are leading decent lives. They are hard workers, good neighbours, and above all, good parents passing the same values to their families. They may be victims of a sick economy and an unfair society but they do not use this as an excuse to drop their standards. They, the decent majority, have the right to expect the same standards of responsibility from those around them, and even more from those in power over them. The decent majority are betrayed when people give themselves the right to loot and burn and destroy and wound and kill. The decent majority are also betrayed when MPs cheat their expenses, when newspapers commit crimes for the sake of a story, when bankers turn their savings into financial dogmeat, when the super-rich treat paying their taxes as giving a tip in a restaurant.
The decent majority deserve a government which helps them to lead a decent life. That’s not what they get from this government. As people try to climb the ladder of life by honest effort, this government smashes a hammer on their fingertips. Take in examples, EMA, university fees, job losses.
David Cameron’s methods: “government by gimmick, policy by panic.”
David Cameron’s U-turns (knockabout): “He even managed a U-turn on circus animals. If this government joined a circus, dozens of fleas would be thrown out of work.”
“David Cameron should enter the Olympics next year. He’s the only athlete in the world who could do a U-Turn in the long jump.”
The government’s economic policy: “pain without purpose, misery without mission, austerity without ambition.”
Neil Kinnock exordium updated
Neil Kinnock’s warnings to the British people in 1983 about the future under Margaret Thatcher are still well remembered. An updated version would play well at Party Conference.
“Neil Kinnock once memorably warned the British people not to be old under Margaret Thatcher.
“Under David Cameron, I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to be middle-aged. I warn you not to be old. I warn you not to study, I warn you not to work, I warn you not to retire. I warn you not to be sick, I warn you not to be well. I warn you not to raise a family, I warn you not to live alone. Under David Cameron, I warn you against being anyone except a banker with a bonus. For everyone else in this country, this government has made life worse.” [Then give vivid examples for different age groups]
Conference Speech: Instead of New Labour – Now Labour
“We have a bad habit in our party of talking endless about the last Labour government when people want to hear about the next one. I am not going to talk to you today about New Labour or Old Labour or Middle Aged Labour. Or Tony Blair or Gordon Brown. Or what was right and wrong about the last Labour government and what happened in the Labour Party in the last twenty years. There are some people in this great movement of ours who love to debate these issues all day and all night. I don’t have a problem with that – it’s a lawful activity between consenting adults – but I wish they would do it in private and not bore the voters.
“Whatever you think of New Labour, however you assess its failures and its achievements, New Labour is history. The world in which New Labour existed, the world it helped to fashion, has disappeared. The economic and political foundations of that world have all dissolved. Voters don’t want to hear about New Labour – they want to hear about Now Labour. What is Labour’s answer now to the giant questions that face our country now? How will we revive the sinking economy? How will we create the banking system our country needs? How will we create jobs with a future for our young people, provide decent pensions and care for our old people? How will we meet our energy needs and tackle climate change? How will we makeBritain a safer country in a safer world? How we will make the British people believe again in their government and in their political system? That’s what voters want to hear from Now Labour. That’s what we’re going to talk about – not what two politicians may have said to each other seventeen years ago in some restaurant.”
Conference Speech: “You Don’t Have To Take What You’re Given“
This would be a good general theme for Ed Miliband and the party. The following passage might work well in his Conference speech or in any other occasion for setting out his basic values:
“Since the dawn of history, in virtually every human society there are some people who are given a great deal and many more people who are given little or nothing. Some people have property and power, class and capital, status and even sanctity, which are denied to the multitude. And time and time again, the people who receive a great deal tell the multitude to be grateful to be given anything at all. They say that the world cannot be changed and the multitude must accept the terms on which they are allowed to live in it. For many years, this attitude was justified in terms of high philosophy, spiritual values or religious faith. ‘The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate He made them high or lowly And ordered their estate.’ More recently, this attitude has been rationalized by economic theory. The multitudes with little or nothing are told that they live in a global economy whose terms cannot be changed: they must accept the place assigned to them by competitive markets.
“The Labour Party came into being to fight that attitude. That is still what the Labour Party is all about. Labour is the voice that says to the multitude, at home and abroad: ‘you don’t have to take what you’re given.’
“Labour says: ‘you may be born poor but you don’t have to stay poor. You don’t have to live without power and without hope. You don’t have to set limits on your talent and your ambition – or those of your children. You don’t have to accept prejudice and discrimination, or sickness or destitution, or destruction and war. You don’t have to be grateful to survive in a world made by others. No, you set the terms for the people in power over you, and you dismiss them when they fail you.’
“That has always been Labour’s message. You don’t have to take what you’re given.
“They’re at it again. The people who want you to take what you’re given. This Tory-led government. This government which was made by the few – and paid by the few. Before the last election David Cameron’s received £x millions in donations from just y people. People to whom much had been given and who wanted to keep it.
“That is why this Tory-led government came into being. To protect the few and tell all the rest of us to accept what we’re given. David Cameron and George Osborne want us to believe that there is no alternative to cutting jobs, slashing public services, vandalizing the NHS, attacking pensions, reducing care for the elderly. Destroying the hopes of young people for a college education – or a decent job afterwards if they do manage to get one. They want the British people to accept all of these things. They expect millions of people to work harder and longer for a lower quality of life. They want families to accept more stress and hardship and whole communities to accept destruction.
“Labour says no. You don’t have to accept any of these things. No one has to take what they’re given from David Cameron and George Osborne. Those wonderful people who gave Britain Andy Coulson inDowning Street.”
Conference speech knockabout: Teletories
“The other day I watched a new children’s TV series with my kids. It’s called the TeleTories. It has some strange-looking characters living in a fantasy world of their own, where they never meet any real people. There’s one called Dipsy Dave, who pretends to be green and talks through his hat. There’s another called George Tinky Winky, who carries a handbag. He keeps it tight shut and there’s no money in it anyway, but he has promised all the TeleTories that one day, by magic, it will be full of custard. There’s one called Kenneth Clarke who is very Po-faced, because he was in the last series of TeleTories and he knows that their current stories are really just make-believe. And there’s loads more TeleTories – all living in Laa-Laa land. The TeleTories are running around frantically and letting out all kinds of noises but none of them make any sense at all. And the voters – they’re saying Bye-Bye.”
The following passage, either at Conference or elsewhere, might reinforce Ed Miliband’s recent strong message about responsibility:
“There is now a pervasive never-say-sorry mentality in government, in public services and big business and every organization and institution which holds power over the British people. They have reversed Harry Truman’s great motto: for those in authority now “the buck starts here.”
“This general collapse of responsibility has done even more damage to our country than the collapse of its banking system. It entrenches injustice and misgovernment. It ensures that people who complain against authority and try to prevent its abuses have the deck stacked against them.
“Acceptance of responsibility is the moral glue which holds any organization together. Without it, an organization quickly dissolves into selfishness, rancour and failure. A football team is defeated: the goalkeeper flaps at a cross, the centre forward blazes over the bar, the manager makes the wrong substitution. If these people admit their errors the team may recover. But when the goalkeeper blames the sun in his eyes, the centre forward blames a bump in the pitch and the manager blames the referee – the team is heading for relegation.
“Without a sense of responsibility from those in power, entire nations and societies can start to crumble. When incompetent bankers take a giant bail-out from the taxpayer and expect to keep their bonuses… when incompetent media proprietors and executives say that they did not notice the massive evidence of wrongdoing and crime in their organizations… when incompetent Prime Ministers do not take responsibility for bad decisions and bad appointments … all these things breed cynicism and contempt. People lose any sense that there is any penalty for doing the wrong thing and any reward for doing the right thing. If that attitude takes hold, our country has no hope of overcoming any of its present problems, let alone making the giant changes needed to secure its future.
“The first task of the coming Labour government – even ahead of restoring the collapsed economy – will be the restoration of responsibility in every part of our national life.”
Bail Out Artists As Well As Bankers
This little passage would get a wonderful reception at any informal gathering of artists or creative people. If bankers protested about it, so much the better. It is adapted from my novel The Network qv:
“We’ve bailed out the banks, and I know that we had to, but perhaps now we can think about bailing outBritain’s artists and writers as well. It would be much cheaper and more popular. Britain’s artists and writers have their faults, but they did not bet all ofBritain’s money on assets they could not value or even understand. No British writer has ever sentenced a small business to death. No British artist has ever repossessed a family home. However, in fairness, I must say that the most original creative work in recent years is to be found in the accounts ofBritain’s banks.”