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The final countdown: Ed Miliband’s Labour Party Conference speech

Does Labour know there’s a General Election next year? That’s what many have been saying around the conference in Manchester this year. The party has struggled to articulate a coherent set of policies over the last few days and some (many) hoped that the Leader’s speech this afternoon would tie disparate announcements together into a meaningful story.

Well, you would have wanted to be sitting comfortably as Ed Milband spoke for over an hour.  He listed six national goals stressing that that he would seek to achieve them over two terms (a ten year plan). These goals were quite specific and reflected a core vote strategy (low pay, environmental sustainability, financing the health service through a mansion tax, living wages, apprenticeships and housing). A full list is provided below.

However, this week was surely an opportunity for Labour to demonstrate its appeal to a broader swathe of the electorate? Particularly as the outcome of Scottish Referendum has focused minds in Westminster on what the appetite is in the rest of the UK for self-determination. However, the Labour Leadership and their advisers appear to believe that EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) is not an issue that the British – and especially English – electorate is concerned about.

The business community will be relatively relieved. Although there were a number of measures which could be perceived as harmful to business (in particular new taxes on tobacco companies and a further crackdown on closing tax loopholes, with a focus on hedge funds), the measures around apprenticeships, house building, and a strong commitment to remaining in the European Union will be welcomed.

Miliband also took the opportunity to address his leadership style. He positioned himself under the slogan “Together”, arguing that “the ethic of the 21st century is cooperation”. Mr Miliband argued that the Conservative’s record in Government was not just “mediocre” but was “one of the worst ever”. The next 12 months represent his “interview with the British people”, he claimed. Mr Miliband reiterated his commitment to “using the power of Government to stand up to the power of vested interests”. He cited standing up to banks, energy companies, Rupert Murdoch, the Daily Mail, and payday lenders.

Given the fact that Labour is in the lead in the opinion polls and that this is the last Party Conference ahead of May’s General Election, you would have expected to feel a sense of energy and anticipation. The reality has been far from it and the Leader’s speech did not change the vibe. As the Conference comes to an end the military situation in the Middle East is likely to shift focus onto international issues, a vote non-winner for any Opposition Party. Mr Miliband will have to hope that his focus on his ‘core vote’ is enough to win a majority.

Listening in the Conference Hall, FleishmanHillard consultants provide their take on the speech:

“The key outcome of the speech was a strong policy platform, with commitments on housing, low pay and of course the NHs, with specific numbers announced on NHS key staff.

The speech itself was slow to get going, only starting up properly when he talked about the Conservatives. The speech revolved in the main around the Brownite trick of “us vs them”, with the Conservative Government characterised as leaving people “on their own”, vs a Lab Government that would work “together” with people.

You can also see the influence of the Democrat staffers working for Ed – with announcements on LGBT Rights, the low paid, the military, there is a tangible sense of a retail offer to a “progressive” coalition of voters, as for Obama in 2010.

The room was packed out, with hundreds turned away, but there was less seating than usual. The audience was polite, clapping in the right places, but only really getting going when he talked about the NHS – a key touchpoint for Labour members. Otherwise the mood of conference continued with the pervasive sense that the party, and Ed in particular, might be strolling toward defeat in 2015.“

The announcements

Six national goals- Mr Miliband announced six national goals, stressing that this was not just for one term of office, but was a ten year plan:

  1. Low pay: Halving the number of people in low pay by 2025. The National Minimum Wage will rise to £8 by 2020.
  2. Sharing growth: All working people should share fairly in economic growth of country. Miliband promised “good jobs at decent wages”. He also promised reform of the banking sector including “breaking up the big banks”; promised to get power out of Whitehall; and to support the self-employed.
  3. Green economy: By 2025 Britain will be a world leader in the Green economy creating one million new jobs in the process. The Green Investment Bank will be given borrowing powers, all carbon will be taken out of electricity by 2030 and power will be devolved to communities to insulate 5 million homes over the next 10 years.
  4. Apprenticeships and skills: By 2025, as many young people will be going into apprenticeships as currently go to university. Immigration from outside the EU is dependent on apprenticeships “for the next generation” and major government contracts will require companies to offer apprenticeships.
  5.  Housing: By 2025, the number of first time buyers will be doubled with “as many new homes as we need” built. Mr Miliband announced that large developers will not be allowed to sit on land; housing will be the top priority for additional capital investment; and Labour will build a new generation of towns, garden cities and suburbs.
  6. Health and social care: The creation of a “truly world class health and social care service”. Miliband promised 2,000 more nurses, 8,000 more doctors, 5,000 more care workers and 3,000 more midwives.  There would be no further borrowing and this would be funded by a clamp down on tax avoidance (particularly hedge funds where he will remove the intermediary relief from stamp duty); a mansion tax; and a new tax on tobacco companies. Mr Miliband promised the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act.

Political reform- Mr Miliband announced widespread political reform including giving the vote to 16 and 17 year olds; reforming the House of Lords “to make it a senate for the nations and regions”; and offering further devolution to England. Mr Miliband said that constitutional reform had to be driven by a “constitutional convention” driven by “the people” and not imposed by Westminster.

Foreign policy- Mr Miliband said that the UK’s future lies inside not outside the European Union, although he acknowledged that the EU needed reform. He set out a commitment to a two state solution in Israel/Palestine.

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FleishmanHillard Scottish Referendum Analysis – All Change for British Politics

It may have been a win (55% to 45%) for the No campaign to maintain the Union. In reality British politics will never be the same again.

If people waking up on Friday morning thought a No vote would mean a return to normality or relative calmness back in Westminster and Whitehall, they are in for a shock. The repercussions of the ‘Devo Max’ promised immediately to Scots after this result will have profound consequences south of the Border. In summary

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Friday TechMunch: Apple Gets ‘Personal’

This week marked Apple’s first big launch since the iPad. On Tuesday this week, Apple unveiled its hugely hyped smartwatch alongside two new iPhone models and a smartphone cashless payment system, Apple Pay. The mobile payments market has been slow to take off but with this last offering, Apple’s really hoping to kick-start the service.

Mobile payments aside, it was the smartwatch that really stole the show this year, and no wonder! As smartphone technology reaches a 70 per cent saturation point in markets such as the UK and USA, the wearable technology market is seen as a massive growth area for mobile technology companies. Over the past year smartwatches in particular have been the subject of intense scrutiny as Samsung, LG and Motorola have all launched a bid for our wrists.

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Friday TechMunch: Will the EU Restriction on Vacuum Wattage End Civilisation as We Know It?

This week marked the end of the 1600-watts-plus super vacuum. By 2017, you won’t be able to buy a vacuum with more than 900-watts of power. We’re concerned that without our super vacuums Britain will return to the Dark Ages, so should we move our savings into gold and buy survival kits?

Probably not, no.

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The Ten Political Impacts of Douglas Carswell’s Defection

Following Douglas Carswell’s defection to UKIP and the announcement that there will be a by-election, FleishmanHillard has analysed the top ten political impacts:

1. In Conservative Home’s own words, this is “undoubtedly a blow to the Prime Minister.”

2. Having managed to move the political narrative away from divisions on Europe (and from an issue that only UKIP will benefit from), the Conservative election campaign has been seriously knocked off course and negative headlines will replace positive ones concerning the economy. This is the last thing Lynton Crosby would want.

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The Campaign for Scotland’s Future

This week’s second debate on Scottish Independence between the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond; and the leader of the pro-union Better Together Campaign, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling saw Mr Salmond dominate. The previous debate had left the pro-independence campaign with numerous questions to answer, most notably on the currency.

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Friday TechMunch: Welcome to the App World?

Have you ever tried online banking on your mobile phone and gave up as the whole process is too complicated? Or deleted apps too difficult to start? Often we download apps in order to make our lives easier and more productive: buying a ticket for your local theatre, grabbing a deal at your favourite retailer or checking how many steps we walked on that day. Yet, once the app is up and running, sometimes all we can see is a jungle of menus and options tricky to access. And when your phone runs out of space, those not-so-user friendly apps are the first ones we delete .

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Friday TechMunch: Are We Really Ready For Iris Recognition Technology?

Contributed by Niamh Kinsella

This month we saw news of the Fidelys iris recognition device entering the market – the first of its kind to reach the level of sophistication, and at a price point low enough to be a viable prospect for the commercial market.

This is a major milestone for iris recognition in the drive towards biometrics working their way into everyday life. Along with wearable tech, biometrics are set to replace passwords and mobile as the next step forward in technology for consumers and businesses, and organisations are already scrambling to establish prototypes and develop systems that will see this trend enter our lives sooner than we think.

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Friday TechMunch: Driverless Cars Steer Automotive Industry Into New Era

Contributed by Jeremy Vickerman

By January 2015, the cars that you pass as you drive to the shops, pick the kids up and struggle to find a parking space may be piloted by nothing more than an on-board computer. To call it simply an on-board computer may be an understatement – the sheer complexity involved in accurately controlling 1.5 tonnes of speeding metal is tough to quantify – and how close you come to one will depend on whether you live in a city that volunteers to the testing of these vehicles on its streets.

While you may indeed see these cars on the M6 in the next few years, the chances are that they won’t be navigating Britain’s roundabouts any time soon. The UK has been far slower off the mark in terms of testing than several states in the US and Japan, where the futuristic vehicles have already been let loose on their streets. Google’s driverless car has already covered 300,000 miles on Californian public roads, while Nissan’s driverless dynasty has been busy clocking up the miles on Japanese motorways since early 2013.

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Friday TechMunch: The Future of Parenting?

Contributed by Libby Reynolds

Last week LG unveiled a new tracking device for children. While apps and gadgets to keep tabs on kids are nothing new, LG’s device stands out because of its remarkably friendly, mass-market appeal – pink and blue wristwatches; complete with their own cartoon animated face which transmits signals to a parent’s tablet or smartphone.

But should we pay attention to the renewed Orwellian warnings about these devices, or embrace what some see as a really positive benefit of 21st century technology? And can we even completely trust this new technology in practical terms?

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