Has Labour lost the plot — or, just a speech?


As Parliament went into recess, the Policy Consortium’s Ian Nash cheekily rummaged through the wastepaper bins of the Commons Library and other places to find the ‘lost’ speech that Opposition Leader Ed Miliband should have delivered at last week’s Sutton Trust Higher Ambitions Summit on Apprenticeships and Vocational Education.

In the name of openness, we now publish the key passages of that alternative  ‘lost Miliband speech’ here.  [Please note: his actual speech, as delivered on that day, can be seen via the hot-link at the bottom.]

ED MILIBAND: Friends, I start out by making no apologies for the previous Labour Government’s policy of getting 50% of 18 to 30-year-olds into higher education. And I make no apologies now for turning the focus back on the forgotten 50% who don’t aim for university. Of course, we never forgot them; whereas, the Coalition has in fact forgotten, or at best marginalised, them.

[Pause here, for applause!]

The next Labour Government will not hold with the nonsensical policy of impossibly-targeted English and Maths GCSE resits for those marginalised school-leavers failed by the Coalition Government’s misguided obsession with GCSE resits. Such repeat testing is a proven route to further failure. Instead, we will offer appropriate programmes as part of a broad and powerful pathway of excellence for all.

Matthew Hancock and David Cameron talk not only of an apprenticeship or university for all school leavers; worse, they talk of these two pathways being ‘in competition’ with each other. But these should not be competing pathways; nor will they be, after we win the 2015 General Election.

So, where the Coalition offers only destructive competition, we will bring constructive co-operation; where the Coalition Government brings only cul-de-sac resits, we bring imaginative pathways to real progression.

Remember – it was a Labour Government that created Foundation Degrees which, coupled with HNDs, have led to 211 further education colleges, often partnered with universities, to offer degree-level vocational qualifications. It is now time to take this a huge further step. We will do two things vitally lacking in the Coalition’s short-sighted strategy.

First, we will empower colleges to offer their own degrees to full BA status. They will have the choice of also continuing partnerships where they have proven to be so constructive, as in Stafford and Bedford where the universities work in partnership with colleges and employers.

Second, we will introduce a new full technically-based BA degree that is a progressive step beyond the FD, giving full honours status. The degrees will only be accredited if they are employer-led, co-produced with FHE colleges or universities, rooted in STEM subjects and take people from the full range of pathways post-GCSE/Tech Bacc.

[Further pause for applause!]

Third, we will create new apprenticeships – an extension of the best sandwich degrees provided post-War – which will give those who desire it a chance to earn while they learn.

HNC/Ds and now Foundation Degrees have been around long enough to give the evidence we need of alternative pathways for all who work hard beyond school – not by having to resit school qualifications, but by taking an alternative course more relevant and motivating for their age, aptitude, attitude and disposition.

Research evidence at this Sutton Trust Higher Ambitions Summit reminds us unequivocally that many parents will not be persuaded that Apprenticeships are a route with equal merit to degrees – until they are seen to lead directly to full degree status.

It is clear from what we have seen that this is not where the Coalition policies will take us. Only a Labour Government will do that. And only a Labour Government will make such goals a realistic prospect for the 100% — who will then be able to progress as far as their hopes, aspirations, abilities and aptitudes can take them.

[Pause once again, for yet more applause!]

Before I finish, I want to be frank with you about how Labour got lost in its own rhetoric, almost to the point of destruction. When I was elected to lead Labour in Opposition, I said I would be open, honest and transparent. Well, I have to say that I think the obsession with degrees was knee-jerk silliness. I will remind you that we never really, actually….strictly speaking….had a policy of getting half of all school leavers to university. Perhaps we did over-egg the ‘all-shall-graduate’ cake a tad.

What we actually said was that we wanted 50% of all people to have sound experience of higher education from age 18 to 30 – and that might include a PhD or it might be the first year of a professional nursing course. But when the press and media misinterpreted this as degrees for all…well, we thought “It’s giving us a good press, why not go with it?”

And when teacher unions, school governors and professional associations accused us of elitist and damaging policies, we could whisper: “Don’t believe everything you read in the Daily Mail, we’re talking accessible, affordable, local FE at top-ranking further education colleges.”

A combination of a good press and great grins from the professions and laity proved it was a win-win situation and won Tony Blair two further General Elections.

Unfortunately it also opened doors to even more extreme and reactionary policies from the Coalition army of deranged thinkers in Gove-rnment. And I must admit it leaves us in a bit of an ideological mess.

So if you have any bright ideas for good radical Labour Government policies over the coming break, they will be gratefully received.

Thank you and have a good summer break.

[Wait for prolonged final burst of tumultuous applause!]

Ed ‘Finger-on-the-Pulse’ Miliband

[Editor’s note: for some unexplained reason, this text was found in the bin on crumpled sheets of paper, ripped into several parts and annotated with indecipherable comments in red ink involving lots of underlining and exclamation marks, from the Labour Media office.]


Here’s what Ed Miliband actually said:

twittertwitter  The Policy Consortium on Twitter

Leave a Reply