I'll Give the Vote to 16-Yr-Olds. It's Time to Hear the Voice of Young People in Politics; LABOUR CONFERENCE: KEEPING BRITAIN UNITED AND CONNECTED; Rousing Ed on Devolution and His Fierce English Pride

The Mirror (London, England), September 24, 2014 | Go to article overview

I'll Give the Vote to 16-Yr-Olds. It's Time to Hear the Voice of Young People in Politics; LABOUR CONFERENCE: KEEPING BRITAIN UNITED AND CONNECTED; Rousing Ed on Devolution and His Fierce English Pride


Byline: JACK BLANCHARD Political Correspondent

FIRED-up Ed Miliband yesterday gave a rallying cry for English pride as he pledged to restore faith in politics by changing how the country is run.

The Labour leader promised votes for 16- and 17-year-olds, an elected "senate of the regions" to replace the House of Lords, and a huge shift of power away from Westminster.

He vowed that these changes would start to heal a nation that no longer trusts those in charge.

Mr Miliband told the conference: "We have to transform who has power in our country so that those who feel locked out feel let back in.

"People think Westminster politics is out of touch, irrelevant and disconnected from their lives."

He set out his reform plans just days after Scottish nationalists came close to ripping Britain apart.

Mr Miliband said people up and down the UK are angry with Westminster politics, and promised sweeping changes if Labour wins the general election in May.

He said: "People have lost faith in future. That's why so many people voted to break up our country.

"Is it any wonder? The deck is stacked. The game is rigged in favour of those who have all the power."

He took centre stage after some of his senior colleagues had let their hair down on Monday night.

Labour bigwigs Keith Vaz, Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper were among those who danced Gangnam Style at the conference's Diversity knees-up.

But all eyes were on Mr Miliband yesterday as he strutted his stuff during the rousing speech.

He had faced days of pressure since the Scottish referendum after opposing David Cameron's call for English-only votes in Parliament.

Some Tories said Mr Miliband was refusing to give England a voice. But he hit back, making clear he was proud to be English and that patriotism was not only a matter for Tory right-wingers.

"We must fight for these traditions, not cede them to others," he fumed.

In a powerful passage of his speech, Mr Miliband evoked great victories including the defeat of British fascism in the 1930s and the long fight for fair pay.

He said: "Englishness - a history of solidarity, from the Battle of Cable Street against Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts to the spirit of the Blitz. Traditions of fairness, from the Ford workers at Dagenham who fought for equal pay, to today's campaigners for the living wage.

"A spirit of internationalism, from those who fought in the Spanish Civil War to our generosity to those overseas."

Mr Miliband said there were lessons to learn from last week's referendum but added the Prime Minister is playing politics with his call for English-only votes.

"He's learning the wrong lessons about Scotland," Mr Miliband said.

"He doesn't understand the lessons are of course about the constitution, but they are not about playing political tactics about England."

And in a damning assessment of the way the PM makes policy, he added: "David Cameron doesn't lie awake thinking about the United Kingdom.

"He lies awake at night thinking about the United Kingdom Independence Party."

The answer, Mr Miliband said, is not a cynical call for English votes, but radical reform of the way Britain is run. …

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