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The wind of change is blowing through the Labour Party

For the first time in more than 15 years the true values and principles of the Labour Party were proclaimed by a Labour Leader in his Conference speech. Gone was the attempt to present modernisation as accommodating the banks, big business and of course the Murdoch press. Gone was the effort to align Labour with business irrespective of what business did, whether engaging in foreign speculation and exploitation of tax havens, sacking hundreds of workers, beating down the terms and conditions of workers by marginalising the unions, or demanding deregulation of environmental and labour safeguards. Yes, Labour is indeed pro-business, but of the producers not the predators, of real engineering and not financial engineering, of the responsible job creators and not the asset strippers. But that was not the heart of the speech.

The central message was that he was determined to break down the inner circle of power and wealth that controlled Britain. That is a very bold statement since those centres of power are immensely strong and will fight back hard. But taking them on is what the Labour Party was formed to do, and this statement of Labour’s goals is only so striking because in the last three decades under the malign influence of unfettered market capitalism it has entirely given up on its key purpose, the whole rationale of its existence.

Nor is this just a piece of warm rhetoric, to be dropped at the first taste of real power. Three things tell against that. One is that Miliband has already demonstrated his readiness to carry this out by taking on Murdoch over BSkyB – and against the odds, winning. He pursued this theme further by taking on the train companies and the energy Big Six, and now he’s making clear this is a general line of action which he will pursue across the board. And there’s another reason to believe him: his obvious honesty and integrity which came across so strongly throughout his speech. This is a man who may not have the airs and graces of Blair as a communicator, but he has the inestimable advantage of clearly meaning what he says.

There is a lot wrong with the current values of British society – the obsession with wealth and celebrity, the selfishness, the demand for instant gratification, the loss of community concern for others. There is a lot wrong too with the governance values of modern Britain – the loss of accountability at almost all levels in the power structure, the breakdown in the checks and balances, the growing centralisation of power, the subversion of democracy. These are values that need to be recognised and confronted. For the first time for decades we have a Leader who is determined to do just that.

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