The following is a verbatim transcript of my interview with Ed Miliband. Please use freely, but it would be damn nice of you to credit the report.
SD - One of the questions that Ed Miliband’s been asked rather a lot in the media is about his expression of good businesses and bad businesses. Now surely if they’re acting within the law, all businesses are good businesses? Do you Ed Miliband think that you need to go back and re-express that one?
EM - No I said in the speech there are good business practices and bad business practices, and I think most businesses would recognise that. And we’ve seen over the last few years in the banks, parts of the energy companies, I’m afraid practices which haven’t helped business, because when a bank doesn’t help small business, that’s not pro business, that’s anti business.
SD - Yes I understand, but what people are confused about as you’ll appreciate, is that they think you’re talking about pro small business, not necessarily big business, and then maybe there’s a cross over point where that small business becomes big. Are they then bad?
EM - No, because I actually praised in my speech Rolls Royce, a very large business which I think does a great job for Britain, but I think in the end, government sets rules, and the question is, does government set rules which encourage good practice, or bad practice. Let me just give you some very practical examples, does government reward research and development for example, companies that do that in the tech system. Does it, when it makes decisions about what it buys, reward those companies that offer apprenticeships, something that’s really important for the long term health of our economy. Does it ensure in banking that there’s proper competition to help small businesses. So I think there are very practical ways in which government can show that actually it encourages the right business practices and discourages the wrong ones, and goodness knows after what we saw in the financial crisis, I think that’s really important.
SD - Ok, well on the economy, we’re in the hall where you delivered your speech the other day, and I think it would be fair to say that your message was that Labour are economically credible. Firstly do you agree with that reading? And also what you did say is that an awful lot of the cuts on the most vulnerable are permanent, and cannot be reversed. Does that mean to say that you cannot, or will not reverse it, or is that something that we’ve misread?
EM - I think what I would say is that we’re not going to make promises we can’t keep, because I think trust in politics is so low that if we do that, then frankly I think people wouldn’t trust us, and rightly so, so what we’re going to do is say what can and can’t we do, and we set out practical policies this week, that can make a difference, for example, showing how we can cut tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 by not going ahead with tax cuts for the banks, how we can take on some of the energy companies, and what they’re doing. So I think it’s about practical policies, practical costed policies, and not making promises you can’t afford, and that’s very, very important.
SD - Were you worried about the tuition fees policy, because with the £9,000 cap, which you’re obviously talking about reducing down to £6,000, you know, three and a half to four years potentially before you could be in government, we don’t know the state of the economy at that point, so is this a commitment you’re absolutely able to deliver?
EM - Well what we’ve said is that if we were in government now, we would be doing that, and if there was a general election now, it would be in our manifesto. We’ll see where we are at the time of the next election, but I think it’s given a very practical sense of how we want to move the country forward, how we want to change the country, and I think that’s what people have got from Labour this week, a sense of who we are, who we stand up for, the hard working families of Britain, who want a different bargain in our economy, where their values are better rewarded. That’s what we’re about, that’s what we’re going to be talking about in the coming months.
SD - Let’s finish up by chatting about, and I’m sorry to raise the subject, the very articulate young man, Rory Weal who spoke of being on welfare, and the Daily Mail turned him over, let’s be honest about that, but have you spoken to Rory since, and how do you feel about... is it a bit strong to call it a deception?
EM - Well, I think he gave a fantastic speech. I think there’s a slightly British problem of knocking down people who do great things. Look, he’s a 16 year-old, he came to the very intimidating atmosphere of Labour conference, gave a fantastic speech, I think told the absolute truth about his situation, and you know, I think we should give him credit for having done that. I think he’s a star in the making, and I’ll leave it at that.
SD - So here’s the news line then, there’s a future for him in the Labour Party, possibly on the benches?
EM - Definitely, definitely. He’s a great kid, and he did a fantastic performance.
SD - A future William Hague, who knows. Ed Miliband, thank you very much. *** ENDS ***