Miliband returns to Commons with inequality message

Labour backbencher Ed Miliband speaks in the House of Commons
Labour backbencher Ed Miliband speaks in the House of Commons
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ED Miliband has used his first Commons speech since the election to repeat the warning of inequality that many in his own party are now distancing themselves from.

The former Labour leader, speaking from the back benches for the first time in nine years, admitted again that he took full responsibility for Labour’s election defeat, but urged the Prime Minister to recommit himself to being the “one nation” leader David Cameron has previously promised to be.

In a well received speech, Mr Miliband set out how his change in life since the defeat had been noticed by his young son.

Mr Miliband said: “In the time since the general election, I can report to the House I have found some small consolations of losing - spending time with my two boys, who feel that they have their dad back.

“Though, I can confess my eldest who has just turned six did bring me further down to earth last week. He suddenly turned to me out of the blue and said ‘Dad, if there is a fire in our house I think we will be OK’. I said, ‘Why is that Daniel?’.

“He said, ‘Because if we ring the fire brigade, they will recognise your name because you used to be famous’.

“Thanks very much, I said.”

The Doncaster MP said he would use his “used to be famous position from the back benches” to hold the government to account.

Returning to the need to address inequality, Mr Miliband said: “Can one nation really be consistent with making those on welfare shoulder £12bn of the burden of deficit reduction and those at the top nothing at all? Can one nation really be squared with cuts to tax credits with its impact on working people?

“Can one nation be squared with a welfare system which is so often harsh, brutal and brutalising. Can one nation be squared with a country where one million people go to food banks?”

Mr Miliband, who spoke from the third row of the Labour benches, was surrounded by allies as he spoke on the final day of debate on the Queen’s Speech.

He said in-work poverty was the “modern scourge of our times” as he said inequality would be the defining political issue facing Britain.

He added: “I believe left and right can agree that it should be a basic principle that if you go out to work you shouldn’t be living in poverty but we are so far from that in Britain today.”

Mr Miliband said the minimum wage had “played its part”, adding while the Low Pay Commission had been a “great success” but that it had become “too much of a recipe for the lowest common denominator”.

Reflecting on his defeat, which saw his party virtually wiped out in Scotland and make no progress in the English marginals, Mr Miliband said he was “deeply disappointed”.

He added: “I believe it is right my party comprehensively examines the reasons for that defeat and does the hard and painful thinking necessary.

Former chancellor Ken Clarke praised Mr Miliband’s performance during the election campaign and criticised those Labour MPs who have since attacked Mr Miliband’s leadership.

Mr Clarke added: “It causes me at times a slight annoyance to find that in the leadership election that’s broken out in the Labour Party, some of those people who were a month ago his greatest admirers, his most loyal colleagues, closest to his cause, are now busily detaching themselves and attempting to scapegoat him for the problems that the Labour movement experienced.