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Speech to 35th Annual Chesterfield May Day Demonstration and Gala

Toby Perkins MP at Chesterfield's 35th May Day Gala

Toby Perkins MP at Chesterfield's 35th May Day Gala

The 35th Annual Chesterfield May Day Demonstration and Gala took place with a huge turnout from the Labour Party and our friends and comrades in the trade unions

I spoke alongside speeches from Cheryl Pidgeon of UCATT, Alex Gordon of the RMT and Chris Haswell of the PCS.

The full text of my speech is below (check against delivery):

Comrades, welcome to Chesterfield on May Day.

Across the world from Argentina to Vietnam people turn out in their millions to support International Workers’ Day. And here in Chesterfield this is the 35th time the Labour movement has come together in this way.

Throughout history, right wing governments have tried to repress the message behind International Workers’ Day and fascists in Hitler’s Germany and Franco’s Spain abolished it.

Now this Tory government are arguing for its abolition here.

They’re fighting the Workers’ Day, at the very moment that people know that there has never been a greater need to take to the streets and to stand up for the rights of workers and for the right to work!

In the 2 years since this Tory-led government was elected, there’s been a lot of marching, a lot of protesting.

From the 50,000 students marching against tuition fees to the hundreds of thousands who marched for the alternative.
From the young men and women of Jarrow marching for jobs to the public sector workers fighting for their pensions, people are taking to the streets and speaking up because they are worried and angry. They’re speaking up because they know it doesn’t have to be like this, they’re speaking up because they can see its hurting but it isn’t working.

People are speaking up because they know the Tories are hurting the very people who have done so much for our country in the past or those who are Britain’s key to a successful and prosperous future.

People are speaking up because they can see that whilst the Tories are telling us that there’s no money to pay our pensions, that workers must work longer for less, they can find the cash to give a tax cut to 14,000 millionaires.

People are speaking up because they can see public services being hollowed out and the voluntary sector left to wither on the vine. Vital services for some of the most vulnerable – the victims of Cameron’s Big Society.

People are speaking up because whilst Tories in Westminster and at Matlock on the County Council are cutting services for disabled and the elderly that allow them to live and die in dignity, they see government policy available for sale to the highest bidder.

People are speaking up because they see Britain’s National Health Service being sacrificed at the altar of the free market, because they know that this costly reorganisation is going to take the National out of the NHS and they fear that the market will see profits put before patients.

People are speaking up because they worry about the future for our young people: the most expensive university education in Europe, a million young on the dole and an increasingly divisive school system that could leave the poorest kids behind.

People are speaking up because these Tories are telling thousands of disabled people that they aren’t trying hard enough to find work at the same time as they’re throwing 1700 disabled people who are doing just that on the scrapheap with their closures at Remploy.

What cruelty, what stupidity- what a disgrace!

We are angry with these Tories but we are not surprised. These sons and daughters of Thatcher. We know how the Tory story ends. But this one had a different beginning…

It began with Dave and Nick in the Rose Garden. After the Tories couldn’t win a majority for austerity they brought in the Lib Dems who’d been campaigning for growth.

In fact there have been Lib Dem Ministers at the heart of some of the cruellest cuts from this Tory led government.

It’s a Lib Dem that is leading the attacks on workers rights, it’s a Lib Dem that trebled tuition fees.

It was a Lib Dem that betrayed Forgemasters and it was a Lib Dem Minister arguing for the wanton destruction of our Health service.

When this government goes and the history is written, we’ll never forget what the Tories did, but we’ll never forgive that the Lib Dems could have stopped it all.

So friends, it is right that we should stand up and be counted, speak up and protest. But its only a small part of the story.

The Labour movement is at its best not when it is the voice of protest but when it is in the business of government.

It is because of Labour in Government that we have a National Health Service, that we have the National Minimum wage, that we created Sure Start or recognised civil partnerships.

The simple truth is that virtually every change that has delivered for ordinary people has come from a Labour Government.

God knows we didn’t get everything right. But as more and more people see the self defeating nature of this government’s austerity, they’re not just shouting on the streets but they are making their voices heard in the ballot box.

Last Thursday across England, Scotland and Wales voters rejected the Tory prescription and placed their faith in Labour again.

And last night in France President Hollande struck a huge blow for the alternative with his general election victory that opens new possibilities.

Only these Tories could think that the reason they lost was that they weren’t right wing enough! They think they lost because they started being nice to the gays!

Only the Tories could think you make the rich work harder by making them richer and the poor work harder by making them poorer.

But on the left we know the incontrovertible truth.

We don’t win just because they are failing. The left only wins when it is confident, credible, relevant and united. It is because we know it and the Tories know it that they will try to divide us.

The Tories want to turn people against each other. They want to tell those who are working that our problems are the fault of the unemployed. Turn those fit to work against those who are not. Get workers in the private sector to resent the public sector. Tell the old it’s all the fault of the young.

So today when we marched, we marched for unity.

We are saying that our economy can work better for the young and the old.

Yes we stand here to fight for our NHS, to protect the Police who protect us, for the teachers and nurses, the firemen and the council workers, the train drivers and our servicemen and women here and abroad.

We’re here for those who support the vulnerable young and old. The people who ensure that we are a decent society and provide services for every single one of us in the land.

But we are also making the case for everyone who feels that our economy can work better for us all.

The Labour party and the trade unions go hand in hand.

And we’d like all workers to join a union, but when only 1 in 4 workers do, we can’t just be here for those who are in.

On International Workers’ Day we are here for all workers.
We’re here for the workers who make cars, mend cars, wash cars or drive cars.
We’re here for the workers in cafes and bars and shops and call centres.
We’re here for the unemployed, the under employed and the self employed.
We’re here for the army of workers in offices, on building sites, in factories and in vehicles.

These are the real wealth creators, not the city speculators or the gamblers who took our economy to the brink.

With a united Labour movement we can create a force so great the Tories wouldn’t stand a chance.

So today when we marched and we marched for unity. We marched with a thousand voices not arguing about what divides us but finding the ties that bind us.

We’re saying together “it doesn’t have to be like this”.

In tough times we can build on the best of Britain, not run in fear from the worst and with that united Labour movement, on International Workers’ Day in Chesterfield, I can’t think of a better place to be.

Thank you

Chesterfield May Day 2012

Chesterfield May Day 2012

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Welcome

I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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