SPEECH TO THE 39TH ANNUAL CHESTERFIELD MAY DAY GALA
(check against delivery)
For the 39th time, people have come from across the region to Chesterfield on May Day. On International Workers Day, there is nowhere I’d rather be.
I think its my 16th. The first one I can recall attending was in 2001, when Tony Benn said farewell to Chesterfield, back in 2001, there wasn’t any question that days later Britain would be re-electing a Labour government.
A year ago, we left MayDay, just 3 days from a crucial General election, with the potential to shape the nation’s future for years to come. We left here with hope, but despite local success, across the country, we weren’t able to convince enough people that Labour were ready to form a government again.
Too many people thought that whoever won the election wouldn’t make any difference. But after 1 year of Cameron’s Tories we know how wrong they were.
If people say to you that politics doesn’t make a difference- Show them the refugee children stranded without their parents on the streets of Europe, who have been shamefully turned away by a Tory government.
Then ask them to look at our National Health Service, with every region of the NHS in deficit, the Junior Doctors, who its very future depends upon, locked in the most serious Industrial dispute in the history of the NHS.
The doctors know that our NHS is under threat like never before. And they are dealing with a man, Jeremy Hunt, who acts as though he will solve the NHS’s Recruitment crisis by driving Doctors out of the NHS. Those Doctors know that elections matter, they deserve our support.
Then look at our schools, Labour left power with the best generation of school teachers in our history, and school results improving in every area. But the Tories forced academisation plan will strip parents of power and leave schools accountable to no-one. Try telling our school teachers and parents that elections don’t matter.
Look at the disabled and the sick, the hardest hit by the Government’s relentless assault on their incomes, thousands have died having being found fit for work- try telling them that elections don’t make a difference.
And look at the Trade Union Bill. In the most blatant way, this government are attempting to use their power to crush all opposition. This bill is about preventing trade unions from representing their workers and undermining the finances of the Labour Party. Make no mistake, this government are attempting to change the law to lock themselves into power forever.
The Labour Party will oppose all these measures. Already we have got the government to back down on tax credit cuts, on further cuts to Personal Independence payments and on the worst excesses of the Trade Union Bill. But that’s not enough.
Friends, losing hurts, Because we will spend the next 4 years trying to stop the Tories making things worse, not bringing in the changes this country needs for a fairer future.
And remember what a Labour government means: We founded the NHS, because whether you live or die shouldn’t depend on whether you can afford the treatment.
We cleared the slums and built the dignity of Housing for all.
We lifted 1 million children out of poverty, cut pensioner poverty to a record low, cut NHS waiting times, allowed gay people to recognise their love and introduced the Minimum wage.
It’s only a Labour Government that brings about the change that endures.
And just as we want to build a Britain fair for all, so we should be a fighting for a fairer world.
We are the country that on the brink of war ourselves, at a time when our own future had never been more uncertain, took in thousands of unaccompanied Jewish children in the 1930’s on the Kinder Transport.
How can this be the same country that would turn its backs in the face of the worst refugee crisis since the war when the world is begging us to help? As we speak there are children on the streets of other European capitals- alone, frightened, cold and hungry, we have the power to help. We should be taking in the 3000 unaccompanied children left desolate by war.
Elections matter and this week we have elections here again. In Derbyshire we have the chance to elect the first ethnic minority Police & Crime Commissioner anywhere in Britain by electing Labour’s Hardyal Dhindsa, I hope people will go out and vote for Hardyal.
In June we face one of the most crucial decisions in our lifetime, when we vote whether to remain or leave the European Union.
It wont surprise you to know that, like more than 95% of Labour MPs and the vast majority of Labour members, I am hoping Britain chooses to stay in the EU.
No country who wishes us well, wants us to leave.
When Thatcher killed the Mining industry she didn’t just crush the life chances of people living there, she endangered entire communities. Rebuilding those communities has been a long process and it is far from over, but when investment was needed it was Europe that stepped forward. Every single major regeneration programme in the coalfields was supported by European money.
From the Avenue Coking Works to Junction 29A, this town has found Europe to be a friend in time of need, and our cities too saw investment that changed them forever.
But its not just investment into our area that Europe has contributed towards, working life in Britain is fairer because of our union with Europe: 28 days paid leave, paternity pay, extension to maternity leave, a limit on the hours workers could be asked to work, right to join a trade union. As we fight back against Tory sweatshop policies every day, does anyone think a Tory government outside of the EU would be looking to make life fairer for workers?
Turning our back on the EU will endanger British jobs and investment, and we saw that when our economy was uncertain because of the banking crisis, it was working people and the poor who suffered, lets not plunge our country into that sort of uncertainty again.
I have been to Germany to Berlin, I’ve been to Brussels and Paris, I’ve met with their politicians. They have no desire to undermine our NHS, they are clear that Britain can choose to exempt the NHS from TTIP.
The only people who can endanger our NHS are the Tories. Leaving the EU won’t solve any of the problems this country faces, and imagine the kind of deal the Tories would be looking to get if they were negotiating on behalf of Britain in the event of Brexit. Negotiating away workers rights, selling off our NHS, Making Britain the sweatshop of Europe, the easy hire easy fire workhouse of their dreams, I say this country is better than that.
The people of this country have never turned our backs and walked by on the other side of the road, whether it was the fight to stop the march of fascism in 1939 or leading the fight on global poverty. Crime doesn’t stop at our border, nor does the internet or trade. People’s horizons are wider. People like to travel and work abroad, why deny the children of tomorrow the opportunities that are available to people today?
If people vote to leave the EU in pursuit of their own dream as to what Britain would be like out of the EU remember who will be doing the negotiating. Make no mistake if we leave, all these voices- from Farage to Scargill- will all claim that the deal we’ve got isn’t the one they’d have signed up to. As socialists we believe that we achieve more together than we achieve alone, lets vote that way on June 23rd, and vote to remain a part of Europe.
And when 23rd June is past, the fight will go on. Not just the fight for a fairer Europe because that’s not perfect, but the fight for our future here in Britain too. The fight to save our NHS, and to defeat the Tories forced academisation plans, the fight to ensure we have trade unions empowered to perform their historic role, the fight to ensure Britain is a force for global stability and peace in the world and the fight to prove to the people of Britain that Labour is ready to be a government again.
That’s a future worth fighting for, and on the Workers Day it’s the fight workers depend on, lets fight it together.