Angela Rayner – 2020 Speech to Labour Connected

The text of the speech made by Angela Rayner, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, to Labour Connected on 20 September 2020.

Friends. Comrades. Welcome to Labour Connected.

In these unprecedented times, we aren’t able to hold our Annual Conference, but I was determined that we would still meet.

Being elected your Deputy Leader is the honour and privilege of my life.

And in the last six months, I have been humbled by the response of the Labour family to the coronavirus crisis.

Our Labour councillors keeping our public services going and our Labour members who have been working on the frontline and volunteering in their communities. You are the very best of our movement.

This crisis has shown who we cannot survive without.

The NHS and social care staff who have put their lives on the line.

The posties, bus drivers, shop workers, delivery drivers and so many others who have kept us all safe, fed and connected.

On behalf of our Party and the labour movement, I want to pay tribute to all of you.

Your service and your sacrifice will never be forgotten.

You have rightly been praised as heroes this year. But the truth is that you have always been heroes. You’ve always been the backbone of our country and of our communities.

Before I became an MP I was a home carer, working nights in Stockport on poverty pay and a zero-hours contract.

So when I listen to social care workers who are being paid a wage that they can’t live on I know how it feels.

And when they tell me how badly they have been let down I feel their anger.

The government has left them without protective equipment, failed to provide the promised testing and discharged patients carrying the virus from hospitals into our care homes.

And it is a disgrace that the Prime Minister tried to blame our care workers for the spread of coronavirus in care homes.

The Health Secretary admitted he couldn’t live on Statutory Sick Pay of £94 pounds a week.

And many social care staff are casual workers who get nothing, not even that derisory amount.

They are left in an appalling position.

Forced to choose between going to work and putting vulnerable people at risk, or isolating at home and not being able to pay the bills.

On his very first day in office, the Prime Minister promised to fix the crisis in social care, with a plan he said he’d already prepared.

The coronavirus crisis has made the crisis in our social care sector even more urgent.

But now it turns out that it won’t be published until next year.

It’s time he got on with it. Show us the plan. And guarantee that every social care worker will be paid at least the real living wage.

Ministers have fallen over themselves to clap for our carers.

But applause on a Thursday night doesn’t pay the rent. A pat on the back doesn’t put food on the table.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister couldn’t even say how much the average social care worker was paid. He had no idea.

So I’ll tell him again. The average wage for a social care worker is £8.10 an hour.

This was a moral outrage even before this pandemic. But now, it is indefensible.

After all their sacrifice and hardship, we can’t go back to business as usual, where the very same people who have risen to this challenge continue to be underpaid, undervalued and exploited.

And we will fight to make sure that every worker earns a decent wage for their work.

Fight for the nurses, midwives, hospital porters and other NHS staff who were denied a pay rise earlier this year.

And fight any attempt to freeze the minimum wage.

And who could be better suited to rebuilding our communities and our country than the key workers who have got us through this crisis?

That is why, working with our trade union movement, we are supporting key workers who want to run for office in May 2021 and beyond.

You kept our country running. Now we want you to lead the recovery in every town hall and in every community.

Over the next three days, we will show what we can achieve with a new leadership for our party and for our country.

At this time of national crisis, we are offering the country the leadership it needs.

We will act in the best interests of the British people, and in our shared mission to defeat this terrible virus.

And we will call this failing Conservative government out for its serial incompetence that is holding Britain back.

The coronavirus crisis has changed everything for all of us, for our country and for our Party. But our values haven’t changed.

And it is those values of fairness and compassion that are seeing our country through this crisis.

Our key workers have answered the call, our public services have risen to the challenge, and the British people have shown the Tories beyond all doubt that Thatcher was wrong and there IS such a thing as society.

A society in which people come together to support each other and have each other’s backs.

A society in which we have all seen the power of community during this crisis.

These are our values. Labour values. And they must be the foundation of our country’s recovery.

Out of this crisis, we can build a better, fairer, more equal society.

In 1945, out of the ruins of war, it was a Labour government that rebuilt our country.

Built our National Health Service.

Built the welfare state.

And transformed Britain, and the lives of the British people, forever.

We did it once, and we can do it again.

We can show the British people a vision of a better, fairer society that Labour will deliver.

My first step in politics wasn’t in the Oxford Union, it was in my trade union.

Not debating for bragging rights at the bar but negotiating because our livelihoods depended on it. I know which Union I’d rather be in.

Because I was born in Stockport, but I was made in our movement. I never went to university, but when I joined my union I found an education and a vocation.

Together we are strong, and in the months ahead our movement will need all of our collective strength as we fight to save jobs and protect our communities.

We will be campaigning on three economic priorities. Jobs, jobs, jobs.

We will speak with one voice as one labour movement.

We can’t let ordinary working people pay the price for this crisis.

Yet if the government ends the furlough scheme with no support in place for the sectors and areas that need it. Then workers and employers alike face a cliff edge, with mass unemployment just one step away.

Our communities know about the human cost of mass unemployment.

Our communities are still bearing the scars left by the last time a Tory government abandoned them and consigned our people to “managed decline”.

And there are workers facing another threat too.

Mass firing, and re-hiring, on lower pay and worse terms, using the threat of the dole queue to pick the pockets of the very staff who have kept those companies going.

So I say to companies like British Airways and British Gas. If you use our country’s name, then you better respect our country’s values.

And if they won’t end fire and rehire, it’s time the government stepped up and ended it for them.

Last Wednesday at PMQs, I faced a Prime Minister who pretends he’s a man of the people but has shown his contempt for women and the working class.

As a single mum, he said my children would grow up “ill-raised, ignorant, and illegitimate”.

He only knows one approach. Denying that problems exist and then blaming other people for his own incompetence.

We are facing a second spike, further restrictions and the prospect of another national lockdown because of his failure and incompetence.

Infections are rising, the testing system is collapsing and the government has lost control of the virus because they have failed to deliver an effective test, track and trace system.

We have been here before.

Now is the time for swift, decisive, national action. And that action must be clearly communicated to the British people.

With lives and livelihoods on the line, we cannot afford to be too slow again.

Never has there been a Prime Minister more out of his depth and ill-equipped to the task than this Bullingdon Club blagger.

He lights up Downing Street green for Grenfell and then whips Tory MPs to block the Grenfell inquiry recommendations.

He claps for our carers when it suits him for a photo opportunity. But he doesn’t even know what they earn, and won’t pay them what they deserve.

He calls a Covid War Cabinet meeting to allow grouse shooting when frontline staff can’t get the tests they need and people can’t say goodbye to their loved ones.

Yet it’s always someone else’s fault. Civil servants. The public health body they voted to create in the first place.

Or even the public – for doing the right thing and trying to get a Covid test.

And what about the other testing disaster this summer, in education.

Not students failing exams. Exams failing students.

Everyone responsible has lost their jobs except the man the Prime Minister put in charge – the Education Secretary.

He’s gone from Private Pike to General Incompetence.

He’s denied knowing there was even a problem.

Now I don’t know if he’s lying or incompetent, or both.

But if Boris Johnson still has confidence in him then he must be the only person in the country who does.

His hero Thatcher once said ‘Advisers advise, but Ministers decide’.

Now the motto seems to be ‘Ministers decide, but advisers resign.’

He’d probably make the algorithm resign if he could.

Under Boris Johnson, the only thing government advisers don’t have to resign for is driving to Durham with Covid symptoms.

We will offer a better alternative. A new leadership for our country.

We know we have a mountain to climb to win the next election, but we are determined to climb it.

We must – and we will – restore people’s trust in Labour as a party of government.

And this work starts now, ahead of next May, the biggest set of elections we have ever fought outside of a General Election.

In Scotland, in Wales, in London and in local elections across England.

There is so much at stake and so much on the line for our communities.

It is up to us to fight against a return to austerity.

To fight for the green jobs we need to meet the challenge of the climate crisis.

To fight racial discrimination and show that Black Lives Matter.

And when it comes to election time we won’t have press barons on our side or Russian oligarchs bankrolling our campaign.

What we have is hundreds of thousands of people who can carry our message into their communities, on the doorstep, and in the workplace.

The coronavirus crisis has changed everything. We will rethink how we organise and campaign for the times that we live in.

But what hasn’t changed is the need for our movement, rooted in the life of the communities and people we serve.

40 years ago, a girl named Angela was born.

She was born into poverty and grew up in a Britain that was broken. Scarred by mass unemployment and hardship.

The odds were stacked against her.

But a Labour government changed that.

The Sure Start centre, the council house, the minimum wage and further education that Labour governments and councils built and provided – they changed that life.

That is what a Labour government does. That is what our movement does.

It takes a girl from a council estate with no qualifications and no prospects.

It gives her a chance, gives her a voice.

Makes her a trade union rep, sends her to Parliament and elects her Deputy Leader.

Today, there will be a child being born into poverty.

Under the Tories they will grow up in a Britain that is again broken, scarred by inequality and insecurity.

The odds are stacked against that child.

It is the Labour Party that will change that.

It is Labour – in government – that will change that child’s life.

We will deliver a better, fairer future.

A future that is ours to build, together.