Ray Collins – 2011 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Ray Collins, the then Labour Party General Secretary, to the party conference on 25th September 2011.

Thank you Chair, and thank you Conference.

This is the 38th consecutive Party Conference I have attended, and whilst I hope to be attending many more, this is my last Conference as your General Secretary.

For many conferences now, you have heard me bang on about my priorities as General Secretary.

I am afraid that, for one last time, I am going to bang on about them again here today.

My priorities were threefold:

– To put the Party on a stable organisational and financial footing.

– To ensure that we are the Party of equality, advancing the cause of women, Black, Asian, and ethnic minority communities and other under-represented groups.

– And to ensure we are a party of the future, with a growing and vibrant youth movement.

Being General Secretary has given me the opportunity to meet and get to know many of the Party’s young activists. I have always believed that our young members are not just the leaders of tomorrow; they are important voices here and now.

But it is only latterly that I have fully appreciated quite how capable those leaders of tomorrow are. I have endeavoured to support their work, and in response to their extremely persistent lobbying, agreed to fund a full-time Youth Officer in Head Office.

I am also extremely proud to have worked – alongside a great many others – to ensure that we look like the country we seek to represent.

There is very much more to do, and we must never be complacent about the future, but when I sit in the PLP, and look around me at our diverse, talented Labour benches, I feel an incredible sense of optimism.

On the finances, you will see from the Treasurer’s Annual Report, quite how much progress we have made.

In 2010, for the first time in many years, we fought a General Election without adding to the Party’s debt burden.

Our finances forced us to be cleverer in our campaigning, deploying resources where they made the most impact.

We lost, and we lost badly, but I honestly believe that as a Party we campaigned better and harder than we ever have before.

And despite all the media predictions, we stopped the Tories achieving an overall majority.

We have learned the lessons of that campaign by developing Project Gameplan, our strategy to win the next General Election.

These lessons were learnt in many of the constituencies I had the pleasure to visit, campaigning with members on the doorstep.

I know I should not single any out, but I do want to mention a few:

– Chesterfield

– Edgbaston

– Islington South

– Oxford West

– And Hastings

These are constituencies that know:

– That engaging with voters on the doorstep is not something you only do at election time.

– That ‘Will you vote Labour?’ is the last question you ask, not the first.

– That there is no such thing as a safe Tory or Lib-Dem seat where there are dedicated activists determined to buck the trend.

It is these lessons that underpin Refounding Labour. It is how we will become an organisation fit for purpose that will win the next election

Under Ed Miliband’s leadership we can win.

I look forward to playing my part in that victory, but also, in something of a departure for me, to being able to speak with my own voice in the House of Lords on issues dear to me, and to the rest of the country.

It was my experiences as a child that first drew me to politics. The sudden death of my father at an early age meant my mother was faced with the loss of her husband, her home, and her household income in quick succession.

She was determined to provide for her children, and her hard work and resolve secured our future.

Yet hard work and resolve were not enough on their own. It was the Equal Pay Act that provided a level playing-field for women like my mother. It was changes in the law that gave my mother protection from exploitation, and it was changes in the law that enabled her to become an economically active individual, rather than dependant on the state.

The politics is the personal, and we never resonate more than when we are supporting voters in their aspirations for themselves and their families.

I want to wind up by saying a big thank you to all those who have supported me in my work as General Secretary.

They are too numerous to mention individually, and I hope to thank them in person over the course of this week.

But I do want to single out the Party’s staff, who are one of Labour’s greatest assets. They work tirelessly on behalf of the Party they love, and no General Secretary could have asked for more.

I also wish to thank my husband, Rafael. He has put up with me working weekends and evenings for a very long time, and without his support, I would have been lost.

The fact that I am able to call him ‘my husband’ is, for me, one of Labour’s greatest achievements in office. Thank you Rafa – for everything.

But my greatest thanks are reserved for you, the Party members.

The best bit of my job has been travelling to constituencies up and down the country, seeing the work that you do, knocking on doors, and making new friends.

You are the lifeblood of our Party, and your passion for our country’s future is formidable to behold.

I wish my successor as General Secretary, Iain McNicol, all the very best for the future.

I know he will value you every bit as much as I do – indeed, it would be impossible not to.

It has been my very great privilege to serve you as General Secretary, and I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail.

Ray Collins – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Ray Collins, the then Labour Party General Secretary, to the 2009 Labour Party conference in Brighton.

Thank you Chair, and thank you Conference.

I am delighted to be here in Brighton for my second Annual Conference, as the Party’s General Secretary – although it is my 36th as a Labour Party member.

Harold Wilson once said that ‘a week was a long time in politics’

Having been in the job for a year, I now know exactly what he meant.

But it has been a productive year, working together with the NEC to win for Labour, and I want to especially thank Cath Speight,

She has chaired the NEC brilliantly this past year, and who has been a constant source of strength and support.

When I spoke at Conference twelve months ago, I outlined my three priorities for our Party:

– putting the Party on a solid, long-term organisational and financial footing.

– promoting equality within our Party, by making it the personal responsibility of the General Secretary.

– and investing in Young Labour and Labour Students, ensuring our young members are the shapers of policy and campaigns today, as well as the leaders of tomorrow.

Last year I was very frank with you about the financial problems we faced, and despite solid progress, our position remains difficult.

Nevertheless, I remain optimistic for the future.

I am optimistic because your National Executive has adopted a strategy that over the long term will: reduce our debt burden, by utilizing our commercial income and reduce structural costs, so we live within our means

This enables us to guarantee that every penny received in donations from individuals and organisations will go directly into campaigning.

This Give-to-Win strategy is helping us to meet our objective to secure the funds to fight the next General Election,

And on Wednesday, Jack Dromey, the Party’s treasurer, will be announcing an important new initiative to build upon our fundraising activities.

I want to thank Jack and all the fundraising team for all the work that they have been doing. The Party is in a better place financially because of their efforts.

But whilst we have not been able to do all that we wanted – we have achieved much:

Douglas has already taken you through our campaigning strategy, but let me stress again:

675 thousand marginal seat voters contacted – more than twice as many as in the run-up to the last election

4.5 million pieces of personalised direct mail sent to key voters using Print Creator

5 million pieces of print sold through the campaign shop – a real testament to how much work you are doing on the ground.

And our online Virtual Phone Bank – used by thousands of members from all over the country to make over 25,000 phone calls to target voters so far.

There is much much more, that I could talk about for another hour at least, but as I am a humane General Secretary, I will suggest that instead you go along to the Labour Party stand and collect a General Election handbook.

You will also find there a free street-stall pack for every local party, containing postcards and newspapers to be used in your local high street during next week’s Tory Party Conference.

And it is not just the Party who have been innovative – – our affiliates too, both the trade unions and the socialist societies, have been looking at new ways of reaching voters:

Unison, UNITE and the GMB’s development of member-to-member contact through online surveys, emails and phone calls.

The Christian Socialist Movement is reaching out to faith communities, communicating the Party’s record on combating poverty.

Community’s election magazine special, and their campaign drive against the BNP.

BAME Labour have been engaging our ethnic minority communities, ensuring their voice is heard at the very highest levels of the Party

USDAW’s fantastic campaign materials, that celebrate our government’s achievements.

I said last year, and I will say it again, that though we have invested in new technologies – there is no substitute to local activists knocking on doors and speaking to one another in factories and on shop-floors.

We may be outspent by the Tories, but we will never be outgunned.

You, the Party members, and the union activists who give us a direct link into thousands of communities and workplaces, are the true strength of our Party,

I want to thank you for all you did in the local and European elections, and all that you are doing now.

I want too to thank the Party’s staff, who do everything that is asked of them and more. When money is tight, it is the staff who feel it most, but they are undaunted, travelling all over the country to deliver for the Party, and for you, the members – No General Secretary could ask for more.

And whilst I will do all in my power to secure the funds to fight the next General Election, I also pledge to you that the Party’s long-term financial stability will be sustained.

Because we must end the twenty-first century as we began it – as a Party of government creating a better Britain for all.

But if we are to be a Party of the future, then we must not look like a Party of the past. We must reflect those we seek to represent, not just because it is right but because it is crucial to our electoral success across all our communities.

And here I want to say a few words about our policy of All-Women shortlists.

As a party, we adopted this process for one reason alone: the shameful under-representation of women within our Parliamentary Party.

It was not an easy road down which to travel, but the Labour Party has never been about what is easy, it is about what is right, which is giving women their proper voice in Parliament.

Labour Party leads the way on this, and we cannot afford to slip back.

So as your General Secretary I will make the case for your policy at every opportunity, and to those who argue that it is undemocratic, I say this: what could be more undemocratic than a 21st century Parliament in which less than a fifth of its members are women – eighty years after they won the right to vote?

We hope too, that automatic short-listing for ethnic minority candidates will begin to further their representation at a national level.

Because we are a nation of vibrance and diversity. It is our strength, both as a country and as a party, and we must always stand strong against the voices of hatred, who seek only to divide and to persecute.

We have been here before, at a time of economic difficulty, when a fascist party sought to exploit people’s poverty and turn them against their neighbours.

Only then they were not called the BNP, and they were led not by Nick Griffin, but by Oswald Mosley.

We stood against them then, as we stand against them now, and no one more so than my friend and comrade from the T&G, Jack Jones, who sadly died earlier this year.

From the battlefields of Spain, to the streets of the East End, Jack was adamant that fascists would not pass.

I can think of no better tribute to the man, than that we continue his struggle; driving the BNP from Brussels and local government, and ensuring that they never gain a foothold in Westminster.

To this end, we have established an anti-BNP taskforce, led by Harriet Harman, and we want you to join with us, giving your time and whatever you can afford, to fighting the racists and the fascists, wherever they raise their ugly heads.

I think Jack would have been proud of our young members, who have campaigned not just against the BNP, but for the Labour Party;

– spreading the message of our achievements across the country.

They were there in the local and European elections, and, like many of you, they were there in Glenrothes, when we defied the predictions of the media, by returning Lindsay Roy to parliament.

I know too that they will be there in Glasgow North-East, and I hope to see you all there with them, when we elect Willie Bain to Westminster.

And this is what gives me every cause for optimism going into the next election. The media might have written us off, but let me tell you something: the media doesn’t have the first idea about the commitment and the passion of Labour Party members.

The elections in June were tough for our Party, and I want to thank all our council and MEP candidates, especially those who lost their seats to a climate of anti-politics that was no fault of their own.

But wherever I go in the country, I do not see a party on its knees. I see a Party ready to fight,

To fight for the future of a country that faces a very stark choice.

So let us focus for a minute upon Cameron’s victorious councils, the ones he claims “demonstrate Conservative government”, and represent his ‘modern breed’ of Tory.

Bromley and Lincolnshire where the Conservative council have taken steps to use tax-payers’ money to subsidise private school fees.

Essex, where Cameron’s shadow business minister has advocated wholesale privatisation of all public services.

And Barnet, where the Tories want to see a “Ryanair” approach to council services.

“Cheap and cheerful,” says council leader, Mike Freer.

Cheap if you’re a high-band tax-payer, perhaps -, but very far from cheerful if you’re poor or sick or disabled.

The Tories have opposed every action we have taken to tackle the recession.

They would have let the banks go to the wall, blocked support for families and jobs, and would cut public services for the many, at the same time as giving away millions of pounds to the 3,000 wealthiest estate owners in Britain.

Contrast that with Gordon Brown’s help for hard-working families, hit hard by the recession:

300,000 people helped to stay in their homes

200,000 businesses kept open using the tax deferral scheme

500,000 jobs saved

And over 300,000 additional jobs, training, college and school places created, so that the recession has not claimed another lost generation of the young, as it did in the 80s and 90s under the Tories.

Cameron would jeopardise all this, and when we tell the voters this, they listen, wherever they are in the country. This was demonstrated in June, in Hastings and in Oxford – where we made council gains in Cameron’s own backyard.

When I meet members, I know you haven’t given up, you are fired up, because the dividing lines have never been as clear as they are now.

You are fighting back in your constituencies, and you are fighting back in the marginal seats.

And to those of you who think you could do more, I urge you to go to the Party stand, and volunteer today.

Let us prove the media wrong, and the country right.

Let us keep Britain Labour. I know we’re up to the task.

Vernon Coaker – 2012 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Vernon Coaker, the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to Labour Party conference on 4th October 2012.

Conference. Northern Ireland is a great place and I’m very privileged to be Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State.

Let me say that one of Labour’s greatest achievements was to help bring about peace in Northern Ireland.

We should never be afraid to say how proud we are of that and how strongly we feel about protecting its legacy. And that’s because Northern Ireland has changed and changed for the better since the bad old days of conflict, violence and isolation.

A fortnight ago I visited the new Giant’s Causeway Centre in North Antrim that already is attracting thousands of visitors. During the summer I toured the new Titanic Quarter and saw the very positive difference the regeneration of that part of Belfast is making.

I’ve been to cities, towns and villages, from next year’s City of Culture in Derry~Londonderry to the twin cathedrals of Armagh and the picturesque Fermanagh lakes around Enniskillen.

What makes Northern Ireland special is its people.

But they are being let down by this Tory-led Government at Westminster. One out-of-touch Secretary of State has been replaced by another. But changing the Tory faces at the Northern Ireland Office isn’t what counts.

They need to change the Tory policies on Northern Ireland.

Unemployment has risen to over 8%.

Nearly one in four young people are without a job. Almost half of those without work have been unemployed for over a year.

Time and again we see that this Government has all the wrong priorities.

Because when hundreds of thousands of people – families, communities and businesses – across Northern Ireland are suffering in these very difficult economic times, the Tories are giving millionaires a £40,000 a year tax break. Giving the richest more money, but at the same time taking money away from those who can’t afford to lose it.

As I told the Northern Ireland Pensioners’ Parliament, 90,000 older people in Northern Ireland – 1 in 3 pensioners – are being hit by the Tory-led Government’s ‘Granny Tax’. And 20,000 families with children will lose out because of changes to tax credits.

And businesses are suffering too.

But after two years of talking about devolving corporation tax powers to Northern Ireland there is still no agreement about whether it should happen and what it would cost.

And with estimates of the cost to the block grant varying from £200m to £700m, there is still a significant gap between the Treasury and the Executive that needs to be bridged.

But rising unemployment and the recent announcements of major job losses show that Northern Ireland’s economy can’t wait. The Tory-led Government needs to catch itself on. The Secretary of State and the Treasury need to stop dithering. Northern Ireland needs action now.

Major decisions that impact upon people in Northern Ireland are still taken at Westminster.

On tax and spend, welfare reform and the overall economic direction taken by the UK. And on all of these the Government is making the wrong decisions.

That’s why Labour has a real plan for jobs and growth in Northern Ireland. We want to support the First and Deputy First Ministers, and the Executive, to build and develop the economy.

So we would reverse the Government’s damaging VAT rise for a temporary period to give immediate help to high streets and struggling families and pensioners in cities, towns and villages across Northern Ireland.

We would bring forward long-term investment projects to get people back to work and strengthen our economy for the future. Northern Ireland’s construction industry needs that help.

We need to build skills through apprenticeships and training that will equip our young people for the future.

And we would give a one-year national insurance tax break to every small firm that takes on extra workers, helping to create jobs and grow local businesses that make up the bulk of Northern Ireland’s private sector.

We would reduce VAT on home improvements, repairs and maintenance, helping to create work for our young tradesmen and women and stop them having to move to Canada and Australia. They are needed at home.

And we would have a £2 billion tax on bank bonuses to fund a real jobs guarantee that would help 2,000 young people in Northern Ireland back to work.

Because I know that young people will be the driving force behind further progress in Northern Ireland. But they are being let down by this Tory-led Government.

The young men and women I meet are ambitious for themselves and their communities. But they can’t realise those ambitions if they aren’t given the chance to get on.

No job, no hope and no future are no choices at all.

We can’t be complacent about the challenges facing Northern Ireland. The threat from those who want to destroy the peace and progress remains high.

I want to thank the Police Service of Northern Ireland for all that they do to keep people safe and secure. I’ve been privileged to meet police officers drawn from every community and serving every community with dedication and integrity. They have my admiration and our support.

Recent weeks have also shown that sensitivities about parades are still very evident in some areas, particularly in Belfast. The reality is that many communities in Northern Ireland are still deeply divided and that sectarianism is an ingrained and uncomfortable truth across all sections of society.

But a shared future can only happen through building shared spaces and shared experiences with shared prosperity and shared responsibility.

That includes taking responsibility for what happened in the past. Because we need to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, the death of 3,000 people and injuries and trauma for tens of thousands more. We can’t truly move forward until we do.

I’ve met so many people – families and friends of those who died during the terrible conflict of the past – who simply want justice and to know the truth about what happened to them or their loved ones.

Our view is clear. We need a comprehensive, inclusive process to deal with the past, and victims and survivors should be at the heart of it.

It won’t be easy.

There are many challenges and complications. And there is no consensus about what that process should look like. But then there was no consensus at the start of the negotiations that led to the Good Friday agreement.

The Agreement showed that you have to get people talking and keep people talking until you find a way forward.

But the Tory-led Government says nothing.

Does nothing.

Even when the Assembly asked the Secretary of State to help facilitate talks between all parties.

They did nothing.

If I’d been in that position, I’d have heeded the call of political parties and victims and survivors in Northern Ireland and convened talks to discuss how we move forward.

Because unlike the do-nothing Tories, I won’t hide away or shirk my responsibility on this or any other issue, and neither will any Labour government.

Ed Miliband and I feel strongly that we, the Labour Party, made a promise to a generation in Northern Ireland that theirs would be a better future.

Because as I said at the outset, one of Labour’s proudest achievements is helping to bring about peace in Northern Ireland.

We know that there is still work to be done.

We know that big challenges remain.

And we know Northern Ireland still matters.

That’s why I will keep standing up and speaking up for Northern Ireland, and keeping to the promises we made for a better and brighter future for all.

Vernon Coaker – 2012 Speech to Irish Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Vernon Coaker, the then Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to the Irish Labour Party in Galway on 16th April 2012.

It is a huge honour and privilege to be here representing my party, the British Labour Party, at the centenary conference of your party, the Irish Labour Party. I want to thank your Leader, the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, and your General Secretary, Ita McAuliffe, for their kind invitation. I carry with me the best wishes of my party leader, Ed Miliband, and colleagues from throughout the Labour Party and the trade union movement to all of you.

In the one hundred years of your existence, you have provided inspiration to democratic socialist parties across the world, and nowhere is your influence felt more than in my party and the trade union movement in Britain. What Edinburgh and Liverpool gave you in Connolly and Larkin has been repaid in many more cities in Britain so many times over, and that such a large number of my colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party have Irish backgrounds is a testament to that. Indeed in my own constituency of Gedling in Nottingham, the Chair of the Labour Party is Seamus Creamer, a Tipperary man.

The ties between Britain and Ireland are bonds of people, places and history. Our shared past is complicated, intense and has often been marred by conflict and division. But in this year, the one hundredth anniversary of the Irish Labour Party, the third Home Rule Bill and the Ulster Covenant, the relationship is transformed. We stand shoulder to shoulder now as friends and neighbours and the special link between our countries has deepened, widened and developed as we both strive for a fairer, more equal and more just society where opportunity is available to all regardless of background, gender, ethnicity or sexuality.

What has happened in Northern Ireland is an example of that. We in the Labour Party will speak up for the peace and progress – as the party who in government helped with others to bring about the Good Friday Agreement and all that flowed from it – and we will stand up for fairness in tough times.

We will hold the UK Government to the promises that were made to help deliver a real peace dividend for Northern Ireland. Because whilst there has indeed been much progress made, we must make sure that the political focus does not prematurely move on. We need to continue working together on Northern Ireland – in a way that is appropriate to the devolved settlement – and while applauding the continuing progress, we still need to understand the threat which remains and recognise the special circumstances that exist.

We all know that the people of Northern Ireland and their representatives, including our friends and sister party the SDLP, are still wrestling with the consequences of the past as they move forward, and this is no time for us to fail to give them a priority that they both demand and deserve. For my part, working on behalf of the British Labour Party, I will try my very best to meet the challenges of supporting the peace process, standing up for Northern Ireland and helping to build the future and prosperity its people deserve.

But what Britain and Ireland also share are values. The values of Irish people, and the Irish in Britain, are Labour’s values too. The importance of fairness, family, looking out for each other, working together, pride in identity, pride in community, and pride at playing a part in doing your bit to make society better. Your President, Michael D. Higgins, visited Britain during his campaign for election. And many members of my party were involved in helping him win his historic victory. I’m delighted that he has appointed one of my party colleagues, Sally Mulready, to the Council of State in Ireland, another example of the close connections between our two countries.

In my own city of Nottingham just a few weeks ago I saw those values on display in the Market Square for the St Patricks Day Parade. The hurlers, footballers, dancers and musicians. It was even more than just a celebration of culture, it was a celebration of community and the pillars of strength which bind communities together.

And when I visited Dublin last month, for the first time as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I saw those values being lived when I visited Croke Park. What a wonderful organisation the

Gaelic Athletic Association is. That basic concept of giving to others freely what was given to you, rooted in communities across Ireland and providing, inspiring and creating in equal measure. And these are difficult times in which to live out these values. But as Labour people we aren’t averse to hard work. And we are not afraid to assert these values and stand up for them with pride in what we believe.

And we in the Labour Party in Britain have a tough job to do to get back in government. Although I’m sure you would agree that being in government isn’t easy. And I think the hardest thing we need to work on is getting in to government at the same time! This hasn`t proved easy in the first hundred years of our parties’ existence so let’s try to make it happen a bit more often over the next hundred years.

So I finish by thanking you again. For your friendship, your comradeship and for what you, the Irish Labour Party have done and are doing for your country. You, the members, young and old, men and women, from all backgrounds and walks of life, led by Eamon Gilmore, are an example and an inspiration to us in the Labour  Party in Britain, and I hope our two parties will – like our two countries – deepen and develop our special bond in the years ahead. By doing so we can together build that better fairer future that is our common goal.

Thank you again for this very special honour.

Margaret Curran – 2013 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Margaret Curran, the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, to the 2013 Labour Party conference in Brighton.


On 18th September next year, people in Scotland will decide their future.

And they will decide the future of Britain too.

This is a decision that matters to every Scot, but it also matters to every person here today.

And to each one of you, who have campaigned, leafleted, made the case and taken the argument to the SNP.

I say thank you.

This is your campaign, and I pay tribute to each and every one of you today.

Because what we are fighting for;

– a future of working together and not apart,

– a future of shared hopes,

Is based on the same values that brought together in 1900 the men and women who created the British Labour Party.

A gathering of people from Glasgow, from Cardiff and Liverpool, from the north of England to the valleys of Wales.

They watched Kier Hardie – a proud Scot – make the case for the creation of our party.

Hardie believed passionately in a Scottish Parliament but he knew then, as we know now, that to advance the cause of working people, to overcome those who would divide and rule, we had to work together across Britain.

Not split along national or regional borders and compete against each other, but work shoulder to shoulder for our cause.

And, friends, time after time, the Labour Party – influenced, shaped and led by Scots – guided by those values of solidarity, fairness and equality have built lasting monuments to what we can achieve together.

Social housing and equal pay,

The welfare state,

The National Health Service.

These are the pillars that support our society and join the Labour Party of Hardie, Wheatley and Jennie Lee with the Labour Party of Brown, Dewar and John Smith.

Labour giants who we pay tribute to today.

Conference, I don’t look to our past because I think the best times are behind us.

I do it because it reminds me of what we have achieved together.

And it tells me how much we can still do in the future, if we stay together, and work together as a united Labour Party and a united people.

Because we aren’t like Salmond’s Nationalists who think that a problem pushed over the border is a problem solved.

Nor like David Cameron’s Tories who want to set us all against each other in a race to the bottom.

But, Conference, if the SNP have their way their plan will mean the breakup of the Labour Party.

And I want to send a clear message from this conference.

That after 113 years, Alex Salmond is not going to bring our movement to an end.

Because, Conference, we are the party of Scotland.

Whose values are the values of the Scottish people.

The party that shaped a generation and made good on the promise of a Parliament.

That didn’t sit through 18 years of Tory rule nursing a grievance, but became the true voice of our nation.


Don’t let Alex Salmond fool you or the SNP delude you.

They are nationalists and their entire mission is independence.

To them, the only division that matters is the one they think exists between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Every action they have taken since the start of this campaign has been with separation in mind.

Not the people of Scotland.

So Alex Salmond will attack the Tories one day.

And then he’ll turn on Labour the next.

He tells people that he wants to continue all the best policies we started.

But we could never call on his support when we were in power.

He’ll promote every other union, like the EU and NATO.

But won’t support the union on our own doorstep even when jobs and opportunities are threatened.

Conference, don’t be fooled.

The SNP have many masks, but behind them all there is nationalism.

Conference, you’ve probably heard that Johann Lamont has been taking on the SNP with energy and focus.

She’s taking Alex Salmond down a peg or two every week in the Scottish Parliament.

Now, Conference, I’ve known Johann for a long time.

And I really should have warned Alex Salmond that her specialty has always been sorting out arrogant men whose self-regard knows no bounds.

Under Johann’s focus arguments for separation are beginning to wither.

The realities are being exposed.

We now know the SNP say one thing in public, and another in private.

And they’ll go to any length to keep the truth away from the Scottish people.

Remember, this is a government, when challenged about their legal advice on Scotland’s EU membership, went to court, using taxpayers money, to cover up advice they were forced to reveal didn’t even exist.

This is a government that tells us in public that when we’re independent our state pensions will be guaranteed, but in a leaked paper admit they don’t know how they will be funded.

This is a government that can’t answer the shop stewards at Rosyth and Govan when they say independence will cost thousands of jobs in Scottish shipbuilding.

And, Conference, unbelievably, the Nationalists can’t even make up their mind about what currency an independent Scotland should use.

Alex Salmond says the Pound, but the head of the Yes Campaign wants something different.

Conference, we all know Alex Salmond likes a day at the races, but don’t let him gamble with the future of Scotland.

We all want to change Scotland.

We want to see a better future for our country.

But Alex Salmond is putting his party’s interests above those of the Scottish people.

It’s now time to make our Governments understand what is really happening in our homes, our businesses, and our communities.

Families struggling, looking in disbelief, as they see that bankers’ bonuses are back but their wages are going down.

Young people who can only see a life of short term contracts ahead of them.

Businesses with shattered confidence and empty order books.

Parents across the country who fear that they won’t be able to give their children what only a few years ago they took for granted.

These are the realities that both the UK and Scottish Governments can’t address.

That’s why people are looking to Labour to set out a new way.

And this week in Brighton, people across Scotland will see our alternative.

An alternative that demonstrates we have the plan to deal with the cost of living crisis facing hard working families.

And a plan that shows it’s only One Nation Labour that can rid Scotland, and Britain, of the Tories.

Conference, this week people in Scotland will see there is a clear choice.

A clear choice between Labour and the Tories.

And between Labour and the SNP.

You have to ask yourself – who do you trust with your future?

Ed Miliband – a Prime Minister who will repeal the bedroom tax?

Or a Scottish National Party who want to slash tax for big corporations?

Johann Lamont who fights for carers and college students?

Or Alex Salmond who fights for constitutional change?

Do you trust a Labour Party whose story is the story of Scotland’s communities?

Or a Scottish National Party who, after eighty years, can’t even get their story straight?

Conference, this is the choice we face.

And at this key moment in Labour’s story and Scotland’s history.

With Johann Lamont in Scotland.

And Ed Miliband across the UK.

We will reject the division of nationalism.

And fight together united for a better future for all of Scotland’s people.

Margaret Curran – 2012 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Margaret Curran, the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, to the Labour Party conference on 2nd October 2012.

Conference, I want to tell you about Scotland.

I want to tell you about a country of just 5 million that has the passion and pride of a place with millions more.

A country that contains in its history the beginnings of the enlightenment and the engine room of an empire.

And where people today are forging a future that relies as much on the digital economy as it does on heavy industry.

Conference this is my country – and because of the Union it is your country too.

But, Conference, too many want to leave the story there.

They’re happy to celebrate these glories, but they’re not prepared to see the realities that, today, too many people across Scotland face.

Because how could a nation that gave the world the steam engine, the telephone and penicillin be expected to watch as the ingenuity of young Scots goes unrealised with one in four heading from the school gate to the dole queue?

How can a country whose education system was the envy of the world be expected to stay silent when 10,000 of our sons and daughters languish on college waiting lists?

And how can a people whose sense of solidarity was so deep that closing a yard meant much more than the loss of a workplace be expected to watch again as their communities are ravaged by recession?

Let me tell you Conference – we can’t stand for it and we won’t.

Scots are trapped between two Governments that have their priorities all wrong.

And by the day, the similarities between them are growing.

What’s the solution to every economic problem?

A cut in the taxes paid by their people and an assault on the services used by our people.

So when George Osborne suggests lowering corporation tax to 22 per cent, Alex Salmond goes further and says bring it down to 20.

While Osborne makes nurses and care workers and classroom assistants pay for a crisis not of their making, Salmond joins in and cuts 30,000 jobs from Scotland’s public sector.

And when the coalition cuts and Scots are at the sharp end, where is the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Conference, Michael Moore is nowhere to be seen.

Take it from me, it’s a difficult job to Shadow the Scottish Secretary when he’s barely casting a shadow on Government himself.

But I’ll tell you the one place you can find him. Day after day, night after night, he’s there in the voting lobbies with the Tories.

Regardless of the consequences.

A double dip recession.

Tax credits cut.

Long term unemployment at a 16 year high.

Parents relying on food banks to feed their families.

Taking from pensioners to provide to millionaires.

All his Government’s choices.

All his shared responsibility.

Conference, Scotland could and should be better than this.

We have a life sciences industry that employs over 32,000 people.

Creative industries that contribute £3 billion to our prosperity.

And close to a fifth of our nation’s economy relies on our energy sector.

Our people have so much to give, but still too many just don’t get that opportunity to get on, to do well and to flourish.

And as the world changes around us,

As the weight of the global economy moves to the world’s South and East,

As technology opens up new fronts in our search for prosperity and opportunity,

Scots realise that we can’t look to the solutions of the past to make us strong in the future.

Our response has to be rooted in the reality of the world around us, a world that is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before.

We cannot afford to listen to those who say that the answer to Scotland’s problems is to build a wall around ourselves.

So, the strength to overcome the challenges of our time comes from binding together, not breaking apart.

And that is as true of the challenges we face as a nation as it is of those we face in our families, our towns or our cities.

And, Conference, this is what separates us from the Tories and the SNP.

That whether we’re talking about improving our schools, raising our living standards, or deciding how we govern ourselves we are led by one simple truth: “That by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone.”

This isn’t just a slogan written on our membership cards but a truth written on our hearts.

We believe it, we live by it and if we are honoured with the confidence of the Scottish people at the next election we intend to govern by it.

Conference, with Ed Miliband as our Leader, we have a vision for a new economy, a new politics and a new society.

And in Johann Lamont, as we saw last week, we have a Scottish Leader who is unafraid to tell the hard truths or face the big issues.

And thanks to that great top team, we’re off our knees and winning again, across Scotland.

Winning people’s confidence.

Winning the trust of business, our vibrant third sector and our community groups.

Winning the elections which give us the chance to put our principles into action.

We’ve got a long way to go yet, but conference, if you want to know why all the campaigning and hard work and long nights and tough fights are worth it – just remember how you felt when you heard the magic words:



We know that when we fight, we win. And we are in the fight of our lives. Because in 2014, Scotland faces a decision about whether to break up Britain.

A decision with consequences not only for every Scot but every person across these islands.

And in the years that follow we will have to fight again, when we face UK and Scottish General Elections.

On the one side two parties that play the politics of division.

And on the other a Labour Party that sees the strength in all of us to work together and succeed.

A Labour Party that isn’t satisfied with what Scotland is today, but obsessed with what Scots could be tomorrow.

A Labour Party with the ideas, imagination and strength to rebuild Scotland and rebuild Britain.

And a Party which believes the Scots’ ideals of solidarity and social justice speak to concerns which are so great, so urgent, so universal, that we should never allow them to stop at our border, but send them onwards and outwards, to inspire not just the rest of Britain, but the rest of the world.

Jack Cunningham – 1998 Speech to the Oxford Farming Conference

Below is the text of the then Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Jack Cunningham, on 6th January 1988 at the Oxford Farming Conference.


I am delighted and honoured to open this 52nd Oxford Farming Conference. Oxford has a consistent record of identifying new trends in farming issues and communicating them to the wider world. Your title of the present conference – “the real world” – and your list of outstanding speakers demonstrate your determination to continue this fine tradition of leadership in the international debate on farming.

The present section of the conference is entitled “the world view”. As the United Kingdom begins its presidency of the European Union – the world’s biggest importer and second biggest exporter of food – this is highly appropriate. I shall say something later about my priorities for the presidency of the Agriculture Council during the next six months. But first I want to speak about the new British government’s approach to the farming industry in Britain and to the future of agricultural policy in Europe. Both have important implications going well beyond the borders of the United Kingdom and indeed of the European Union.

UK Farming

When I was appointed Minister of Agriculture I made clear what my priorities for British agriculture would be. I want to see an industry that is: successful, competitive and sustainable; that farms in an environmentally benign way; and that responds to consumer demands for high quality and, above all, safe food. Right from the start I put the health and well-being of people and the environment at the top of my Ministerial agenda.

My experience since last may has confirmed that these are the right objectives. The British public has sent a very clear message about the kind of farming it wants, and which it expects both government and industry to deliver.

Consumers increasingly want to know what is in their food and how it is produced. They want production systems which safeguard animal welfare, which they perceive as essentially natural and which do not damage the environment. They are often suspicious of new technologies and new production methods. Far more than in the past they look critically at the judgements and advice of scientists, governments and large multi-national companies where their food is concerned.

Nor are they willing any more to indefinitely subsidise farming for its own sake, even if they are willing to do so in order to help the environment or preserve and develop remote rural communities and areas.

These are complex and demanding messages from the public. They require a positive response both from government and from your industry. Farmers, I know, listen carefully to what their customers are saying. Like any other business you only survive by providing what the customer wants. He or she can always go elsewhere and these days consumer choice is expanding dramatically. It will continue to do so.

But government has a key part to play too. Food safety and consumer confidence cannot be left to the market alone. Government has a duty to ensure that quality and hygiene standards are high, that the welfare of animals is protected, that food safety is maintained at the highest possible level. Government must also ensure that consumers are given all the information they want about the food they buy. Clear and accurate information is increasingly important as consumers become more discerning. It is also the key to successful adoption of new technologies which may bring great benefits, but about which some consumers have considerable unease.

Above all, consumers must have confidence in the regulatory process and in government’s commitment to put their interests first. I will not hesitate to act on this principle, as I have recently shown over bone-in beef, specified risk materials and our decision to publish HAS scores. Our decision to create an independent Food Standards Agency with wide ranging powers is further evidence of this commitment. We shall be publishing our proposals in a white paper very shortly.

My plans to reorganise and redirect the Ministry of Agriculture, and to give it a new culture of openness and consumer involvement, together with a new identity which reflects the public’s expectations, are further essential steps to restore consumer confidence. As I work with our European partners for removal of the beef export ban, I must be able to demonstrate to those partners that our commitment in Britain to put safety first is paramount.

I recognise that higher standards may mean extra costs for the industry. You will understandably insist that if British farmers have to meet these high standards then so should your competitors. Otherwise your competitive position will be undermined. In a European single market and an increasingly open world trading system, how can this be assured?

This is not an easy question to answer. The straightforward response is that we should agree the high standards, whether of food safety or of animal welfare or for the environment, at European level and with our international partners. That is right wherever it is possible to do so. It is particularly important in the highly competitive European single market. That is why I have been pressing the Commission hard to produce proposals, for example, to phase out the use of battery cages for laying hens throughout the EU, and for the uniform treatment of specified risk materials in beef.

We must also make full use of the new international trade rules which allow countries to set high standards of human, animal and plant health protection provided they do this with proper respect for the science and in a non-discriminatory way.

But setting high standards for ourselves must not provide the excuse – as some in Europe have proposed – to erect unnecessary trade barriers against imports. When it comes to welfare issues or production systems, for example, we in Europe need to set our own standards for ourselves and make a virtue of them. We must then ensure consumers have the information about which products meet these standards and which do not. If consumers know that buying British means buying the best quality and best safety, you have nothing to fear from competition from farmers who do not meet those standards.

CAP Reform

I want to turn now to the question of the competitiveness of British farming. Let me start with a prediction – always a risky business for politicians! This is that by the time you hold your 62nd conference, in 2008, agricultural production in the European Union of 21 or more members will be very different from today – no longer subsidised – except in specific areas to preserve or enhance the environment and contribute to rural economies and enterprise.

Is that realistic? Should I have said 2010 rather than 2008? Perhaps. But the key message is that by then the inefficient world of European agricultural subsidy will have changed dramatically. The next WTO round is likely to require it. The budgetary implications of EU enlargement to the east will also do so. Enlightened farmers – particularly in this country, but also abroad – are preparing now for the restructuring of their industry.

The process of fundamentally reforming the cap will begin later this year when the Commission tables its proposals following up AGENDA 2000. I have no doubt that the negotiation in the Agriculture Council will be long and difficult. Some member states would prefer not to have to reform the CAP. But they all recognise that reform is essential in order to avoid wasteful surpluses and exclusion of our farm producers and their products from growing world markets. Some reform will undoubtedly come, probably during 1999.

The direction of Franz Fischler’s proposed reforms is right. European agriculture should not be insulated from world markets. Following the Uruguay round agreement, and reforms in American farm policy, our prices must come down to world levels if our agriculture is to retain its place in those markets. It is right to help farmers adjust to lower prices through higher direct payments. Equally, it is right to strengthen agri-environmental and rural development policies. These are important measures for preserving and enhancing the environment, helping meet biodiversity targets and dealing with any problems of desertification or rural unemployment, all of which are important considerations.

But we must not delude ourselves that the AGENDA 2000 reforms as they stand are sufficient to equip European agriculture to face the challenges of the next decade. The simple fact is that the average size of farm in the EU is 17.5 hectares and that is too small to give farmers a full time living from their land in the more open markets that will increasingly prevail. We should not base our policies on the delusion that sustainable agriculture can be built in Europe on such a base.

For this reason alone – and there are many others, I can assure you – the idea of imposing a Community-wide ceiling on CAP payments is a perverse nonsense. It is wholly at odds with the objective of creating competitive agriculture. I will strenuously oppose any ceiling or other modulation of aid which discriminates against British farmers.

We need a policy of reform that will encourage the development of our agriculture into a force capable of competing successfully in our own and world markets. This requires a level playing field and recognition that the most efficient farms are often quite large. We must avoid pursuing the chimera of an indefinable “European agricultural model” based on unviable farms that can only survive with ever increasing subsidy from taxpayers and consumers. If the CAP is to prepare European agriculture for a Union which includes Poland, Hungary and other Central European countries; if it is to prepare for a realistic outcome of the next WTO round; if it is to serve an agricultural industry that wants to remain a major force in the world, governments need to develop policies for the future and not be nostalgic about the past.

What does this mean in practice? First, support prices must be aligned with world prices as Franz Fischler has proposed. But this cannot be restricted to beef and some cereals. It is no less important to move to world prices for milk and sugar too. The fact that quotas apply to production of these products may mean that surpluses will accumulate less quickly. But if we keep our quotas we just surrender market share to our competitors in third countries. That cannot be in our farmers’ interests on any interpretation.

Second, we must recognise that farmers need clarity in policy making, like any businessmen operating in a long term industry. Farmers accept there is a need for reform. But once that reform is completed it should bring stability. That means the reform must properly address the pressures on the CAP so as to avoid the need for further reforms a few years later when the next WTO round is concluded.

Unfortunately, the AGENDA 2000 proposals make hardly any attempt to take account of the WTO round, or indeed the imminent enlargement of the EU. If they did, we would have an end date for milk quotas. The proposed compensation payments would be decoupled from production and be degressive. Failure to tackle these fundamental questions now, in this reform, will put the EU once again in a defensive position in the WTO negotiations, losing the opportunity to secure support for a sustainable long term policy which meets the real needs of our diverse rural areas. It will also leave the EU facing a second – and possibly much more painful – round of reform.

Failure to reform thoroughly now will also make the accession of the Central European countries very much more difficult. The objective of enlargement is to bring these countries, which suffered for so long under Communist rule, into the European democratic family. But forcing them to introduce milk quotas and sugar quotas, IACS forms and base areas and all the bureaucracy that goes with them will be reminiscent of the old command economy that they have so recently and painfully shaken off. Our contacts with Central European colleagues suggest that they are appalled at such a prospect.

Competitiveness is not just about the Common Agricultural Policy and modernising farm structure. Technology is also important for enabling farmers to produce high quality food at competitive prices, whilst protecting the environment.

An important factor in this is research. My department funds a very substantial research programme. A main theme of this is sustainability, including issues such as reduced inputs of pesticides and fertilisers, exploring the potential of bio-control systems, and the usefulness of buffer zones to protect freshwater fish and their habitats. This helps both to inform our policies and to help show farmers and environmentalists alike the options available for changes to present practice.

UK Presidency

I began by referring to the UK Presidency of the European Union which began 5 days ago. The government is determined to run an efficient, impartial Presidency. We strongly believe in the importance of the European Union and in Britain’s ability to play a constructive, leading role in it. I am determined that the work of the Agriculture Council, over which I will briefly preside, will illustrate this fully.

We will have a busy agenda, reflecting many of the themes I have touched upon. The top priority will be the launch of the negotiations on AGENDA 2000, comprising reform of no less than 6 commodity regimes (dairy, arable, beef, wine, olive oil and tobacco) and introduction of a reinforced agri-environmental and rural development policy. I do not expect to complete the reforms in our term. There will not be enough time for that. But when the Commission table their proposals, I shall give the negotiations a major push so that they are in good shape for the Austrians to carry forward when they take up the Presidency in July.

Secondly, I would like to use the UK presidency to make progress on proposals to improve animal welfare across the union. There exists a wide measure of support, particularly amongst Northern member states, for better animal welfare. We need to respond to that. I have asked Franz Fischler to table early proposals covering the welfare of hens in battery cages and the welfare of animals at slaughter, two key areas of public concern. I will give them high priority in the Council as soon as he brings forward detailed proposals.

Thirdly, we shall need to agree changes to the bananas regime to take account of the recent WTO ruling. Whilst this may be of less significance to many of you here than other elements of the CAP, I can assure you it is of critical importance to the banana producers in the small Caribbean countries whose economies could be wrecked if we cannot agree a new deal for them.

Fourthly, we shall have to agree the 1998 CAP price fixing, though I hope this will not take up too much time given that the important negotiations will be on the CAP reform dossiers. A central event of the Presidency will be the Informal Agriculture Council in May. I am very much looking forward to bringing Commissioner Fischler and all my Council colleagues to Northern England where I plan to show them some of the very best of British livestock farming. I want all of Europe to understand the immense efforts we and particularly you have made – and are making – to ensure the safety of British beef and to begin introducing systems of traceability and quality assurance which will stand comparison with the best in the world.

We shall have many other – less headline grabbing – dossiers to handle and no doubt some unforeseen problems in the Council. My aim will be to deal with all the issues in a fair, constructive and impartial way, as all our partners will expect.

British agriculture continues to demonstrate toughness and resilience. The ability to overcome current difficulties demands such qualities and more. It demands policies which work to develop genuinely sustainable farming economically and environmentally.

The prospect of change is always difficult to face, particularly at a time when incomes are squeezed and the impact of BSE is so debilitating. But British farmers have an excellent track record of responding to the challenge of change. And you have many natural advantages, including a relatively advanced farm structure and a strong asset base. The fact that you have responded so much more positively to the Commission’s reform ideas than have farming interests in other member states is a credit to you and your representatives, and your forward thinking. Those very qualities are the ones that will keep you ahead of the competition.

For my part, you may be assured of my determination to fight for British farming interests in the forthcoming negotiations in Brussels. I am committed to policies which will encourage you to succeed in increasingly competitive markets, to ensure a level playing field in Europe and in the rest of the world wherever possible, and to help restore the confidence of consumers that is so crucial to all your success.

Jack Cunningham – 1997 Labour Party Conference Speech

Below is the text of a speech made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Jack Cunningham, to the 1997 Labour Party conference in 1997.

British interests in Europe encompass agriculture, fisheries and food. Our ability to change the Common Agricultural Policy, ensure a sustainable future for our fishing industry, and provide safe, affordable, properly labelled food is determined by our standing in the European Union.

We inherited a shambles from the Tories on Europe – credibility and trust were at rock bottom. – the BSE crisis – the appalling consequences of new variant CJD, we express our deepest sympathy to the families who have lost loved ones, – the ban on British beef – the quota hopping fiasco in fishing.

The cost of this Tory incompetence runs to billions of pounds to taxpayers, industry, farmers and fishermen alike.

We have begun to turn things around by developing a constructive, open dialogue with the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Progress has been made but much remains to be done.

Today I can announce the formal submission to the European Commission of a date based export scheme for British Beef. This we hope will operate in parallel with the Export Certified Herd Scheme.

We have started a dialogue with fishermen about creating a sustainable fishing industry for Britain. I want to thank in particular colleagues in the European Parliament and Neil Kinnock for their advice and support.

We said we would establish a new, more effective role for Britain in Europe and we have done so.

Reform too is necessary in the Ministry of Agriculture.

We have made a rapid start. I have put the health and well-being of people and the environment at the top of my agenda.

We have begun the establishment of a new independent food standards agency. Open consultation with everyone concerned is guiding the drafting of our White Paper. I expect the necessary legislation to follow next year.

We intend to rebuild people’s confidence in our food, through open debate, clearer, more informative labelling and more rigorous hygiene standards.

We have accepted and will implement the recommendations of the Pennington Report.

I shall appoint a consumer representative to every advisory committee.

New powers including custodial sentences available to the courts await anyone proved to have undermined Britain by illegally exporting British beef before the ban is lifted. If food plants persistently fall short of acceptable hygiene standards they will be closed.

We now have reform of the Common Agricultural Policy on the European agenda. Change is essential. The CAP wastes billions of pounds of European taxpayers’ money. It does not ensure a sustainable environment and results in higher food prices.

We are working to build coalitions for change which will benefit consumers, farmers and the environment.

Last week I was the first UK Minister of Agriculture ever to address the organic food conference of the Soil Association. I want to see resources from the CAP transferred to organic farming and to investment in rural enterprise.

We have made progress too for the first time having animals recognised as sentient beings in all future European legislation. We have introduced better controls for the welfare of animals in transit.

We are promoting the export of meat rather than livestock – more manifesto commitments delivered.

In Europe too we must find a solution to the WTO decision on the banana regime. Surely the powerful nations of the world can find a way to resolve this situation.

I shall do everything possible to meet our historic obligations to these people during my term as President of the Council of Agriculture Ministers and beyond.

In the Ministry of Agriculture we are delivering our manifesto commitments to the British people:

through a more open, redirected department

through strengthened consumer involvement

with a more productive relationship in Europe

by tackling reform of the CAP

by driving up food hygiene standards

by insisting on better animal welfare.

New Labour is the real party of the countryside. We now represent more rural constituencies than the Tories and the Liberals put together.

And I can make one further commitment today.

It is time to take a fresh look at our quarantine laws. I am therefore establishing an independent scientific assessment of all the alternatives. This discussion document is published today and a full public consultation will follow.

I want to create a department that can tackle the challenges of the new Millennium. To produce safe food and safeguard the environment for all our people. An open, accessible department which is trusted by consumers, environmentalists and farmers alike.

Charles Clarke – 2003 Speech on Secondary Education

Below is the text of a speech made by the then Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, on 10th February 2003.

Thank you for coming to this important event today. An important occasion for three reasons.

First, because today we are responding to head teachers of secondary schools who last autumn came to talk with us at a series of conferences. I and my Ministerial colleagues travelled pretty well the length and breadth of the country discussing with heads the challenges they faced and listening to their views on the reforms we were making.

The document we are publishing today takes on board much of what they told us.

A new relationship

This dialogue characterises the relationship we want to have with schools, heads and teachers. And that is the second reason why I see today as being important.

We are seeking to build a new relationship with schools, head teachers and governors. A relationship where schools have more freedom and flexibility in the way they use their resources, in the way they design the curriculum and in the teaching methods they use. But schools in turn recognise that they work within a framework where they are accountable for their standards and performance;

A relationship where we in Government recognise success and encourage successful schools, departments and teachers to innovate and lead change. But schools understand that the Government has a duty to intervene where there is serious underperformance or chronic failure.

A new specialist system

The third reason for today being significant is that it marks another big step in creating a new specialist system. A specialist system that is, I believe, starting to transform secondary education. A specialist system that encourages schools to build on their distinctiveness and strengths to benefit all pupils. A specialist system, which encourages diversity and where excellence is a spur to equality, not its enemy. A specialist system where every school has a clear focus on teaching and learning. A specialist system where every teacher is equipped both to teach their subject effectively and to inspire a desire to learn.

A specialist system is one in which every school has a centre of excellence, available to every pupil in the school and as a resource for other pupils in the area. Every pupil has an opportunity to develop their talent in an area in which they are keen to specialise. Every teacher is able to develop their own distinctive contribution to the school team, notably through their leadership of teaching and learning in a particular subject. A specialist system works by spreading the lessons from excellent provision across the school and across the system.

So a specialist system does NOT mean demanding schools only teach one subject. It does NOT mean that pupils will be asked to specialise early in their school careers. It does NOT mean every place in the school going to pupils according to aptitude – only a maximum of 10% can be selected on aptitude.

The two words, ‘specialist system’, are equally important: institutions will make a special contribution to their own pupils and to the system, and the system will add together a range of specialisms to provide an enriched educational experience for all children.

Where we are now

I start from the belief that every child is capable of attaining high standards. All children should leave school having achieved their potential. They should all acquire the knowledge, qualifications and life skills they need to succeed in the adult world.

Over the past six years we have been making steady progress towards these aims.

The percentage of children getting five or more GCSEs at grade A* to C has been steadily improving. The number of failing schools in “Special Measures” has fallen dramatically. And the quality of teaching and learning – according to the Chief Inspector’s latest annual report – is the best it has ever been, with 96% of lessons observed considered satisfactory or better.

But we know that there is still a long way to go.

Almost half of all pupils still do not leave school with five GCSEs A*-C. There is four times as much variation in pupil attainment within schools as there is between schools which indicates some teachers in the same school are more effective than others in helping their pupils make progress.

Some children and some groups of children are not being well served by the current system. For example, in the 2002 key stage 3 English tests, 76% of girls achieved level 5 or above compared to just 59% for boys. And, as the Chief Inspector highlighted last week, there are still too many schools where attendance and behaviour are serious problems.

This is not good enough. Not least because we know it need not be this way. We can see from many examples across the country that when schools are given encouragement and support, they can and do achieve great things for their schools and communities.

What some schools are achieving for some children, all schools must provide for all children. A new approach is necessary. And that is where a specialist system comes in.

Extending the specialist system

Specialist status provides an incentive for a school to develop its own character and mission. It acts as a spur to improve standards and aim for excellence, not just in one particular subject, but across the whole of the curriculum. Heads are able to use the additional investment to enhance their specialist facilities, to develop excellence in their specialist subjects and to extend the insight to teaching and learning in other parts of the curriculum.

The specialist system is also encouraging schools to innovate, address the diverse needs of individual pupils and work with their local communities.

And the results are starting to come through.

On measures of value-added performance, which allow comparisons to be made between schools with different pupil intakes, specialist schools are outperforming non-specialist schools. They are generating some genuinely innovative approaches to teaching and learning, to curriculum development, school organisation and workforce reform.

This is why I want every school to aspire to become a specialist school.

Today I am announcing a further 217 schools that will gain specialist status from September this year. This will bring the number of specialist schools we now have to 1,209 – 38 per cent of all secondary schools.

We have responded to head teachers’ concerns that funding limits might artificially restrict or hold back the designation of specialist schools and have lifted the funding cap. That means that every school that applies for specialist status and meets the standards will now be designated.

We expect there to be at least 2,000 specialist schools by 2006. And I say again, I want every school to aspire to becoming specialist.

New specialisms

As well as more specialist schools we are also increasing the range of specialisms so that they cover the whole range of the curriculum. The new specialisms will be in music and humanities – that is history, geography and English . And we are also enabling schools in rural areas to introduce a rural dimension into relevant specialisms – such as science or geography.

New schools

These changes will help make our secondary school system more diverse. And we will encourage that diversity in other ways too.

We will be setting up more Academies. Academies are new types of schools designed to raise standards in the most difficult and challenging areas. They are set up with substantial input from sponsors, who may come from business faith or voluntary groups. They provide £2 million or 20% of the capital cost and make up part of the school governing body. The Government funds the rest of the capital and covers the running costs. The first three Academies opened in September last year and another 30 will be up and running by 2006.

We are also making other changes that promote diversity. Last week we sent out draft guidance that will make it easier for popular schools to expand. The guidance also encourages new promoters and providers of schools to put forward proposals as we introduce competitions for all new schools. Parents’ groups could, for example, apply to set up a new school.


The individual ethos and specialism of a school is vital but the benefits of specialising are multiplied when schools collaborate and share their expertise and experience. The potential to build capacity for improvement is immense when schools collaborate to extend good practice, share specialist resources and expertise, and take collective responsibility for tackling poor performance.

Federations of schools are one way an increasing number of schools are choosing to work together. The Leading Edge Programme which I am announcing today is another.

Becoming a specialist school is the start not the end of a process of school improvement. That is why last autumn we invited schools to apply to become Advanced Schools. They had to demonstrate that they were high performers with a recognised specialism, working at the cutting edge of teaching and learning and with a track record of working with other schools to raise standards.

Over 300 schools have applied.

Head teachers told us that they supported the idea behind the programme but thought that the ‘Advanced School’ badge was unhelpful if we wanted to develop collaboration. They also said it was important to allow joint bids. We have acted on both their suggestions.

We will shortly announce the names of the successful applicants of what we are now calling The Leading Edge Programme and those schools not in receipt of the Leadership Incentive Grant will qualify for funding at a level of £60,000 per year to develop their expertise and work with other schools to lead transformation.

We will invite further applications later this year.

I have decided that part of this round of bids should include an invitation to Independent schools to participate in the programme – where they meet the criteria and are willing and able to work with schools in the maintained sector.

We are also going to consider how we can better recognise excellence of departments within schools. One possibility that many head teachers want us to look at is setting up a beacon department scheme.


Specialism and collaboration are vital. And I want them associated with innovation. I want to encourage all schools to extend the boundaries of current practice by developing new and innovative approaches to schooling.

One of the most interesting pages in this document is one describing how schools have more powers and more freedoms than they think they have – on pay and conditions, on the curriculum on governance and organising the schools day – and even on funding.

The Innovation Unit we have established is helping schools to take full use of these freedoms. And if and when schools do find that legal obstacles are getting in the way of innovative improvements to teaching and learning then they should not hesitate to apply to use the very wide ranging Power to Innovate. This will give them the authority they need to make the change.


Innovation often comes through inspirational head teachers instilling confidence and enthusiasm throughout a school. As in so many other areas school leadership is vital. Excellent leaders create excellent schools. Poor leaders rob pupils and teachers of the chance to excel. As David Bell of OFSTED said in his report last week: ‘Constantly effective teaching across all subjects in a school is unlikely without strong and effective leadership and management’.

That is why we set up the National College of School Leadership based on the campus of Nottingham University. And it is why we are investing significantly in programmes to strengthen leadership at all levels in secondary schools.

The Leadership Incentive Grant, for example, is designed to secure a transformation in the leadership and management of 1,400 secondary schools in cities and in other challenging circumstances. Most schools will receive £125,000 a year. Schools will be able to use this money to make joint appointments, pay for a strong head of department to help work with colleagues in a neighbouring school, to restructure or replace the management team or build up leadership skills.

Partnerships beyond the classroom

Helping children to learn is not a job just for schools and teachers. Parents and the wider community have a vital role to play.

I am in no doubt that parents’ encouragement and support for their own children, at home and through regular contact with school and teachers provides a strong foundation for children’s learning.

Schools have the responsibility to do more to help parents understand the study programmes their children are following. And they should seek to involve parents in the day-to-day life of the school, because where this happens it makes a powerful contribution to school development.

I also want schools to work better with their local communities. Schools that open up their facilities to community groups – by encouraging family learning, providing child care or health services or organising sporting activities – are doing much more than just making good use of local public facilties. They are putting the school at the heart of the local community and they are promoting learning in the community.

Schools in which parents and communities play an active part stand a far better chance of teaching pupils who are ready and willing to learn. That is why a community plan is an essential condition of becoming a specialist school.

It is also important to develop links with local employers, both to strengthen work-based learning but also to draw on their expertise, commitment ideas and energy. We ask schools to raise £50,000 sponsorship before they can achieve specialist status because we know that they if they have strong outside backing it cannot but help them grow and develop.

Strong partnerships will also help head teachers and schools tackle the problems of poor attendance and bad behaviour. And nationally we are giving a lead on this as well.

This year, for example, we are investing in Behaviour Improvement Projects in 34 local education authorities with the highest rates of truancy and street crime. We have reformed the way school exclusion panels work so that they provide greater support for head teachers. And we will be legislating to introduce new measures to tackle truancy and reinforce parental responsibility for ensuring children attend school.

Reform of the School Workforce

Teachers must be able to get on with the work they are trained to do unburdened by routine administration and with a skilled support team to back them up. In this next phase of raising standards we want teachers to be free to concentrate on teaching with adequate time to plan, review, give their students individualised learning and take good care of their own professional development.

Less than a month ago the Government, employers and all but one of the school workforce unions signed a national agreement that paves the way for radical reforms of the school workforce. The agreement is flexible. It allows school leaders and teachers to decide for themselves how best to reform their workplaces. It also includes expanded roles for high level support staff who will be trained to make a greater direct contribution to raising standards of pupil achievement.

Teaching and learning

Everything we are doing is designed with one aim in mind: to improve the quality of teaching and learning in our schools.

From key stage 3 to A level we must establish high expectations for all secondary pupils and promotes teaching and learning which engages and motivates them.

In order to achieve this we must make learning enjoyable. The world is changing. Information is communicated is so many different and visually exciting ways. The demands on young people are changing. So teaching needs to engage pupils’ enthusiasm and to stimulate them to go on learning in the future.

This is another area where we want to work with teachers on developing new ideas.

For example, writers, musicians and scientists and others from outside the school can play an important role.

We are working with teachers in the various subject associations to develop new ways of supporting teachers so that they are better able to communicate their passion for their subject. We all remember particular teachers who inspired in us a love for music, a passion for history, a life-long attachment to a particular author or who encouraged our scientific inquiry. That is the tradition we have to strengthen.

Part of that is to make the most of technology in teaching. For example, the electronic whiteboard – where used well – can transform the learning experience. We will work with the profession so that the experience of leading teachers and leading schools is quickly spread round the system.

In addition I have no doubt that ICT will increasingly extend learning beyond the classroom, through providing access in the home to teaching and learning materials and to assessment and attendance data.


I believe we are at a momentous point in the development of secondary education in this country. We are in a powerful position to move the whole system forward through a shared vision, a shared strategy and a shared commitment.

A shared vision based around excellent teaching to help realise the potential of every single child.

A shared strategy of creating a specialist system tailored to the needs of every pupil.

And a shared commitment from the Government and teachers to work together to make this happen.

Ken Clarke – 2011 Conservative Party Conference Speech


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Justice Minister, Ken Clarke, at the 2011 Conservative Party Conference on 4th October 2011.

I don’t know whether you remember, but at last year’s party conference, I called for regime change – regime change in our prisons.

To turn them from places of idleness, Into places of hard work and reform. Prisons with a purpose – straight from the manifesto.

The idea is to provide hard work in prison so that prisoners would be…

Doing something productive,

Instead of doing nothing.

Plotting a more honest future,

Instead of plotting their next crime.

Earning money to pay back to victims,

Instead of creating new victims.

It’s not rocket science and it can be done.

At Altcourse Prison near Liverpool, prisoners do forty hours of hard work every week in a metal workshop.

Part of their earnings goes to fund services for victims of crime.

And because these prisoners have got some skills, they are less likely – a lot less likely – to return to prison.

So the burden on the taxpayer, on you and me, is less.

I intend to expand this Working Prisons programme quite dramatically.

But this is not something Government can do alone.

No: We need the private sector on board.

And they are coming on board.

This morning, eight companies – including Virgin, National Grid, Marks and Spencer give the idea their support, in the FT.

They – along with the CBI – are helping us to ensure that companies can make the most of this..

..Are not disadvantaged or undercut.

I want to see hard work flourishing in every single jail in the UK.

More criminals doing an honest day’s work, instead of sitting idle in their cells.

That will make us safer.

Provide more money for victims.

Help us break the cycle of crime.


I believe if we want prison to work,

Then our prisoners have got to be working.


A brief note to my Labour opponent, Sadiq Khan:

That’s what you call a policy.

You probably won’t be able to remember any policy proposals he has put forward.

Because Labour hasn’t got any significant ones.

His proudest boast last week, was that he does not fall asleep during his Party Leader’s speeches –

That is an achievement, Sadiq.

Many people do go to sleep during Ed Miliband’s speeches.

But just remember this – he, like the rest of them, was a loyal supporter of Gordon Brown’s Government – the most disastrous Government, that left the most disastrous legacy since Labour in 1931.

They bequeathed us not just a broken economy, but a broken society and an unreformed Justice system that failed to break the cycle of crime.

They wasted billions of pounds on justice and prisons.

They were hyperactive:

21 Criminal Justice Acts in 13 years.


Headline chasing.

And you know what?

It was all a con.

They made prison sentences appear longer and longer,

Whilst devising all sorts of ways to let people out earlier and earlier.

…80,000 let out on early release…

I have legislation before Parliament

– being carried through by Crispin Blunt and Jonathan Djanogly – which aims to reform, simplify, scrap failed gimmicks and give us a system which works better to contribute to a safer, sounder and more honest society.


That’s how we are facing up to – and delivering – the great challenge we have as a Government…

…how to save taxpayers’ money whilst striving to repair our broken society.

Because Labour left us failed policies, a broken society..

And no money.

When it comes to public spending,

We’ve got to show leadership.

We’ve got to show purpose.

We’ve got to stick to our guns.

Frankly, if you look across the western world, most democratic politicians are out of their depth.

They cannot cope with the consequences of this dreadful crisis.

We are just about the only government in the Western world where people really think we are going to tackle the deficit.

People look at this coalition, they look at the spending plans and say – they’re going to deliver.

George and David are going to ensure that we do not waver in our commitment to reduce public spending and debt and they have my total support.

When you look at the scale of the economic crisis, I don’t believe we can possibly say…

… we’re not going to save money on criminals…

… but we are going to have reductions in spending on Police and Defence, on Transport and Local Government.

You can’t say that like the health sector, criminals are exempt from the cuts.

Every criminal we have in jail costs you and me about

£40,000 a year…

…and there are more than 80,000 of them in prison right now.

And I just do not believe that we can follow the old brain-free policy of throwing money at the problem.

That’s what Labour did.

And look where it got them. And all of us.


The most shocking reminder of how broken a society ours is.

In this summer’s riots, more than 75 per cent of the adults charged were repeat offenders.

1 in 4 of them had been convicted of ten crimes or more.

Re-offenders.  Career criminals.

…I had a few other choice words for them at the time…

Our feral underclass is too big, has been growing, and needs to be diminished.

Less crime, fewer criminals

The question for me and my ministry now, is how do we reform the Criminal Justice System so that these unreformed, recidivist criminals, are dealt with more effectively and at  less cost to the taxpayer.

That’s why we need prisons that work.

And prisons that are drug free.

Where problems like addiction and mental health are tackled properly.

Where the treatment doesn’t suddenly stop when prisoners leave jail, which usually happens with those on short sentences.

But continues in the outside world.

So that we are better protected.

If we want less crime, we need fewer criminals.

Policy & Ideas

This year, we have been carefully but quite rapidly developing the concept of Payment by Results –

A system which concentrates on only paying for what works.

And the first group of pilots is now underway.

One of them is at Doncaster Prison, a new contract run by Serco and a charity called Catch 22, which started on Saturday.

If they deliver law-abiding people back onto the streets, we will pay them. If they fail, and the ex-prisoners they take on reoffend, we will not pay.

There are twelve of these projects around the country.

Private or public, businesses and charities, paid for resolving the drugs, the lack of skills, the rootlessness which lies behind much of the reoffending.

Saving money and protecting the public;

Paying for what works.

British Justice

I believe that at its heart our British justice system is still one of the best in the world despite all Labour’s efforts.

…when people think of Britain, they think of British justice.

That is why so much of my last year has been spent returning common sense and proportion to a system which was badly let down by Labour…

We have policies under way to

– Resolve public doubts on the law of self defence by victims of crime

– Criminalise squatting

– Make community sentences more punitive and more effective

– Bring competition into the management of prisons

– Speed up the process of the courts and make them more witness, litigant and victim friendly

– Curtail the compensation culture and cut excessive spending on Legal Aid

– Scrap referral fees to end the culture of those ambulance-chasing claims advisors.


I have spent my entire political life being a vigorous, controversial reformer of public services – but this time it is different.

Now, I am in a coalition Government which is dealing with the worst economic crisis since the war.

People are insecure and sometimes a bit frightened.

We must give strong, confident and principled government.

How do you set about public reform in a difficult area like mine?

I’m reminded of Teddy Roosevelt: Speak softly and carry a big stick.

New Labour did the opposite.

They spoke toughly and carried a pea-shooter.

I never have mastered the speak softly bit, but the big stick has always appealed.

It’s no good politicians just sounding off and making tough gestures.

In office you’ve actually got to make a worthwhile difference.

That’s what you’re in office for.

Justice needs to be swift, firm and fair.

Prisons need to be places of retribution and places of reform.

Sounds obvious when you think about it.

Delivering the obvious is what the public want.

And most Governments do not deliver.

I remember Iain MacLeod thrilling me when I was a delegate here many years ago.

Others may dream their dreams, others may scheme their schemes but we have work to do.

Those appalling riots brought home to me again that in our broken society, we certainly have work to do at the Ministry of Justice.

And my team and I are proud to be getting on and doing it.

Give us your support.