Angela Eagle – 2019 Speech on Brexit and Parliament

Below is the text of the speech made by Angela Eagle, the Labour MP for Wallasey, in the House of Commons on 12 June 2019.

It is a great privilege to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) and the speech he has just given. I fear that the trajectory of the entire Brexit debate since the referendum, with everything that has happened, is pushing us to the extremes of that debate, because we had a Prime Minister who simply did not bring the country back together, or seek to do so. She decided that the way through this conundrum was to appease the unappeasable Brextremists in her own party. It is hard to see whether there will be the kind of consensus and bringing back together of our fragmented country for which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell) wishes.

I see us heading towards a final choice between no deal and revocation but, in the absence of that choice being before us today, the modest measure that we are debating gives us a chance as a Parliament to have an insurance policy against careering off into the catastrophe of no deal. A newly elected leader of the Conservative party with no democratic mandate from the country and no majority in Parliament might manipulate the way in which this House works to deny us the chance to express what we have already expressed clearly: there is no majority in this Parliament to take this country out of the European Union without a deal. To me, that is a modest proposal.

Lady Hermon

The Brexit Secretary studiously avoided questions about the Government’s commitment to the Good Friday agreement. Does the hon. Lady agree with me that taking this country out of Europe without a ​deal would have very serious consequences for Northern Ireland? Sinn Féin would certainly be incentivised to campaign for a border poll were there any hardening of the border, which would be inevitable with a no-deal Brexit. Heaven help us, but think what dissident republicans might do if there were to be no deal.

Ms Eagle

I agree with the hon. Lady. She is absolutely right to point out the Irish dimension of the entire debate. That many Conservatives seem willing to cast the Good Friday agreement into the flames has been an astonishing aspect of this debate.

Members of the Conservative party opposed to this modest insurance policy describe it as a constitutional outrage, that this Parliament should seek to ensure that the country is not driven off the cliff of a catastrophic no-deal Brexit. In seeking to put aside one modest day of debate, to try to pass a Bill—which would need a majority in this House and to get through the House of Lords—to prevent that scenario, they suggest that we are somehow upending years of constitutional propriety.

I would listen to such self-serving arguments with far more patience had we not had a Government who have spent the past few years disregarding all sorts of constitutional propriety in how they have run this Parliament: gerrymandering the number of people on Select Committees, wilfully ignoring Opposition motions and finally refusing even to participate in votes, and being quite happy to ride roughshod over centuries of constitutional convention for their own aims. They then get themselves in a lather about the very modest motion that we are debating.

In the interests of the economic prosperity and security of this country, we have to prevent the Government party and any new Prime Minister behaving like a latter-day Charles I, seeking to govern without this Parliament. If we have to do that by using a modest Bill, that is the least we can do. There is no way, for the legitimacy of what we do in the future, that this Parliament must allow a Government without a majority and a new Prime Minister who does not have a direct electoral mandate to cause a no-deal Brexit without referring this back to the people.

There is only one way, in the end, of solving the constitutional issues facing us, and that is through either a general election or another referendum. In any case, it is the people who must decide how we go forward. We are not going to allow any newly elected head of the Conservative party to take that decision away from the British people. That is why I support the very modest change before us today to put that insurance policy on to the statute book.

Angela Eagle – 2016 Speech on BHS


Below is the text of the speech made by Angela Eagle, the Shadow Business Secretary, in the House of Commons on 26 April 2016.

I thank the Minister for her statement and for giving me early sight of it.

Eleven thousand BHS staff will be desperately worried about their jobs today. BHS is a venerable British company, which has been a feature of our high streets for almost a century. I am sure Members on all sides of the House will hope that administrators will be successful in their attempts to sell BHS as a going concern. At this difficult time for the workforce and their families, we all want to be reassured that the Government are doing everything they can to support a successful outcome to the process. If the worst happens, BHS workers will want to know that the Government stand ready to offer help for them to get back to work as soon as possible.

The crisis facing BHS highlights a wider challenge for our high street retailers, with increased competition from online retailers. It is vital that our high streets adapt and change to stay relevant and competitive. It is important to understand how we ended up here and to think about the implications for public policy.

There are some serious questions to answer, not least by the former owner, Sir Philip Green. He bought BHS in 2000 for £200 million. In just two years of his ownership, £422 million in dividends was paid out, with the vast majority going to him and his family. He seems to have taken out far more in value than he paid for the business in the first place. Last year, he disposed of BHS for just £1. When Sir Philip bought BHS, the pension fund had a surplus of more than £5 million and it remained in the black as late as 2008. Yet when he got rid of the business, he had turned this into a deficit of hundreds of millions of pounds. The pension fund now reportedly has a black hole of £571 million.

If the worst happens, the liability will be covered by the Pension Protection Fund, as the Minister indicated, and BHS staff will get only 90% of the pension they have worked so hard for and saved for. However, Philip Green seems to have got much more out of BHS for himself and his family than that. BHS staff and the public will understandably want to know whether the former owner, who took so many millions of pounds out of the business, will have to pay his fair share of the liabilities that accrued during his stewardship.

It is right that the pensions of working people are covered in the event of their employer going under, but in this situation it appears that the owner has extracted hundreds of millions of pounds from the business and walked away to his favourite tax haven, leaving the Pension Protection Fund to pick up the bill. We know that Sir Philip is such a vocal supporter of the Conservative party that in 2010 the Prime Minister asked him to conduct a review for the Cabinet Office of how to slash Government spending. What he appears to have done with BHS is to extract huge value from the business before walking away and leaving all the liabilities to others, including the public purse. Now we are learning that BHS has paid more than £25 million to Retail Acquisitions, which bought it for £1 in 2015.

What help can the Department give to ensure that the interests of the 11,000-strong workforce are properly looked after? Does the Minister think that taking hundreds of millions of pounds out of a business which then accumulates a huge pension black hole is responsible ownership? What comments does she have on the conduct of Sir Philip Green during his ownership of BHS? Does she agree that in cases such as this, former owners should be held accountable and liable to pay their fair share of any accumulated pension deficit, rather than leaving it to responsible pension funds to pick up the bill through the pension protection scheme?

Sir Philip has reportedly offered a mere £40 million in lieu of the pension deficit. That is less than 10% of the total, but he has taken far, far more than that out of the business. Does the Minister believe that that offer is acceptable? If not, can she set out the options which the Government and the Pensions Regulator have to pursue him for a fairer settlement? Will she review the current law to ensure that irresponsible owners are not able to extract value from businesses and then walk away, leaving the liabilities elsewhere?

Angela Eagle – 2016 Speech to London Stock Exchange Group


Below is the text of the speech made by Angela Eagle, the Shadow First Secretary of State and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, on 22 February 2016.

It’s a great pleasure to be here, and thanks to the London Stock Exchange Group for putting on this important event.

It provides an opportunity to celebrate the success of the 1000 small and medium sized enterprises contained in the report, and more widely to congratulate entrepreneurs right across the country who risk everything in the pursuit of innovation and prosperity.

I offer my congratulations not because the pursuit of growth is an end in itself – but because it means a more productive economy, a wealthier country and the security of work for people in my constituency and throughout the UK.

And on that note – I have to declare a slight bias here as a Merseyside Member of Parliament – I am thrilled that 10 companies from my local area have been highlighted in this report.

The success achieved by small and medium sized enterprises should give Britain great cause for optimism for the future. No economy stands still and the more dynamic we can be, the greater our chances of ensuring prosperity for our citizens in the future.

Since taking on this role, my focus has been on reaching out to the business community, with the aim of understanding your needs and the work that policy-makers and those who aspire to be in Government can do to help create the conditions to enable you to succeed.

So I applaud the work you are doing and successes you’ve achieved. But in the decades to come Britain’s future success is not inevitable or guaranteed.

As entrepreneurs know better than most that we have to earn our way in this rapidly changing and highly competitive world.

I remain concerned that the government has been asleep at the wheel; leaving our domestic economy insufficiently resilient to advancing global threats, and not in a high-enough state of readiness to seize on the fast-approaching opportunities to make sure that Britain benefits from good growth.

A number of the threats facing our economy are global in nature, they’ve been advancing for some time and we in the Opposition have warned about the danger signs before.

There have been some worrying signs of slowdowns in China, volatility in stock markets across the world and oil prices have plummeted. And Eight years after the global financial meltdown we have yet to see a return to normalcy across the world economy.

Rather than washing his hands by excusing these threats as global phenomena – of which he’ll say there is little he can do to influence – the Chancellor should acknowledge that under his watch domestic structural weaknesses in the UK economy have been allowed to persist. They are now in danger of holding Britain back.

We have a productivity crisis – the gap between our productivity and that of the other G7 nations is at its widest since 1991, and the output per hour from UK workers fell further in 2014 to 19 percentage points below the average of other leading industrialised nations.

Businesses also face a skills emergency – the number of posts left unfilled has increased by 130% since 2011, and in some industries more than a third of vacancies are caused by skills shortages.

I am clear that Government should be pulling all possible levers to assist the growth of small and medium sized enterprises.

And that is why Labour supports the government’s plans to establish a Small Business Commissioner in the Enterprise Bill currently before Parliament, but their lack of ambition means that it falls to the Opposition to press for it be more than just a toothless complaints service. Labour will fight to make it more independent and authoritative so it can tackle the problem of late payments and misuse of market power by large companies.

Businesses are also being failed by the Government who are going in the wrong direction when it comes to meeting their promises on deregulation – they talk a good game on deregulation but the reality is quite different.

Having promised to “cut a further £10billion of red tape over the next Parliament…” research shows that since May the net cost to business from regulation is increasing.

This of course will not be news to you. Small and medium sized businesses routinely report that the heaviest regulatory burden they face is tax administration, and the government are set to saddle small businesses with more work by insisting that they file tax returns quarterly – in contrast Ministers met with Google some 25 times in advance of their negotiated sweetheart tax deal.

In the starkest of terms this just shows that it’s one rule for those who reach cosy private deals across the table from Ministers, and quite another for those small businesses and the self-employed who must now file their returns every three months.

Britain cannot afford to be complacent about our future prosperity, and it’s vital that the government take steps now to heighten our state of readiness to seize the opportunities for change which arise.

I’m optimistic for the future, not least because the world is now on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution. I want us to take advantage of what will be an age of rapidly advancing digitalisation, an age of robotics and big data which is expected to transform our daily lives beyond recognition.

This age will confront us with profound questions about how to generate and share prosperity more effectively, how to ensure that the proceeds of growth are not hoarded by a lucky few but distributed throughout our society. Our goal should be to generate wealth but ensure that the proceeds of it are shared in a more socially and environmentally sustainable way.

And as the first industrial nation we need to react to this challenge if we are to mould it to our advantage.

Choices the government make now will ultimately determine whether we thrive in the coming fourth industrial age.

And when it comes to choices, this year we face perhaps the most important economic choice of my lifetime, with the EU referendum called for 23rd June.

In the short time between now and then, we have to take a fundamental and searching look at ourselves and realise that this decision is really a proxy for a long needed debate about our place in the world. And we need to be confident about our ability to fight d project our progressive democratic values in an increasingly volatile and authoritarian world.

We know that our continuing membership of the European Union brings jobs, growth and investment.

We are a proud trading nation with almost half of our exports going to EU countries – worth £227 billion last year to the UK economy.

From finance to manufacturing, companies establish themselves in Britain in the knowledge that they will have access to the European single market of 28 countries and half a billion potential customers.

And our EU membership brings considerable benefits to many of the small and medium sized businesses here today.

Figures reveal that nearly 110,000 small and medium sized businesses exported goods to the EU in 2014 and that’s even before you take into account our world-leading service sector – that is something which Brexit would put at risk.

I will be playing my part and I hope you will too. This isn’t just about the looming leadership election in the Conservative Party though you might be forgiven for thinking it is given the weekend press coverage. It’s about the future direction our country will take. With the Conservative Party machine sitting it out, we in the Labour Party will be crucial to winning a vote to remain in the EU and we will rise to this challenge.

Because our national identity is strengthened not diminished and our capacity to shape our future prosperity is enhanced not compromised by our EU membership.

Nothing will destabilise our economic prosperity and Britain’s place at the heart of the global economy more than a vote for isolationism and turning our back on the world which Brexit would signal. But we are living in volatile, unpredictable times, and we must not take the result for granted.

The decision we take at the ballot box in the months ahead will chart our economic fortunes for generations to come.

So I and my party will be doing everything we can to keep Britain in over the months ahead. And so should you.

You have a persuasive voice and an important case to make. As world-leading British businesses you have a voice. Make sure you use it.

To lay the solid foundations for our future prosperity and to prosper globally, we must embrace this spirit of openness through our society and economy, and the technological change and the opportunities it brings. We can only do this with a sense of optimism and confidence which a vote to remain will signal.

Thank you for listening.

Angela Eagle – 2014 Speech to Electoral Reform Society

Below is the text of the speech made by Angela Eagle, the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, to the Electoral Reform Society on the 17th June 2014.

It is good to be here this afternoon with the Electoral Reform Society, and good to see so many of you here. In my remarks I want to address the democratic decline that we have faced in our country, and I want to argue that we must act urgently or risk the legitimacy of our Parliamentary system being threatened.

I am going to speak from my strong personal belief that despite all its flaws and disappointments, democracy is the only political system for any country to achieve and sustain. I assert this as an active volunteer and participant in democratic politics for forty years and counting.

I never thought I would live in an era when this statement of the obvious had to be reasserted. But the intervention of culturally significant people like Russell Brand urging young people not to vote has set the alarm bells ringing in my head at least.

The election results we had a few weeks ago underline the scale of our challenge.

What was startling was not that UKIP did well, but that just 1 in 9 people voting for a political party can be described as a ‘political earthquake’. Surely the real challenge which deserved the attention of the myriad of opinion formers and pontificators was the abstention rate. Two out of every three people just didn’t vote, and a quarter of those that did voted for a Party that positions itself from the right as anti-politics.

People have every right to feel like the current terms of political trade just aren’t doing it for them. They see their kids having fewer opportunities than they had. They are often working all hours God sends, but they still aren’t managing to make ends meet at the end of the month – much less have time to enjoy life. They see those who got rich and caused the global financial meltdown rewarded with tax cuts, while they work harder for less. They see widening inequality, an increasingly insecure jobs market and arbitrary treatment at work, and they think: what is politics doing for me?

The truth is, with this Government, all they get is a reliance on a failed model of trickle-down economics that offers no light at the end of the tunnel. It is certainly the case that the dominance of neoliberal economic ideology in the last thirty years has considerably narrowed the choice and the possibilities of change which voters perceive is on offer from the mainstream political parties. Perhaps they are signalling to us that they want a wider choice. After all non-participation merely aids the status quo and keeps the influential and the powerful precisely where they want to be – in charge.

The crisis we have in our politics certainly isn’t unique to the UK. It is mirrored to a greater or lesser extent in all the advanced democratic societies around the world and it is a profound problem that has no quick or easy solution. But as the election approaches, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a responsibility to try and solve it.

I’ve spent the last year asking why people feel so disconnected through my People’s Politics Inquiry. I’ve been guided by one simple principle: step out of the day-to-day grind of politics at Westminster and talk to the people who are actually disengaged. Along with a team of colleagues from the Parliamentary Labour Party, I went to mothers & toddlers’ groups, universities, held town hall meetings. I knocked on doors and called people up from the electoral register who we knew haven’t voted. And we began a dialogue.

I benefitted from some really fascinating insights once I had got through the anger and disappointment. It was clear that many felt forgotten about and welcomed a real chance to have their opinions heard.

A couple of months ago I brought together fifteen of the hundreds of people that we met to form an Inquiry Panel. Their contributions are guiding a lot of what I’m going to say to you this afternoon, but it was Annette – a children’s centre worker from Oldham who has never voted – who made an extremely valuable point. We were having a discussion and I had written at the top of a piece of flipchart paper ‘how can we re-engage people with politics’. She put her hand up and said: ‘You’ve got the question wrong. It should read how do we re-engage politics with people’.

In that comment, I think she might have summed up part of the current malaise.

When we talk about the crisis in our politics from the vantage point of a room in Westminster or after a lifetime of political commitment we too often make a series of assumptions. We assume people know why our democracy is important. We assume people know how to vote, who they want to vote for, and why. We talk with a sense of righteous indignation about the insult to those who died to give us rights and we cannot understand their indifference.

But we have to stop making these assumptions. We have to renew our democratic dialogue with everyone in our country. And we have to do as Annette said and take politics to people rather than expecting people to come to politics – simply because we did in times which were very different from those we are living through today.

Throughout my Inquiry I’ve been struck by the sheer number of people who have told me that they don’t vote because they just don’t feel like there is any point. They feel their vote won’t make a difference. They think no one listens anyway. They believe that all politicians just lie to get your vote.

These are statements I heard over and over again. But they are statements that all seem to be driven by the same thing. And that is a sense of powerlessness. A belief that politics isn’t controlled by ordinary people, for ordinary people, and instead it just gets done to them from on high.

Passive indifference is a pretty rational response to that judgment, and the only way to counter it is to empower people. To remind them how powerful they are if they decide to be, and if they decide to participate. We have to make people believe once again in the power of politics to change their lives and we have to create a mood of political optimism that shows such change is possible.

I was struck by just how many people told me that they didn’t feel like they knew enough to vote. This was an observation women especially made. It was also far more likely to be made by a product of the English education system than the Scottish where ‘modern studies’ seems to have better equipped school pupils north of the border with the basics they need for active democratic participation.

Take Debra, one of the Inquiry Panellists. Debra has never voted but recently decided to develop an interest in politics after returning to education opened her eyes. She’s embarked on a mammoth mission to find out about politics and political parties. But she still told me she doesn’t feel qualified to vote.

This sense of a lack of knowledge of the democratic basics has certainly worsened since I was a teenager. I think that part of the reason for that is that it is now less common for families to share political knowledge between generations. I learnt my politics from my Mum and Dad, from the stories that were told in the family and from a sense of belonging which has now fragmented. Tribal political allegiances have declined as a result but little has filled the vacuum.

The answer to this is to rely more on imparting knowledge about the duties and expectations of citizenship in our schools, but all the evidence from the Inquiry tells me that citizenship education in schools is often just not up to scratch.

Too often it is dry and unexciting. If it takes place at all it focuses on the mechanics of voting, but not on the value or the nature of the choices on offer. Too many young people are leaving school none the wiser about how our democracy works, how important it is or how they could get involved if they wished to.

It is right that schools have the freedom to promote citizenship in the way that they best see fit, but we will encourage schools to do more to make sure that our young people understand what their vote means. This is especially important with our commitment to introduce votes at sixteen.

It is also important that our young people get the chance to participate practically in democratic decision-making and the requirements of accountability from an early age, which is why every school should have an elected school council.

People I met during the Inquiry didn’t just say “I don’t know enough” they also said politics is “not a place for me”. It’s no wonder really when you think about it. When people look at parliament, they see a sea of white male faces too many of whom have backgrounds that just don’t reflect theirs, speaking in an arcane, often technocratic, language which is profoundly alienating.

We must make our Parliament more representative of our communities. That means more women, more people from ethnic minorities, from the working class and those who have disabilities too. But we can’t just hope for equal representation to occur naturally, we have to go out and organise for it – like I did with women in the Labour Party in the fight for All Women Shortlists.

Until we have a politics where all leadership styles are welcomed and not ridiculed, where you hear all accents, see all faces. Until then, we won’t be able to build the politics we want to see. People need to believe that power is in the hands of people like them. And they won’t believe that until they see that it is.

There is very little understanding of what Parliament does. There is little meaningful coverage of what actually goes on in Parliament over and above the weekly theatrical joust that is Prime Ministers Questions.

This problem has not been assisted by Parliament’s institutional preference to be more closed than open. Indeed it is only this year that it has been finally agreed to allow the documentary filmmaker Michael Cockerell to make a fly on the wall documentary about the inner workings of the institution that is the centre of our democratic system. I hope it will provide the first of many more insights which will make the Commons more accessible to the people it is there to serve.

The Speaker’s commitment to an enhanced educational service and the provision of a bespoke building to house it in is also a very positive step in the right direction.

I now want to turn to the second part of my speech this afternoon, the practical solutions the Inquiry has suggested for how we can increase democratic participation.

I’ve been campaigning for Labour since I was fifteen and I’m very used to the ‘get out the vote’ operation on polling day. I must admit that it can be pretty frustrating when you are confronted by a voter who just won’t nip round to the polls even though there’s plenty of time left. But they have a point especially if they have young kids and nipping anywhere involves a logistical operation of military proportions.

Labour will do more than just expect people to vote – we will do what it takes to understand their busy high pressured lives and understand how we can better help voting fit in with them.

The first thing we will do is demystify the polling station. I was struck by the number of people who told me that they didn’t know what happened when they go to vote and felt too embarrassed to ask how.

As well as working with schools to make sure people learn these basics at an early age, we will also do more to give people enough information before elections. Every registered elector is already sent a poll card, and I think that is where we should start. Every card should contain basic information about how you vote, and it should provide links or QR codes so that people can access further information online.

There are already a number of websites where people can learn more about their vote. The Electoral Commission, Parliament and Downing Street all have online information about voting and registration. But this information is incomplete, and spread across a variety of places that you really have to seek out.

I’ve been impressed by the example set by the GLA in London who run the London Elects website. It not only gives people information about how and where they vote, but also acts as a portal so people can learn what parties stand for.

A Labour Government would work to use this model to produce a comprehensive democracy portal. It would draw together in one place all of the things you need to know before you vote. Who your MP is, who your local council and representatives are, how you vote, who the political parties are and what they stand for.

We will also encourage local councils to email every first time voter who is added to the electoral register with a link to the site encouraging them to understand the process they are about to take part in and answer any questions they might have.

Using modern technology isn’t just the answer to how we can better inform voters about elections, it is also crucial to how we create a voting system fit for the 21st century.

Person after person I met during the Inquiry just couldn’t understand why when they can shop online, bank online, meet their partner online – they can’t vote online.

The Electoral Commission are right to be looking at online voting, and the Speaker was right to say last week that it makes sense in our internet age. But we can’t ignore the scale of the security challenge we’d have to face.

Examples from around the world in elections such as the often cited 2000 Arizona State Democratic Presidential Primary show that it can be done, but we’d have to develop a system that is completely secure.

The Inquiry showed me that we can’t allow ourselves to fall behind the times on online voting because the more out of touch with people’s lives voting is, the less relevant voting feels to them.

The second thing the Inquiry highlighted was the inadequacies of voter registration. It is estimated that around 10 per cent of the adult population are currently missing from the electoral register, and those figures are much worse for young people with as many as half of them disenfranchised by virtue of being missing from the electoral roll.

Registration should not be a barrier to voting, so as well as making sure that voter registration becomes a routine ask for any public sector workers who come in to contact with an unregistered voter, Labour will trial allowing people to register to vote on polling day itself.

It is also right that my colleague Sadiq Khan has already announced that we will trial different days for polling day.

There was an advert on our TVs in the run up to the recent elections from the Electoral Commission that I think is quite revealing when it comes to our attitude to non-voters. It pictured a man walking up to the polling station with a hook in the back of his clothes. When he gets to the desk, he is told that he is not registered to vote. The hook pulls back, and he is thrown at full pelt in to a skip.

This might have been effective at getting attention, but we should promote a positive message about why people should register too. We must talk about the importance of having your voice heard and having a share in the collective decision of your constituency and your country.

I can still remember the sense of joy in Archbishop Tutu’s voice when he talked about casting his first ever vote at the age of 62 in South Africa’s first ever democratic election. This was something he had fought for and wished for all his life which had finally been achieved.

Everyone I spoke to during the Inquiry told me that we need to develop a sense of excitement around voting, and a sense of community. They said that it should become part of our cultural identity again – and they are right.

Why is it that people will help their neighbour out with their weekly shopping, volunteer at their youth club, help coach at the local football team; but don’t connect their civic participation with party politics?

We don’t just need changes to make it easier to vote, we also need to show people that it is worth their time. Of course we do that by delivering results. By showing the difference we can make. But we also do that by trying to rebuild the broken relationship between people and their politicians.

That’s why the final issue I want to talk about this afternoon is something we don’t talk about enough: trust.

It was Jordan who I met at Wolverhampton Youth Council who summarised the problem best. He said that the expenses scandal just confirmed in his mind what he already thought about politicians, that MPs are just out for themselves.

I heard that a lot. And I heard of lot of anger and resentment.

Of course that is understandable. The expenses scandal was toxic.

But there was something else that I realised during the Inquiry. Almost everyone I spoke to said ‘my MP seems alright, but it is the rest of them that are crooks’. And that’s why I want to say something now that is not said enough: we’ve let our political narrative focus on the rare cases of misconduct, and we’ve let that overshadow the positive work members of parliament do.

In his resignation letter to the House, the Clerk Sir Robert Rogers beautifully articulated the mood of the Commons. I just want to read you an extract now. He said:

“The House of Commons, across the centuries, has never expected to be popular, and indeed it should not court popularity. But the work it does in calling governments to account, and its role as a crucible of ideas and challenge, deserves to be better known, better understood, and so properly valued. So too does the work of individual Members: not only working for the interests of their constituencies and constituents, but often as the last resort of the homeless and hopeless, the people whom society has let down. This is a worthy calling, and should be properly acknowledged and appreciated.”

That’s why the first solution to the problem of trust is providing more information about what exactly it is MPs do, and why they do it.

IPSA did some research last year which underlines the scale of the problem. More than half of people don’t know what their MP does, especially when they are in Parliament. This is of course primarily the responsibility of individual MPs, but Parliament and political parties should do more nationally too. There is a lot of information spread across a variety of websites, but there is no uniformity and it is not easy to locate. We need to do better.

But clarity can only really come when the process of legislation is clearer and more accessible, and when people can follow what it is their MP is doing in the House.

That is why I announced in February my reforms to the legislative process to make it simpler, more accessible and more widely reported. A new public stage would ensure that the public can have their say, and a new scrutiny stage would test Minister’s mettle, ensure legislation is in better shape, and mean that the media would have something more succinct and interesting to report.

It is not just processes we need to change, we must change the way we operate too.

The Speaker is right to criticise the worst aspects of bad behaviour in the chamber. Because to the public that looks like public school boys arguing in the playground.

People I met in my Inquiry were right to criticise our sound bite culture, because the buzz words might poll well, but they make politicians sound like automatons.

And Karina was right to say that we can’t ignore the elephant in the room: people just don’t believe politicians keep their promises.

That’s a problem that I think all politicians have a responsibility to solve.

Nick Clegg promised he’d vote against any increase in tuition fees, and off the back off that won swathes of the student vote. How many of those students now just won’t ever vote again.

David Cameron promised he’d clean up politics but he produced a lobbying bill that gags ordinary people and lets vested interests off the hook. And he promised no top down reorganisation of the NHS but then he delivered a top down reorganisation of the NHS.

When does this end? Surely we have a responsibility in politics to say what we mean and to do so responsibly. The focus groups may not say it, but I think the British people value honesty over the cheap headline. However our retail model of politics values sales talk and overblown claims over the complex realities of what Governments can actually achieve. We need a more candid discourse about all this.

Before I conclude this afternoon, there are two other words that emerged from the Inquiry that I think are at the heart of our quest to rebuild trust: transparency and accountability.

If you look at the debate around Maria Miller’s expenses, the public outcry focused around this idea that MPs were somehow ‘marking their own homework’ and letting themselves off the hook.

A lot of this was based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the unfortunately named ‘parliamentary privilege’, of the new IPSA rules and of the workings of the Standards Committee, but there is at the heart of it a valid point. If people don’t have trust in the system and don’t believe it is delivering fair results then we have a problem.

That’s why if the Government’s Recall Bill is anything like their draft it won’t provide the reassurance that people expect. It will deliver neither greater public confidence, nor satisfy Recall’s critics.

Labour supports Recall, and will work with the Government if they produce a sensible and workable model that will increase public trust. But at the moment it looks as though that’s not what they are going to do. It is right to have a mechanism to hold MPs to account outside of the 5 year cycle when MPs do something seriously wrong. But it is wrong to allow rich and powerful interests an opportunity to rid themselves of any MP they don’t like.

The Inquiry told me that we don’t just need more accountability for MPs, we need more accountability for other vested interests in parliament too.

Just look at some of the lobbying scandals under this Government. We have Lynton Crosby working in number ten, and mysteriously absent legislation on plain packaging for cigarettes. We had the Adam Smith and Fred Michel interactions over the proposed takeover of BskyB. We had Adam Werrity and Liam Fox.

But what did the Government do? They promised to clean up politics, and then proposed lobbying regulations so weak that they actually make the industry less transparent. Labour will repeal the Lobbying Act and bring in a universal register of all commercial lobbyists backed by a code of conduct and sanctions, but we won’t just stop there.

We will ban second jobs for MPs, and we will root out unaccountable influence wherever else it resides which is why Ed hasn’t been afraid to stand up to aspects of the unaccountable press.

If you look at the recent case of Patrick Mercer, at the heart of his misconduct was the use of an All Party Parliamentary Group to give parliamentary credibility to lobbying activity. As the Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee Graham Allen has warned, APPG’s are the next big scandal waiting to happen.

That’s why a Labour Government will review whether lobbyists should be allowed to provide the secretariats for APPGs, and we will continue to support the ban on parliamentary passes for any APPG staff.

This afternoon I have sought to share with you the insights of the disillusioned, and I have come to some conclusions about change we need to see based on their views.

A Labour Government will do as Annette said and take politics to people, not expect them to come to us. We will do more to help people understand our democracy and why it is important. We will take simple steps to ensure voting fits around people’s lives. And to restore trust in politicians we will focus on three principles: clarity, transparency and accountability.

Listening to disengaged voters has been a good place to start, and I hope these thoughts contribute to the debate.

I’d like to thank everyone who spoke to me and to my colleagues during the course of the People’s Politics Inquiry. And I’d like to thank you for listening.

Angela Eagle – 2011 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Angela Eagle to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool on 27th September 2011.

It’s fantastic to be here at Labour Party Conference in Labour run Liverpool.

We have a great venue here at the Echo arena and it’s just across the river from the centre of the universe – my own constituency of Wallasey.

You know the first time I came to this great new place I was down there in the front row and one of my heroines Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders was up here performing. Well I won’t be attempting anything as brilliant or as loud as the Pretenders produced then because I’ve forgotten to bring my guitar. And anyway there might be a few sore heads in the hall after ‘Scouse night’.

You know we are in a great city with a proud history of Labour representation.

Those of you who came up on the train might have seen the statue of ‘Battling Bessie Braddock’ when you arrived at Lime Street. Bessie was the MP for Liverpool Exchange for 24 years and the first woman to represent Liverpool in Parliament. She was a passionate campaigner who did much to rid Liverpool of its slums. She fought poverty, hunger and unemployment all her life and she would have been delighted that our Conference was taking place in her city.

A city Labour-led: revitalised under our Government after years of Tory neglect.

And now I worry that those days are returning.


As Ed Balls, our Shadow Chancellor said yesterday, we are living through the darkest and most dangerous times in the global economy for many generations. And we need a serious response from this Government.

But do you know what really makes me angry? It’s the Tories and their crude partisan propaganda about the economic challenges we face.

This crisis wasn’t caused by Labour investing in schools and hospitals. It wasn’t caused by Labour deciding to regenerate cities like Liverpool either.

It was caused by greed in the banking industry and a global failure to rein in the excesses. And every developed Western economy is now grappling with the consequences of those mistakes. And don’t let the Tories tell you any different.

Because they argued for less regulation and now by making the wrong economic judgements, they’re making a bad situation worse.


Do you remember Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg posing for the cameras outside Number 10 after the election? Well 16 months later we are beginning to see the consequences of the values they both share and the political choices they have made together.

And it’s not a pretty sight.

Everyone agreed that the deficit had to be tackled but ferocious Tory austerity wasn’t the solution to the crisis, it was the price of Lib Dem seats in the Cabinet.

Together both parties made a political choice to cut the deficit further and faster than was economically necessary and to start cutting before the recovery was secure.

Last year they introduced spending cuts and tax rises that go further and faster than any other advanced economy except Iceland and Ireland. That has made us much more vulnerable as the global situation has worsened.

And they also made a political choice to put women and children in the front line of those cuts. From closed Sure Start centres, cuts to child tax credits, and job losses, women are bearing the brunt of this Tory-led Government’s reckless economic experiment.

What are the results so far?

They have delivered the biggest squeeze in living standards since the 1920s.

And up and down the country people are feeling the pain.

Like the dinner lady I met in south London who has to work 1 ½ hours before she can even cover the cost of her bus fare to the job. Now she’s worried about this Government’s cuts to her tax credits.

Or the security officer I met here in Liverpool. Barely paid the minimum wage but expected to remain on call through the night for no extra pay and be back in at work by 9.30 the following morning.

The Daily Telegraph have just calculated that a middle income family of four living Kent will be £3,252 worse off this year alone!

I’m told that this is almost the cost of a full uniform for the Bullingdon club. Loose change for the Prime Minister and Chancellor maybe but a hammer blow to already stretched household budgets.

It is people and communities up and down this land that are suffering but the Tories just don’t get it. Their policies are making things worse.

The economy flat-lining.

Growth at a standstill.

Unemployment on the rise.

One in five of our young people abandoned to the misery of the dole queue.

And the IMF see even greater dangers ahead.

The warning signs are flashing red and yet the Chancellor just sits on his hands, the embodiment of preening complacency.

This is the man who claimed last year that Britain was “out of the danger zone”.

Only last month he announced that the UK was a “safe haven” in the economic storm.

Now the Prime Minister warns of the global economy “staring down the barrel” but like a medieval physician bleeding an already weak patient, his only prescription is more austerity.

They are addicted to austerity and their only response to the crisis is to try and export it.

Ed Balls yesterday unveiled Labour’s five point plan for growth and repeated our commitment to sticking to a tough fiscal strategy to get the deficit down. But almost immediately the Tories dismissed it. Again showing they just don’t understand the urgent need to get our economy growing.

But what of the Liberal Democrats?

Well in Birmingham last week they were falling over themselves to criticise their Tory friends. The Coalition was even described by the Liberal Democrat President as a ‘marriage that would inevitably end in divorce’.

Well, if only Nick Clegg had thought to include his promise on tuition fees in the pre-nuptial agreement.

Some say it’s a marriage of convenience. To me it is more of a sleazy affair. Exciting while it lasts, but destructive and likely to end in total embarrassment.

In Birmingham last week nobody was fooled by the Liberal Democrat’s cynically choreographed attacks on their own Government policy or their reheated announcements on tax evasion and executive pay.

And however much they masquerade as the conscience in this rather peculiar ‘relationship’ they’ve got as much chance of surviving at the next election as Sarah Teather has of starting a career as a stand up comedian. And don’t just take my word for it, have a look on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.