John Denham – 2010 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by John Denham, the Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, to the 2010 Labour Party conference.


John Denham,

New Generation. SAGA section.

I want to thank all the Labour Councillors.

Labour changed Britain for the better, and every one of you was part of that story.

Labour councillors aren’t supporters on the touchline of a Labour Government.

You’re real players; you’ve got real passion, real commitment, real power and real responsibility.

And you’re going to be challenged like never before.

There are 4500 Labour councillors today.

We can make sure there will be a lot more soon.

Actually there can’t be many more here in Manchester.

Manchester would be a Conservative free zone already – if their only Lib Dem hadn’t just joined the Tories

Nothing new there then.

The Lib Dems wanted a conference in a Lib Dem City.

By the time they got there Liverpool was Labour.

But look; it’s going to be tough. Being a Labour councillor won’t be a job for the faint-hearted.

The Coalition is going to slash spending far faster, far harder – and far more unfairly – than this country needs or can stand.

People are going to be asking us to look after their interests in the worst possible circumstances; against all the odds.

We’re no use to anyone if we hang our heads in despair or defeat.

Our campaign – supported by – will bring us all together – the people who use public services with the people who provide them…

From village to village, town to town, city to city.

We’ll make Labour’s case in every election from next May to the General Election.

But we also know that marching round the town hall saying ‘no cuts’ – it isn’t going to be enough when we run the Town Hall.

What I know;

What you know;

Is that we’ve always found a way to show that Labour values make a difference even in the hardest times.

We won’t be able to protect everything we care about; but we’ll defend the most important things.

We won’t be able keep everything the way it is; so we’ll find better ways of doing things.

We all know we’d have had to face some tough decisions.

But we wouldn’t be doing what they are doing.

I mean, look at Eric Pickles.

Alright, don’t look at Eric Pickles.

There’s no excuse, Eric, for putting the biggest cuts on the communities that are hardest pressed.

It’s no good telling people they’ve got more say, when you’re telling them how often bins should be emptied o r street parties organised.

It’s no good telling people they’ve got more say, when you’re letting Michael Gove waste £200m of their money on cancelled schools.

It’s no good telling people they’ve got more say, when you’re wasting a fortune on a top down reorganisation of the NHS.

We don’t want elected sheriffs riding off into the sunset with police budgets in their saddlebags, when it’s working closely with councils that brought down anti-social behaviour.

It’s not good telling local people they’ve got more say when, instead of bringing local services together, you are pulling them apart.

You’re not just cutting too fast and too deep; you’re throwing people’s money down the drain.

And when every penny of local taxpayers’ money has to work harder than ever before, there’s no excuse for that.

Frankly, Conference, it’s a dog’s breakfast of muddle and waste.

And this is the mess they call the Big Society.

Conference, when David Cameron talks about people relying too much on the state and not doing enough for themselves, you’d think we were all sat at home waiting for the council to come round and do the dishes.

I’m sure, that like me, you live in a community of extraordinary generosity, where thousands of people help their neighbours and their communities with countless acts of thoughtfulness every day.

We don’t have to choose between state and society.

I know a group in Southampton who befriend lonely older people.

They don’t bathe them, they don’t clothe them or give them medication.

It’s the public services – the carers, the nurses, the financial support which make it possible for them to live at home in comfort.

But it’s the volunteer friends who shop with them, go to the theatre with them, have cup of tea and a conversation with them.

Who give time that, frankly, no state could ever give – who make their lives not just comfortable but rich.

The best of public service; the best of personal giving.

But take the public service away, and personal giving can’t fill the gap.

Conference, we claim no monopoly on generosity, but our party and our members have given birth to countless organisations of change – environmental groups and neighbourhood watches, coops and housing associations, residents’ organisations and community centres.

Our party and our members know the difference between a really big society, a good society; and a narrow and mean society.

And that’s why we will make a difference over the next few years.

Despite the challenges, despite the Coalition cuts, despite the Coalition chaos, we will win the argument that the deficit is no excuse to destroy a good society.

Despite the challenges, despite the coalition cuts, despite the coalition c haos we will win local elections up and down this country.

And despite the challenges, despite the coalition cuts, despite the coalition chaos, this new generation: our members, our councillors are ready to show that being Labour, thinking Labour, voting Labour makes a difference that really counts.