Yvette Cooper – 2010 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Yvette Cooper, the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to the Labour Party conference on 27th September 2010.


Last week I talked to a mother in my constituency.

Her daughter Ellis is 16.

She got her GCSEs this summer. Her mum said she worked really hard.

She was due to start an apprenticeship this September at a local nursery school.

In August they told her the coalition Government has cut the funding.

Her mum was told Ellis can still do her training.

But only if she forks out £1,200. That’s £1,200 she and her family haven’t got.

Conference this is the Britain David Cameron and Nick Clegg want to build.

Hopes betrayed.

Ambitions abandoned.

Young people left to sink or swim.

Unless you can afford to pay yourself.

This is what the Big Society really means.

And this is why, for Ellis and thousands like her, we have to fight to get the Labour Party back into Government as soon as we possibly can.

And that is why we need to come together now, behind our new leader, Ed Miliband, who will lead us in:

– exposing the madness of the Tories’ attack on jobs,

– challenging the deep unfairness of their plans,

– and fighting the biggest assault on families in any of our lifetimes.

Conference, throughout our history the Labour Party has fought for jobs.

Remember as recession started, economists said unemployment would reach 3 million.

That is what happened in the Tory recessions of the 80s and 90s.

But this party vowed we would not let that happen again.

Government, businesses, unions , councils, voluntary groups all pulled together.

Backing jobs building new schools and homes.

Guaranteed work or training for young people.

Working together to keep Britain working.

Look at the results.

The dole queue started coming down last autumn.

Far earlier than in any other recession.

Far below the 3 million predicted.

One and a half million fewer people on the dole than in the 80s and 90s recession.

One and a half million more people in work supporting their families. That is Labour’s achievement and this party should be proud of it.

And Conference I saw the pressures Labour’s Chancellor faced, the decisions Alistair and Gordon took, that:

– stopped banks crashing,

– stopped millions of people losing their savings,

– saved jobs.

Conference we should pay tribute now to Gordon and Alistair for the work they did for this country.

Over the summer, the world economy ha s slipped back into more dangerous waters.

In Ireland the sharp austerity drive has triggered a double dip recession.

Here at home private sector job growth is still too weak.

Vacancies have dropped in the last three months.

And the number of people on the dole has gone up for the first time since January.

So what is David Cameron’s answer?

To cut jobs just when we need them most.

George Osborne’s own Budget said 100,000 more people on the dole each and every year, just as a result of the decisions they made.

Over the next few years, Treasury’s own papers show:

– Half a million jobs lost in the public sector,

– Over half a million jobs lost in the private sector,

– Half a million fewer jobs and opportunities for the unemployed.

So what do ministers have to say to the 90,000 young people now being denied a job on the Future Jobs Fund.

David Cameron said the Future Jobs Fund was “a g ood scheme” and “good schemes we will keep”.

But he didn’t keep it. He abolished it.

Nick Clegg was asked whether these job cuts were fair. He said “of course it isn’t…. It’s a decision taken by the local council.”

But Nick, it wasn’t a council decision, it was a decision announced by a Liberal Democrat Government Minister.

Doesn’t this tell you everything you need to know about this coalition.

David Cameron tells people whatever they want to hear.

Nick Clegg tells them it’s someone else’s fault.

And we in the Labour Party must make sure every conceit and every deceit is exposed for what it is – a betrayal of young people across Britain.

And what reason do they give for cutting so many jobs?

They say they need to do this to get the deficit down.

Conference, of course the deficit does need to come back down. And that will mean some tough and unpopular decisions.

But cutting jobs to get the deficit down?

More people on the dole to bring the deficit down?

What planet are they on?

We’ve heard the Tories say this before.

In the 90s they told us that “unemployment is a price worth paying to bring inflation down”.

20 years later they are telling us again unemployment is a price worth paying to bring the deficit down.

Both times they were badly wrong.

Unemployment is never a price worth paying.

Rising unemployment pushes the deficit up not down.

Every 100,000 people on the dole costs us £700 million in lower tax and higher benefits.

Unemployment isn’t the price of bringing the deficit down.

Higher unemployment means we all will pay a higher price.

Nick Clegg claims the public finances are like a household budget, and we have to cut back quick.

But think about it. Because this is a family with a choice to make.

It’s a family with a mortgage who cut the rep ayments when dad lost his job in the recession – to make sure they could get by til he found work, and to make sure the family didn’t lose their home.

And now they have a choice.

Make good those repayments steadily, bit by bit. Go for some extra overtime or promotion, tighten their belts a little. But spread the payments sensibly.

Or follow the George Osborne plan. Pay it off all at once. Sell the furniture, the car that gets mum to work, sell the dog, even the house itself – whatever it takes to get the debt down.

The truth is that every family knows cutting back too far too fast causes deep damage and ends up costing you far, far more.

Unemployment won’t get the deficit down, more people in jobs will get the deficit down.

Conference, our task is getting more people into work

That means supporting jobs and yes it also means going further on welfare reform too.

We brought in extra help and stronger rules. We cut the numb er of people stuck on out of work benefits. But we need to go further.

We know from the doorstep, we talked to parents worried about whether their children could find work, neighbours worried that other people weren’t playing by the rules.

We should have started sooner on reforms to help people off long term sickness benefits and into work.

And we should go further to guarantee more jobs, but to require more people to take them up.

Opportunities alongside obligations.

But that’s not what this coalition is doing.

Iain Duncan Smith says he wants more people in work.

But George Osborne is cutting jobs for them to go to.

Iain Duncan Smith says he wants people to be better off in work.

But George Osborne cut working tax credit.


Iain Duncan Smith says he wants more conditions on claimants.

But the Government is ending the requirement for young people to take work.


Iain Duncan Smith says a lot. But no one else in Government seems to be listening.


He said himself, he was the quiet man.


So quiet no one else can hear.


They’re not setting out welfare reforms to help people into work. They’re just setting out old fashioned cuts that hit the poorest hardest.

George Osborne is swaggering round like the playground bully – working out who won’t fight back, picking on the weakest – and that’s just Iain Duncan Smith.

Hitting the poorest harder than the rich.

Women harder than men.

Hitting the sick and disabled.

Pensioners and children are being hit hardest of all.

The nasty party is back, and this time they’ve brought along their mates.

From this April, over 50,000 of our poorest pensioners will lose an average £11 a wee k from their housing benefit.

Thousands of pensioners who will struggle to pay the rent.

Conference this party believes people who worked all their lives have a right to a secure home in their retirement.

And we should be proud of action we took to lift 600,000 children out of poverty. But the government is trying to turn back the clock.

Cutting maternity allowance, ending the child trust fund, the baby tax credit.

Taking £1200 from working families with new born babies in that important first year of life.

At least Margaret Thatcher had the grace to wait til the babes were weaned before she snatched their milk.

That money is what lets a new mum stay home with her little one a bit longer before she goes back to work to pay the bills.

It lets new dads cut back on the overtime so they can spend more time at home.

For thousands of new parents across the country, that money means precious, precious time at the start of a family’s life.

David Cameron said this would be the most family friendly Government ever.

In fact they have launched the biggest assault on the family in the entire history of the welfare state. And this party must fight it all the way.

This is a Government which just doesn’t understand women’s lives.

They’ve halved the number of women in the government – and let’s be honest we needed more women before.

George Osborne’s Budget hit women three times as hard as men.

£8 billion raised, £6 billion of it from women.

Even though women earn less and own less than men.

Nick Clegg says things like working tax credits, child benefit, carers allowance make people dependent and should be cut back.

For millions of women across Britain the opposite is true.

The tax credits help mums pay for child care so they can go out to work.

The carers allowance helps daughters look after their elderly parents.

That support doesn’t make them dependent. It gives them greater independence, greater choice about how to cope with the different pressures of work and family life.

Conference, all my life I have assumed that each generation of women would do better than the last.

I know I’ve had more choices, more opportunities than my mum and my grandma, not least because of the battles they won.

With each generation, I assumed, we would break more glass ceilings, change more of the world.

But now for the first time I worry about my daughters, about all our daughters. For the first time I worry that our daughters will have fewer chances in life than we did.

Conference, for women across Britain, backed by the Labour Party, the fight back starts here.

Throughout our history the Labour Party has fought for equality.

Fought for working families.

Fought for dignity in old age.

And throughout our history – from the Jarrow marches to the New Deal – we have fought for jobs.

Fighting for jobs, backing our economy, standing up for fairness, united behind our new leader; this must again be Labour’s crusade.