Yvette Cooper – 2012 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, to Labour Party conference on 30th September 2012.

Conference, we have heard in today’s debate from delegates on a range of issues, from diversity in our Party and the challenges faced by women, to the impact of the Government’s policies on disabled people.

But Conference, we, in this Party will not just be debating equality today.

Yesterday, 800 women gathered for Labour’s Annual Women’s Conference.

Tomorrow when we debate the economy, we’ll talk about child care, jobs for young people and support for disabled workers.

On Tuesday our Party Leader Ed Miliband, who has done such a great job for our Party this year, will talk about making the economy work for everyone not just the privileged few.

And on Wednesday and Thursday we’ll debate our public services.

The importance of Sure Start in giving all kids a better start in life.

And the future of our NHS – one of the most important institutional embodiments of fairness and equality in British society. One of Labour’s proudest achievements, now under threat from the Tories. An institution that we will strain every sinew to defend.

And Conference, as we talk about equality, not just today, but throughout the week, we’ll also talk about why the police need to challenge racism and pursue hate crimes which have been rising.

And we will remember that in six weeks the country will vote for the Government’s new Police and Crime Commissioners. Our chance to send a message to the Tories about policing.

But also an important campaign in Bedfordshire, where we are backing Olly Martin’s campaign against a candidate from the EDL.

Because Conference we must never, never let policing be taken over by racists or extremists. Policing must be fair for all.

Conference, all week we will talk about Labour’s belief in fairness, in justice, in equal life chances, equal respect for individuals, wherever they come from, whatever their background.

And our anger that this Government time and again is turning the clock back, widening the gap. Reinforcing, rather than challenging discrimination.

Look at the way unemployment among young black men has reached over 50 per cent.

Look at the way David Cameron is taking more money from disabled people than he is from the banks.

Look at the way 80 per cent of the rise in long term unemployment is among women.

And the way the squeeze on child care, social care, and universal credit are all penalising women who work.

And with women bearing the brunt of the tax and unemployment changes, we, Conference, are more proud than ever, because it is more important than ever, that we now have the first woman General Secretary of the TUC – who made a fabulous speech at Labour’s Women’s Conference yesterday – Frances O’Grady.

Sometimes it is the double discrimination that is hardest.

For example, for older women, who now face a toxic combination of ageism and sexism.

They’ve seen a 30 per cent increase in unemployment since the election, compared to 5 per cent on average for everyone else.

And even in the Cabinet.

David Cameron told Caroline Spelman she was too old for the job, aged 54. Then replaced her with Owen Paterson, aged 56.

That’s why Labour has set up an Older Women’s Commission led by our Harriet Harman.

Because the generation who fought for equal pay, for childcare, for maternity leave, will not be silenced now.

We know too that many disabled workers are getting a bad deal. The Work Programme is missing its target for disabled people by 60 per cent.

And Conference, it is shocking the way this Government has closed so many Remploy factories with no jobs for people to go to. They have turned their back – we will not turn our back. We will keep campaigning for those Remploy workers because they have a right to work.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing of all is the rising child poverty that we are seeing across the UK. Families in Britain forced to depend on food banks. That is the shocking state of Britain under David Cameron and Nick Clegg. No child should have to grow up in our country in the twenty-first century feeling hungry, cold or left behind.

Conference, this isn’t an accident.

It is the direct result of deliberate policies.

Economic policies that push Britain back into double-dip recession.

Fiscal policies that help the richest in the country and make everyone else pay more.

And an approach to equality which sees positive action as somehow a burden, as opposed to the opportunities and doors that we know positive action can open.

So the action we took to tackle discrimination is now being dismantled.

Abandoning Labour plans for pay audits, even though it will take another 65 years for the gender pay gap to close.

Ending requirements on employers to protect their staff from racist or homophobic abuse.

Repealing laws that could help older women fight the toxic combination of ageism and sexism.

Introducing a new thousand-pound price tag to purse an equal pay claim.

Stopping the Equality and Human Rights Commission from assessing whether policies affect the poor.

Bit by bit they are eroding the protection people have – salami-slicing here and there. And Conference, the Labour Party must not let them get away with it.

We can build a fairer society. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. Progressive campaigning against prejudice and discrimination has changed our country.

When we brought in Civil Partnerships for lesbian and gay couples there was huge opposition.

Now the majority of the public agree with finishing what we started – and introducing same sex marriage. Ministers mustn’t chuck this into the long grass because they are afraid of the Tory right.

When people who love each other want to get married, we shouldn’t discriminate we should celebrate.

It is time to change the law now.

But the Government should go further. We respect freedom of religion and that means different faiths will make their own decisions.

But freedom of religion means we should support the Quakers, the Unitarians, Liberal and Reform Judaism and other faiths who want to celebrate same sex marriage.

And Conference this is the year of London 2012.

Britain put on the best Paralympics ever. Ever.

An amazing spectacular of sporting excellence – role models from Ellie Simmonds to Hannah Cockcroft, Johnny Peacock to David Weir – we celebrate their achievements and stand in awe of their excellence.

Because, the truth is Team GB made politics look small.

We have to be inspired by them. Our Paralympians changed Britain this summer – as a result of the Olympics and Paralympics that the whole country built together.

We mustn’t let it slip back now.

Because we know how much more all of us can achieve, whatever our circumstances, when we support each other, rather than leaving people to sink or to swim, alone.

And Conference, I think this – the spirit of the Olympics and the Paralympics – underpins Labour’s vision for equality.

It is a vision of a society that supports those who care for children or for elderly relatives, who are getting older, or who have a disability, to do all they can do. Be all they can be.

Equality laws that create a can-do society.

An economy that works for the working people.

A government that works for all the people.

Conference, this is Labour’s pledge on equality.

This is the kind of Britain we know we can be.