In his passionate and eloquent speech at Labour Conference today, Labour leader Keir Starmer showed the country who he is and set out what Labour will do when in government. This bold set of commitments will deal with the rolling crises caused by the last 11 years of Tory rule.
For Bristol, this is vital and visionary.
At the centre of Keir’s speech was a commitment to tackling the climate and nature emergency with urgency and I really value that Keir embraced that tackling it will create a better future for us all. Keir emphasised Labour’s ‘Green New Deal’ which we would bring in.
Education is another area where the government has let people down.
Over the last decade, Bristol schools that have had to cut help for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, cut staff and even been forced to ask parents to chip in for supplies. They – and the young people they teach – deserve better.
I loved that Keir said “I want every parent in the country to be able to send their child to a great state school”. I was also delighted to hear his commitment to making sure every child has the opportunity to enjoy music, drama and sport. The world of work is changing fast, so Keir’s focus on digital skills for young people was very welcome.
Labour’s plan for education includes powerful ideas which would help level the playing field between state schools and private schools. For example, it would guarantee every child has access to a digital device at home. This is something I’ve campaigned on over the last year, as so many Bristol school children never saw the laptops promised by this woeful Tory government.
Keir also guaranteed that people needing mental health treatment would get it within a month. I know from my caseload that this would change lives. Mental health services in the Bristol area were already under intense pressure, even before the devastating effect of the pandemic.
On health, Keir set out how the National Health Service should put more emphasis on prevention before cure. He spoke about using the power of technology together with the human skills of people working in NHS and care for better treatment.
Other policies set out by my colleagues over the course of the Labour conference could transform Bristol. I am proud of the wide range of topics covered this week, which showed our commitment and determination for our country to be the very best place to grow up in and grow old in.
Earlier this week, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves gave a fantastic speech on making an economy which works for all instead of just the privileged few and committed the next Labour government to investing £28 billion each year to tackle the climate and nature emergency and get us to net zero. This would put Britain at the forefront of an issue where Bristol has long been a leader.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth led the thanks from the conference floor for our NHS and care staff but also gave them a commitment that under a Labour government this will not be a hollow gesture but be followed through with the resources, pay and conditions they need and deserve.
Shadow Housing Secretary Lucy Powell put forward plans to fix the cladding crisis, build truly affordable homes and tackle the carbon emissions from our worn-out housing stock.
And Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds set out policies to deal with anti-social behaviour, something which ruins the lives of many people in Bristol West. He renewed our commitment to protecting refugees, who so many of you ask me to help.
Keir spoke at length about the future. Such long-term planning is something the current government is unable to do. I’m sad the UK is no longer a member of the European Union. But whatever the outcome of the referendum, it didn’t need to be this bad. The government is making political choices which are harming our country and our relationship with our neighbours.
As a member of Keir’s Shadow Cabinet, I will do everything I can to ensure Labour’s plans become a reality, by helping to elect the next Labour government. Because as it said on the backdrop to our conference (and as you will be hearing from me a lot!), we have a stronger future together.