‘A Britain with its future back’
Labour leader Keir Starmer talks to Unite delegates on his hopes and plans for Labour and Unite – should Labour win the next election
Labour leader Keir Starmer addressed Unite delegates on Wednesday afternoon saying, “It’s a real privilege to address you at such a pivotal moment in our country.” He thanked the Unite executive and Sharon Graham, “the first female general secretary of Britain’s biggest private sector union.”
He said that he knew from their regular meetings that, “Sharon never stops fighting for this union. And that’s right. She has a mandate to fight for your jobs and pay and conditions. And she’s made it very clear that that’s what she’ll judge me on as well. That’s how it should be. I respect that. And I respect the relationship that Sharon and I have. You have different roles, different jobs, different ways of fighting for working people.
“But our shared interest is, as it’s always be the economic security of working people. That’s our purpose. That’s my political project. To square up to an increasingly volatile world. A worldwide revolution in climate change, in technology, in the materials we need for prosperity. And through that, to steer my party and this country towards that purpose, a Britain once again, built by the solidarity of working people. It won’t be easy.”
He continued, “That is our opportunity, a chance to tilt the direction of this country boldly and decisively towards work with the battle of ideas – not just next year, but for a generation.
“But we can do nothing without power. Look at our country now. The stagnation, the economic pain, the cuts to public services, attacks on working people. The legislation that hits to the very core of trade unions, and their ability to organise. Your democratic rights hard won over centuries by the brave men and women of this group, including the important TUC victory in the High Court this morning. So I can stand here today and say we will repeal this legislation.
“The prize is power and power is priceless. So we will stay focused, we will stay disciplined, keep our eyes firmly fixed on the future. Replace Tory chaos with the stability of Labour leadership.”
Keir said there were three points to note. “First, I’m unafraid to intervene on behalf of businesses and working people; second, we need a strong trade union movement that could reshape the rules which govern working people’s lives; and third, strong, free higher economic growth without giving in to right wing politics. We must never accept there’s a trade-off between growth and security at work.”
But Keir believed ultimately it was impossible to “grow the economy sustainably with low wages. You can’t do it with insecure jobs. And you can’t do it with a government that doesn’t fight for the future.”
He continued, “The evidence is all around in the wreckage of the last 13 years. The average family is now £8,800 pounds behind those in similar European economies like France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Economies that have better collective bargaining, have stronger workers’ rights, have a fair share of wealth across the country.
“It’s common sense. Nobody does their best work, if they’re wracked with fear about the future, if they’re contracted to have no protection, to stand up for their rights at work, or if there’s no safety net, to support them in times of sickness, or health.
“That’s why we’ll ban zero hour contracts, strengthen parental rights, rights to flexible working, better protections for pregnant women, level up the ethnicity pay gap, employment rights from day one, statutory sick pay for all – no more one sided flexibility.”
Keir spoke about Labour’s ‘New deal for working people’. The new deal centred around individual rights and trade union rights; statutory sick pay for all; an end to fire and rehire;
more rights for pregnant women; and rights to strengthen trade unions.
The Labour leader then discussed his plans for “new investment into green and clean British energy, including carbon capture. This isn’t just about economic security. This isn’t just about energy security. This is for security of the future. Cheaper bills, not just now, but for the long term, new jobs tomorrow, and protection for jobs today.
“I went to steel works in Scunthorpe for a few weeks ago, spoke to Unite reps, who told me in no uncertain terms, they want clean energy, they’ve got the customers, they just need the technology and a government that stands alongside them.
“That’s why we need two new institutions: a new Industrial Council, a permanent part of the landscape alongside Great British Energy.”
He explained that Great British Energy would be a publicly-owned company producing British power and creating British jobs. He added “that projects that are critical for jobs and growth, like the battery Gigafactory and the ports are combined to handle large offshore wind.” It was also important to look into where we were investing.
Industrialisation wasn’t a thing of the past – it was still happening he said. But the government had badly missed the point – something Labour would not do. “What if I can tell the government exactly what the main point should be? It’s British [steel] and British jobs, British investment and the return for the British people.
“And alongside new investment, or new institutions, we need new incentives. Because we are under no illusion, the race is on for the jobs of the future. And the pace is unforgiving. America is leading the way with inflation-reduction without other competitors that are gearing up as well.
“So with all the investments we plan to make in clean energy, we will set new rules, we will make sure our funds deliver jobs, as well as investment, good jobs, well paid jobs. We will make sure that we will also create a new incentive, a direct response, quickening the pace the world is setting on jobs in the future.
“British jobs that will take the procurement tools at our disposal and use them to make sure our investment in clean energy also creates new jobs and supply chains in our industrial model. This can be the foundation for British prosperity. The first steps on the road to jobs security to good work, dignity. And through that to hope.
“We have to win of course we do. But my job is also to restore hope in Britain. Where once again Labour is able to serve working people. That’s what we’re fighting for. A Britain with its future back, united moving forward standing tall to deliver security, aspiration, higher living standards for all and truly commits to the interests of working people.”
Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader thanked Conference.
By Amanda Campbell
Pics by Mark Thomas