“Labour will deliver a fairer future” – Anneliese Dodds’ speech to conference

Anneliese Dodds

Below is the full text of the speech delivered to the Labour Party conference by party chair Anneliese Dodds in Liverpool today.

I want to start with some words of tribute to our late Queen, Elizabeth II. For 70 years, she devoted herself to our nation, the Commonwealth and the British people. She did so much to bring Britain together, through the good times and the bad. Our country made great strides for women’s equality during the Elizabethan era – from measures for equal pay to the legalisation of abortion to the passing of the Sex Discrimination and Equality Acts.

Those changes only happened because of Labour governments. What a contrast with the appalling inequality laid bare after twelve years of Tory-led governments. Conservative governments have left women brutally exposed to the cost-of-living crisis and the current epidemic of violent crime. They have slashed support for disabled people and refused to uprate legacy benefits. They saw how Black, Asian and ethnic minority people were overexposed to the pandemic – only to patronise with claims that structural racism doesn’t even exist. And they binned their LGBT action plan, disbanded their LGBT advisory panel and broke their promise to ban conversion therapy.

Who owns this dreadful record? You probably missed it – she didn’t seem to notice herself – but the minister for women and equalities for the last three years was Liz Truss. A minister so dedicated to women that one of her first acts as Prime Minister was to scrap the dedicated role for women in cabinet. A minister so steeped in Conservative failure that she sat on the Tory frontbench for ten long years. A minister who said nothing about all those Tory scandals – from the golden wallpaper squirrelled into Boris Johnson’s flat, to the suitcases of booze wheeled into No 10, to the X-rated tractors beamed into the Commons chamber.

We can’t expect change from a continuity Conservative leader. We can’t expect delivery from someone who’s failed to deliver. And we can’t expect fairness from someone who’s governed so unfairly.

We can expect all those things from Labour. To women grafting day and night on incomes £200 less on average today than in 2010, I say: Labour will deliver a fairer future. To the half a million women waiting for gynaecological treatment, I say: Labour will deliver a fairer future. To female victims of the Tory epidemic of violence, misogyny and discrimination: Labour will deliver a fairer future. To the millions of disabled people facing fuel poverty, to the majority of Black children growing up in poverty, to LGBT+ people faced with the surge in homophobic and transphobic hate crime: Labour will deliver a fairer future.

The last Labour government did more to advance equality than any other in British history. The next will match that record – and we will start with the economy. We will act to eradicate gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps. We will bring in strong family-friendly rights. We will measure what we do and be accountable for it – equality impact assessing every budget. And we’ll always – always – treat the British people with dignity and respect.

Respect. A concept this Tory government will never understand. But one that I will put at the heart of government as Labour’s first ever Secretary of State for Women and Equalities.

Respect means equalising the law so that all forms of hate crime are treated as aggravated offences. Respect means modernising the Gender Recognition Act and upholding the Equality Act, including its provision for single-sex exemptions.

Respect means banning all forms of conversion therapy outright while making sure that doesn’t cover psychological support and treatment. Because unlike the Tories, we will never hide behind strawman arguments to avoid doing what’s right.

Respect means working with disabled people, not against them – ending cruel disability assessments and supporting disabled people to live the lives they want and deserve.

And respect means tackling the epidemic of violence against women and girls – with specialist rape units in every police force area, minimum sentences for rape and stalking and making misogyny a hate crime.

Labour won’t dismiss structural racism – we’ll tackle it head on, with a landmark, new Race Equality Act, by implementing all the Lammy Review recommendations and with a curriculum that reflects our country’s diverse history and society.

We will never pit communities against each other for cheap political points like the Conservative Party. And unlike the Tories, we will always tackle issues around inequality or prejudice in our own ranks.

The Forde Report made difficult reading for anyone who cherishes our party and its values. It’s unacceptable that members of our party and party staff, were subject to sexism, misogyny and racism. As chair of the Labour Party, I want to reiterate the apology that David Evans and Keir Starmer have made.

Over the last two years we’ve acted to change our party. A new independent complaints process – passed at conference last year – and now in operation as the most robust complaints process of any political party. New codes of conduct against Islamophobia and Afrophobia and anti-Black racism. Mandatory training against bias, for staff. And radical reforms to recruitment.

But that job of work will never be finished – as chair, I will always act to ensure the party we love is a safe place for everyone who shares our values. That is how we prepare our party for the responsibility of government.

This year was a turning point. This year, we were the only party to win councils in Scotland, England and Wales. We won in the North West, the South East and Tory-run bastions like Wandsworth and Westminster. After twelve long years in opposition, we are assembling excellent candidates to take the fight to the Tories at every single contest between now and whenever Liz Truss dares to go to the country.

Let’s hope it’s soon, because the country can’t take much more chaos from the Conservative Party. I’ve now seen off four different Tory Party chairs over the last year. But no matter how much the Conservatives rearrange their party chairs, their ship of state is sinking fast. They’re clapped out. Checked out. It’s high time they cleared out.

Whenever that election is called, I say – bring it on. Because Labour will be ready with the policies we need to change lives. Over the last year, I’ve learned from brilliant examples of Labour in power – from West Dunbartonshire to Worthing to Wales. They show that Labour works in government – and you can read all about the difference our Labour councillors, MSPs, Senedd members, metro mayors and police and crime commissioners are already making on the Labour Works website – released to conference and the public, today.

As chair of the Stronger Together policy review, I’ve also worked with Keir, the shadow cabinet, our affiliated trade unions and hundreds of you – our members – to develop the ambitious policy agenda that’s in this year’s Stronger Together report, which I am delighted to present to conference today.

No one who reads this report can doubt that Labour is the party of ideas in British politics. From tackling the cost of living and climate crises to building a stronger, more secure economy to delivering a new deal for working people – it shows that Labour is ready to take on the challenges our country faces.

Only Labour can unite our country, clean up our politics and build a fairer, greener future for Britain. That future is in our grasp. I look forward to joining you on the campaign trail to make it a reality. Thank you.

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