Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Labour Party Spring Conference


Harriet Harman MP
Sunday 2nd March 2008
As Delivered

This has been a great conference and I’d like to thank the great city of Birmingham for giving us such a warm welcome!

There have been about 2,000 of us here – from all over England, from Scotland and from Wales and all of us have felt the buzz of this dynamic city.

This is a city which was rebuilt by Labour and we are determined that once again the council will return to Labour.

This has been an important conference at an important time – as we build up our campaign for the elections on May 1st

At this conference you have been strong  and clear about what we all stand for

Strong and clear about what we have done – in government, in local councils and internationally.
And you have shown that you are strong and determined about Labour’s plans for the future

On Europe

*we know that with other European countries  we can do more to  tackle climate change

*we know that with other European countries we can do more on international aid

*we know that we can’t tackle cross-border crime without our European partners and

*we know that at a time of global financial instability – it would be madness to turn our back on the economies of Europe and try and go it alone.

On Europe, the Tories only  approach is isolationism

Their only policy is a referendum

and on that basis alone

They are unfit to run this country.

At this Spring conference you have shown that we are  more united than ever before..

You want this country to be prosperous and you want everyone to have a fair share in that prosperity

That is what all our Labour local councillors and candidates are fighting for

That is what Labour’s team in Europe is fighting for

And its what Labour in government is fighting for

That is what London’s Labour mayor, ken Livingston is fighting for. 

And London faces a clear choice on May 1st

The man from Henley versus our Ken.


Ken, who’s given us more police


Boris who is  pledged to cut them

Ken who’s transformed London’s public transport

Or Boris – who’d cut it back

Boris I’ve got news for you –  should stick to the jokes.. 

Ken will stick to running London.

There’s been really good discussion in this conference. And Michaela Neild from Cardiff asked Gordon a question yesterday.  She was here speaking at our conference but she told us she was only 8 when Labour came into government – and no she’s not a cabinet member yet! 


She reminded us that we do need to tell people that

*when the Tories were in power.

* Before we got into government


There was no department of International Development

There was no minimum wage

There was no commitment to ending child poverty and

There were massive waiting lists for the NHS and

And before Gordon took over as Chancellor 10 years ago

the economy lurched from boom to bust and people suffered – they suffered here in the West Midlands and in every part of the country.. 

But whilst the better off could sit it out, the poorest  suffered most.  And we will never forget that under the Tories people lost their jobs, their homes and their hopes.

And that’s why we are determined that the economy is stable and growing and in a strong position to face the international financial  turbulence – and we will act to protect that economic stability whenever it is necessary - like we did on Northern Rock.  By the way, the Tory policy on Northern Rock was to let it go bankrupt. – again, through that episode alone, they showed they are not fit to run the country.

As Gordon said yesterday a strong economy is one that can draw on the talents and skills of all people in this country.  And that means everyone.

*it means women as well as men,

*it means black and Asian as well as white.

*That means disabled people too,

Equality and opportunity underpins not just a fair society but a strong economy too.

You can’t have a modern economy and a confident society if it  is  marred by misogyny, homophobia and racism.  .  Everyone in society must be able to play their part.

So, as Gordon said here yesterday,  we will have a strong new Equality Bill

– because though we have made progress we are not satisfied and we need to do more.

And we need a fair and equal democracy too – and that means everyone registered to vote – and it means everyone going out to vote.

And it also means equality in our democracy -  in who is represented in our councils and in parliament. 

And it is Labour that is the only party of equal representation. Take here in Birmingham - Labour councillors in Birmingham represent the diverse communities in Birmingham – 40 % of our Labour group in Birmingham council are black and Asian.

You know how many black and Asian councillors are in the Tory group – not one!

Nearly half of our Labour members of the European parliament are women – the Tories have only one woman Euro MP and she’s leaving – and who could blame her

Labour is the party that has fought for equal representation. And it’s because we have fought for equal representation:

We have 3 times more Labour women MP’s than all the other parties put together

We have 3 times more black and Asian MPs than all the other parties put together

We have more black and Asian Labour councillors than all the other parties put together.

But we are not complacent. We must, and will, go further.

And we need more Asian women represented as councillors on our democracy.

Labour women make sure that what we do in government and in councils understands the big changes in women’s lives – and in families..

The Tories – having voted against every measure that helps women and families and derided our fight against race discrimination – they tell us they have new found commitment to equality

The truth is that it is as phoney as

their new found commitment to tackling child poverty and their new found commitment to the  environment. 

*We’ve seen David Cameron hugging huskies,

*we’ve heard him on hugging hoodies

*no doubt he could find a tree that he could hug 

*But he better think twice before he tries to hug a feminist

Women know exactly what men like Cameron are after – they want women for one thing and one thing only – their votes.

At our conference this week end – we have discussed how we can do more to back up and support families.

People don’t want to be told what to do by the government. 

That’s why

*we extended maternity leave,

*and maternity pay,

*introduced paternity pay and leave,

*set up children’s centres and sure start centres’ 

*and backed up families with tax credits. 

But  still some women struggle as they try to balance work and family.

So we will give families more backing by

*giving parents of older children the right to request flexible working.  

*making sure that fathers know that they too have the right to request flexible work.

*and helping more families with the costs of childcare.

But as people have been saying at this conference – and as Joyce Nicol from Edinburgh South said to be yesterday.  Our society is not just multicultural – its multigenerational too.

For most families out there its granny as well as mum who’s looking after the kids. 

For many families out there, mum is looking after granny as well as looking after the kids.

We must ensure that we have the best services to support people as they grow older.  Vital health services, local council services and from the voluntary sector.

And we know that  what matters to older people almost more than anything is the care and support of their family.

And just as we are backing up families with children, we will to back up families who are caring for  elderly relatives.

For families who need respite care,

for people who want to care for older relatives without having to give up their job,

For people who want to change their hours to fit in with care of an older relative. 

When our Carers Commission reports this summer - we will offer new entitlements to Britain’s 6 million family carers.

We have listened and we will act.

We weren’t afraid of being called the nanny state.

And we won’t be afraid of being called the granny state.

And you’ve listened to the concerns of your local communities.

You’ve spoken up about the need for better housing – and it is a new priority at the heart of government.

You’ve spoken up about concerns on policing – and on April 1st there will be neighbourhood policing in all areas.

We’ve listened to the concerns about better opening hours for GPS – and  we are acting on that too.

And although we know globalisation brings opportunities it also poses new challenges and we must ensure that it does not make our society more unequal. 

So, as Gordon said, when he was talking about temporary and agency workers - we will ensure that migrant workers are not exploited and that permanent employees are not undermined we will make progress on this important issue.

Friends, the task ahead of us in the May elections  will be a  challenge but we are all up for the task.

Minsters and MPs

Local councillors and our London Mayor

Labour students

And The trade unions.

The whole of Labour’s team who have been here this week-end

We will leave this Spring Conference with a spring in our step

Determined to expose the opportunism of the Tories

Determined to fight the racism of the BNP

Determined to build our party and campaign for what we believe in.

Thank you all for being part of this great conference this weekend

Thank you for your ideas and for your commitment

Thanks to our party staff

Thanks to all of our Stewards – our own Red Army

Onwards to May 1st.

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