Sunday 26 September 2021 / 3:57 PM Jim McMahon

CONFERENCE SPEECH: Jim McMahon MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Speech by Jim McMahon MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport


Brighton Centre



Thank you, conference. I am Jim McMahon, and I’m proud to serve as the Shadow Transport Secretary.

I want to start by thanking our frontline transport workers and our trade unions who have supported them. Our bus, tram and train workers, those in aviation and maritime, our taxi drivers and all in operations and maintenance who keep our country moving. Through to our HGV drivers, working around the clock in hugely demanding circumstances. You have supported our nation through the worst of times, often putting your own health at risk – with some paying the ultimate price. You did so because you are the very best of public service and we owe you an enormous debt of gratitude.

Conference: Transport is in my blood. My father was a truck driver. I spent my childhood growing up in his cab, dragging myself out of bed in the early hours before the sun came up, hoping I’d join him to work. His dad was a driver too, working at the British Rail Mayfield Depot in Manchester, and his dad an engineer working on aeroplanes at AVROs in Manchester. My own son has just completed his transport apprenticeship, carrying on the family tradition.

For me, being here today is more than a position, a portfolio – it’s about carrying on a generational responsibility to fight for decent jobs with good pay, offering pride, respect and purpose. I want transport jobs to give young people looking up at their parents the sense of pride I had in my dad. And for parents looking to the future for their kids, the same hope we have for our son.

The truth is, the Tories have failed to value good working class jobs.  They have failed to invest in those jobs and now we are all paying the price. We have a 90,000 HGV driver shortage, leaving supermarket shelves empty and businesses without vital supplies. And it’s only going to get worse.

Just 3% of the 320,000 drivers in the UK are women. The number of drivers completing their practical HGV test after their theory is dwindling. The Transport Secretary’s answer? Pile more pressure on already exhausted existing drivers and cut corners on test.  It simply isn’t good enough.

This Tory Government could and should have done more to attract people to the industry – to value those vital jobs. We’ve warned them – if you don’t act now, shelves will continue to be bare, with medicines not delivered and Christmas ruined for the nation.

And it will be the Conservatives alone who will be responsible. Yet another example of working people paying the price for their failure.

In a few weeks, the Chancellor will deliver his spending review.  It’s a chance to get transport investment in this country out of reverse gear, a chance to end paper promises.

We’ve lost count of the number of times Boris Johnson said HS2 would be built in full. And the same is true of Northern Powerhouse Rail. Conference, it’s been seven years since that was first promised.  Seven years.  And not a single spade has gone in the ground, not a single mile of track built.

The Tories care more about launching a new Royal Yacht than keeping hardworking families afloat.

Conference. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I believe the future is ours to own, built on high quality world leading technology, opening up opportunity not just for those who work in transport, but for those who rely on it too. Connecting communities to education, training, and jobs. Public transport run for the public good, with democratic control and a strong role for our transport unions.

Conference. COP26 is a chance to show our ambition, to maximise the crucial role transport will play in a green recovery. I want us to lead the world not by grounding planes, but by flying proudly on new hydro and battery technology. I want investment in trains to grow our regions and the great towns and cities in them – including breathing new life into our coastal communities. And I want us to end transport deserts by offering flexible community transport, using the latest technology to create real-time, reliable and affordable routes to serve our rural communities.

As a descendent of professional drivers, I know motorists have been demonised.  But the reality is, the Conservatives have not done enough to make the switch to greener transport easy.

The next Labour government won’t build walls between the travelling public, but we will build bridges, allowing a just transition, bringing in new vehicle technology, investment in active transport and high-quality public transport. Giving working people real choice, freeing up our crowded streets and offering neighbourhoods which are clean, green and decent places for all of us grow up in.

Conference. As we plan ahead for the general election, we must be ambitious, give hope coming through hard times, and we must have pride and confidence that future is ours to own. Because when we do, we will finally unlock the full potential of this Great Britain.

Thank you, conference.