Tuesday 26 September 2017 / 10:58 AM 2017 Press Archive / The Latest from Labour

Rebecca Long-Bailey speech to Labour Party Conference

Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Shadow Secretary for
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 
speaking at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton
today, said:

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Conference,
when I was little, my dad would tell me stories of his job in Salford,
unloading oil tankers. How we were known as “the workshop of the world”. Life
was good for us back then. My dad’s work was unskilled, but it paid well. 
My parents even managed to get a mortgage for their own little house.

And
from poverty-plagued childhoods, which made the film Angela’s Ashes look like
an advert for a luxury minibreak, they felt proud of their achievement! And
that was true of so many working class people right across Britain, for the
first time in history they were truly being offered the chance to aspire!

But
under Thatcher industries such as my father’s were put into what is so
callously called ‘managed decline’. It meant factories shutting their doors,
firms moving abroad or simply closing down, lower wages for those who could
still find work, and cuts to benefits for those who couldn’t.

We
now have the most regionally imbalanced economy in Europe.  40% of our economic output comes from London
and the South East alone. And despite the pretence that we have ‘full
employment’, we know the figures hide a worrying truth:

an
insecure, low paid and ‘casualised’ workforce.

When
the Prime Minister called the general election in spring, we were 20 points behind
in the polls. The seven weeks that followed saw the biggest narrowing of the
polls in British electoral history.

There
were many things that contributed to that turnaround. The passion, integrity
and strength of our leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The hard work of the Shadow Cabinet,
not least my brilliant team Chi Onwurah, Alan Whitehead, Barry Gardiner, Bill
Esterson, Jack Dromey, Gill Furniss and Dan Carden. The hard-work and
dedication of every single person in this hall and in our movement.

But
there were other key factors at play. A country fed up with the dogmas of
political and economic neglect that, for so many, had only meant so much
hardship. And a Manifesto that showed them that it didn’t have to be this
way. When we promised an industrial strategy to end the economy’s reliance
on the City of London. To properly fund our public services by making the top
5% pay their fair share. And to invest in our energy, transport and digital
infrastructure to make it fit for the 21st Century

When
we promised to take the radical action needed to tackle climate change,

and
ensure that 60% of our energy comes from low carbon or renewable sources by
2030. To support projects like Swansea tidal lagoon and Moorside nuclear plant.

When
we promised to introduce a £10 living wage. And to level the playing field
between small and big business. We offered a vision of hope. And we offered
transformation!  Because we know what
lies ahead.

Conference,
we are standing on the precipice of the fourth industrial revolution,

a
pace of technological and digital change so immense it will leave you feeling
dizzy.

It
will transform industry, it will transform our economy. And it has the
potential to transform the quality of life of every single person in Britain.

But
it will only do this if a Labour Government is holding the reins.

Now
I know it’s hard to believe but I was 38 the other day. Just 20 years ago, on
my 18th birthday, you had to dial up the internet, you checked your lottery
numbers on teletext, my first mobile only received ten text messages, and you
taped things off the telly with a cassette, which if, like in our house, you
were at the cutting edge of 1990’S interior design, you kept them in those
plastic boxes designed to look like books.

But
people in their teens today have no idea what most of those things are.

 And
the pace of change we have seen in the last 20 years will pale in comparison to
the next 20. Over the last few centuries, we have gradually learnt how to
transfer more and more human skills to machines. With current technological
breakthroughs, we are, for the first time, designing machines that do cognitive
and non-routine work.

Machines
that think!

But,
with some estimates suggesting that half of all jobs could be lost to
automation,

and
that few businesses are ready to harness change, it also brings the threat of
rising poverty and inequality. There is no doubt about what the digital age
will look like under the Tories: monopoly profits for the few, and increased
exploitation for the many.

Only
Labour will ensure that workers and businesses are equipped to enjoy the
prosperity this changing economy can bring.
 

We’ll
restore the rights of workers – rolling out sectoral collective bargaining and
guaranteeing unions access to the workplace – to ensure that new technology is
not just an excuse for disgraced old employment practices.  Because there is nothing cutting edge about
hire-and-fire, casual contracts.

We’ll
create the conditions for business to make those really ‘transformative’
discoveries which can change all our lives for the better, with an industrial
agenda that is so transformational, it will eclipse the new deal set out by
Franklin D Roosevelt in the history books.

We’ll
bring investment in research and development in line with other major economies
and create national missions to deal with the big issues of our time

And
our National Education Service will allow every single person in this country
to obtain the skills they need to thrive in a modern economy and ensure real
diversity in our workplaces.

But
it’s not enough for Britain to innovate. We’ll put Britain at the forefront of
industrial manufacturing, so that the ideas conceived in Britain are
manufactured and delivered here in Britain. ‘Made in Britain’ will not just be
an idealistic vision of times gone by, it will be a source of national pride
for future generations.

And
finally, we’ll ensure that workers themselves can have a stake in our
industrial journey alongside business. 

Imagine
if the technology which allows us to hail a taxi or order a takeaway via an app
was shared by those who rely on it for work. They would have the power to agree
their own terms and conditions and rates of pay, with the profits shared among
them or re-invested for the future.

That’s
why we are today launching a Report on Alternative Models of Ownership.

To
start asking fundamental questions about how we achieve real diversity of
business in the digital age, and how to ensure that it’s enormous potential
benefits serve the many, not the few.  

Now
conference, the fourth industrial revolution is here!  A time of profound economic and technological
change. The Tories have had their chance.
We’ve seen how they deal with industrial and technological change. And
they have failed.

We
either seize the possibilities it can bring us, technological advancement,

living
standards and leisure time, that even Harold Wilson in the white heat of
technology couldn’t have dreamed of! Or we let the Tories consign our heritage
as a proud industrial nation to the dustbin of history.

As
Klaus Schwab the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum
once said:

“There
has never been a time of greater promise, or greater peril.”

But
we are ready! Together we will harness the fruits of the extraordinary changes
that are coming. A society with more potential than any before, but built for
the many, not the few. Conference, this is our time now!