Address to Congress by Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Education Secretary 13 September 2016, Brighton.
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It’s an honour to be here today
At the heart of the labour movement, that has given me and millions like me so much
From my first day as a care worker when I joined my workplace union I have seen how that movement has fought for our shared values
And President, if you’d have said to me in 2009 when I was a delegate to Congress in Liverpool
Sat with you in the Unison delegation – just there
That 7 years later I’d be speaking from the platform
As an MP
And a shadow Cabinet member
I’d have thought you’d drunk too much at a reception the night before!
Because I never expected to be an MP
Today I’ll tell you why
And why my experiences mean I am so glad
To be asked to lead for my party on education and equalities
As the shadow secretary of state for education, and for women and equalities
As the first woman MP for 183 years elected to represent Ashton under Lyne
And as a representative of my party, the only party for ordinary working people – the Labour party
I grew up on a council estate
My parents needed the welfare state, free school meals and the help of my nan to keep us afloat
By the time I was 16, I was pregnant, and I had no qualifications
I didn’t go to university
I got a job as a home help
Determined to provide a better life for my son
And that’s when things began to change for me
Within a year, I was a Unison rep
Standing up for others in my workplace
Getting a qualification in care
Education and my union – that was my second chance
I spent years fighting for decent pay, security and respect for dedicated public servants
And since 2015, I’ve had the honour of doing so in Parliament
Not bad for a girl who was told she would never amount to anything!
So you see why I’m passionate about education and equality
About the early years – thinking back to the dedicated Sure Start workers who helped this teenage mum
About further education and union learning – a second or third chance for people like me
And about schools
The very place that offer opportunity and achievement to every child
Regardless of what is going on at home
Instead this week we’ve seen the prime minister impose a policy
Guaranteed to reduce the life chances of millions of children
Yes, I’m talking about the return of secondary moderns
Not so much education, education, education as segregation, segregation, segregation
Just weeks ago the Prime Minister solemnly promised on the steps of Number 10
to govern for the many, not the privileged few;
to be led by the evidence when making decisions;
to be a one nation leader.
But this is aimed not just at serving a privileged few but creating a privileged few.
A policy which flies in the face of all evidence.
A policy that is about partisan politics and right wing dogma,
announced to Tory MPs in private even as it was being denied in public.
The pattern is already all too clear. Yesterday, grammar schools.
Today, a boundary review to gerrymander the House of Commons even as they stack Parliament with unelected Lords.
She doesn’t want to lead a one nation party, but a one party nation.
For all the children being set up to fail the Eleven Plus none will do what this Prime Minister has done, and fail so spectacularly the tests that she set for herself.
And this at a time when we have
A school places crisis
The highest rate of teachers leaving the profession in a decade
And over half a million children in super-sized classes!
Congress we know what is needed
Great comprehensive schools
Funded to international standards
Pupils that are supported by brilliant TAs
And taught by world-class professional teachers
It’s Labour that’s on the side of aspiration and achievement for children - from every background
And alongside a world-class education system
We need a society that supports everyone to live a life of equality
For women, for LGBT people, for disabled people, and for black and Asian people too
There is much still to be done
When a majority of women have experienced sexual harassment at work
It reminds us that whatever progress we make
We must guard it carefully
And make sure it doesn’t get rolled back
This government talks the language of equality but acts against it
Like imposing tribunal fees
So that discrimination cases have plummeted
And congress the bosses are getting away with it!
Labour is clear: we will scrap employment tribunal fees
That won’t just help women
It will help anyone who’s been the victim of discrimination or unfair treatment at work
Like BME workers
Who earn less than white workers – no matter how qualified they are
We must build a society free of the blights of racial inequality and discrimination,
Congress our great movement has the answers, The Labour Party needs your help to build that fair society that we all want and need.
I’ve been watching your debates this week
And I have to say I’m so glad to hear about your young workers campaign
I was one of the youngest home helps in Stockport
And one of the youngest union reps
Loads of young people work in social care and childcare too – public sector and private
And they need the unions’ help
Once again, we must be the movement of young workers
I wanted to thank you for your moving tribute to my friend Jo Cox
Robbed from us
We honour her memory in how we live
The example we set
The causes we champion
And the lives we change
We have more in common than what divides us
I hope you know that I’ll fight for chances for all our children
I hope you know that I’ll always fight for equality
And I hope you know me a little better now too
One of you – made in the trade union.
Who knows what it’s like to represent working people
I may spend my days in a different place these days
But my heart is in this movement
And in the community I represent
And the people I serve
And that’s not going to change
Congress: thank you.
It’s been an absolute honour
Issued: 13 September, 2016