Image above: Cllr Amy Croft speaking at the Labour conference in Liverpool
Cllr Amy Croft reflects on her first time speaking at a Labour conference
Last week I swapped the sunny suburbs of Chiswick and headed to the uncharacteristically sunny and warm (for October) Liverpool, for the annual Labour Party Conference.
I was struck by the very clean streets despite the large distance between litter bins, and heavy concentration of bars and restaurants, alongside historical buildings, sitting in relative tranquillity without adjacent high-rise, and the fact that the equivalent of Lime scooters far outweighed the alternative bike provision; your focus definitely changes once you become a Councillor, as two years ago my impression would have centred on entirely different things.
This year’s conference was by far the biggest Labour Conference to date, with a large number of delegates and observers from across the country keen to hear the Shadow Cabinet announce policies around our five missions of Economic Growth, Clean Energy, the NHS, Safer Streets and Opportunity ahead of a potential general election next year.
In addition, there were hundreds of fringe events which enabled everyone to engage in debate over issues as diverse as tackling violence against women and girls to fostering trade in a post Brexit economy.
Delegates from across the country are given seats on the conference floor and can vote and speak on motions, which have been submitted by local party members; these motions, if agreed by conference, are then adopted into policy, meaning that (unlike the Conservative Party Conference, where no votes are taken on party policy), members can vote on party policy.
There were many highlights of the conference for me, however if I had to pick a handful it would be the following.
The Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, former economist, Rachael Reeves, laying out Labour’s commitment to securing the highest sustained growth in the G7, to equally sustained applause. Details can be found at labour.org.uk
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and Shadow Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer addressing conference on proposals to make Britain’s Streets Safe. As Sir Keir served as Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service from 2008 until 2013, he is acutely aware of the issues within the Criminal Justice System, and the effects of lack of funding to the police.
Labour must now rebuild our NHS fit for the future
As a delegate I had the honour of following Shadow Secretary for Health and Social Care, Wes Streeting, to address conference floor and second a motion on rebuilding an NHS fit for the future.
Here’s what I said:
“I am a delegate from Feltham and Heston’s CLP, first time speaker” (applause) “and also really proud to be the first Labour councillor for Chiswick Riverside in west London for close to 50 years”. (More applause)
“There’s a really deep security that we all feel in a quick, free and efficient access to diagnosis and treatment, that we’ve been lucky enough to have. When this is not available to us it also causes a deep sense of anxiety across the country. 13 years of Tory neglect has brought our NHS to its knees and that is unforgivable.
“Conference, our NHS is not for sale, nor will it ever be and Labour will always, always be the champion and protector of our NHS. But you cannot neglect a garden for 13 tears, even the most beautiful garden, and expect to be able to just pour water on it to get it back to its former glory.
“You need to nurture it. You need to prune it. You need to sow and you need to fertilize, so Labour must now rebuild our NHS fit for the future, talk to the people on the floor, talk to the nurses, the doctors; find out what works and what doesn’t work and build on the things that the NHS does brilliantly.
“Strengthen our social care system to give freedom to the NHS to do its job, improve mental health services, especially for our young people; streamline procurement, invest in technology and cut the waiting times. Let’s get Labour’s NHS back and let’s get Britain’s future back.”
Social care and policing priorities
Another of our wonderful Councillors (for Brentford East) Marina Sharma, spoke passionately to support a motion calling for a National Social Care service to ensure quality of care and working conditions of staff; along with a reduced burden on the NHS.
I was also interviewed by Robert Peston and had a front seat for the Leader’s speech; the glitter only adding to the buzz in the air around the clear set of funded policies he presented; something which was clearly missing from Rishi Sunak’s Leader’s speech from the previous week.
Back to Chiswick and I attended the Policing meeting in the Town Hall organised by my fellow Councillors on Tuesday 16 October, where there were clear frustrations by residents over the lack of safety on their streets. Whilst the police are clearly doing their best and deploying their resources to the greatest priority, this clearly does not provide the level of cover needed to ensure our streets are safe.
Labour’s mission to Make Britain’s Streets Safe includes the promise to “Restore neighbourhood policing with 13,000 new neighbourhood police and PCSOs, with mandatory guaranteeing patrols of town centres by dedicated officers.” Something that would undoubtedly benefit Chiswick. Full details can be found at labour.org.uk