Iain McNicol's speech to Labour Party Annual Conference 2012

30 September 2012

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Iain McNicol, General Secretary of the Labour Party, said today at Labour Party Annual Conference 2012:

Conference, this has been year of real success.

A year of real change.

In May we saw over 800 new Labour councillors elected.

Labour now running Southampton, Great Yarmouth and Harlow.

We’ve seen strong leads in the polls.

We have improved in our party finances, allowing us to invest for the future.

And we have made bold changes to refresh and strengthen our senior team.

We are now one party, one team to deliver a one term opposition.

I want to start by paying a special tribute to our outgoing chair of the NEC, Michael Cashman - his personal support and commitment to change has been unwavering. 

But this is about you: your effort, your energies and your enthusiasm for new ways of campaigning have delivered for Labour.

You are the people who've protected libraries.

You are the people who've clamped down on anti-social behaviour.

You are the people who've helped debt-ridden families avoid the risks of legal loan sharks.

And that is why I am confident the change our party and country needs will become a reality.

But Conference, with two-and-a-half years before a general election now is no time to be complacent.

Because we have a huge challenge.

Politics is fractured and needs mending.

Earlier we stood in silence to remember those of our friends who have passed away this year including the fantastic Philip Gould. 

I remember him once saying politics was like a vital football match being played out between the reds and the blues. But as the players fight for every ball, strain for every goal, the crowd is drifting away.

The game goes on, but the stadium is emptying. 

Soon there’ll be nobody left.

But politics is too important to leave to wither. 

Too vital to let media cynicism win. To allow demagogues and charlatans take the stage. 

Too many have fought, and too many have died for us to let democratic politics fade. 

We’ve all heard it on the doorstep - you've heard it, I’ve heard it - far too often: the charge that all parties are the same.

It breaks my heart, when I know how different we are.

And the cynicism that declares that politics can’t make any difference to people’s lives. 

This makes me angry, when I see the change that politics can make.

Our legacy is the Sure Start centres, the new schools, the thousands more doctors and nurses – that's the difference our politics has made.

Ed Miliband has set out an ambitious programme to rebuild our economy and recast our society; to tame markets where they do damage and build modern communities. 

The political crisis we face is as big as the financial crisis, and just as urgent and pressing. It requires action every bit as bold.

My argument is simple: if we want a strong society and a fair economy, we first need a vibrant politics.

What I see is a party ready for change.

Every single one of us needs to be able to answer this question: what are you going to do to persuade people to support us in 2015?

Before, it was all about leaflets, door-knocking, making sure posters were up all across town.

I do ask for this. But I ask for more, much more.

Because this great Party of ours needs to change more profoundly than we have for a generation.

Some will say: it’s too difficult.

Some will say: it won’t work.

I say: without this change we won’t win on the scale we need.

Let’s be clear. I don’t want to sneak a win on points. I want to deliver that knock-out punch. I want this Coalition out – and I mean all of them. 

I want to see Cameron, Clegg and Cable carried out of the ring.

In the election campaigns we are fighting to win in November - for new MPs, for new Police Commissioners, and for a new Mayor in Bristol - we need to be that change. Build relationships and earn trust. And if we do we will help rebuild a fractured politics.

Just ask Jess Phillips - a young mum who got her neighbours together to build the community spirit to tackle the anti-social behaviour that was blighting her street. 

Now a Labour councillor, elected in 2012, able to bring more change and more support to the community she loves and cares about.

To deliver it we will have 200 community organisers across the UK.

They reach out to people ignored for years. 

They don’t just ask for their vote.

They ask for their views. 

They construct real campaigns to solve real problems. 

And the results can be spectacular – they get people campaigning who’ve never done it before.

This is also why we need parliamentary candidates in place as soon as possible. A candidate provides leadership, focus and drive for the campaign.

The longer we give them, the greater the chance of success. 

That’s why we will have 100 candidates selected in the coming months.

With Harriet Harman and Jon Trickett, we are looking at practical ways to make our candidates more representative of the communities they serve. More women candidates. More black and minority ethnic candidates. And yes, more working class candidates.

This is the Refounding Labour project, turning us into a movement, not merely a parliamentary party.

It means standing with public sector workers when they organise to defend our libraries, Sure Starts and police stations.

It means paying a living wage. 

And Conference, let’s start at home. I am proud to announce that on my watch, the Labour Party has become an accredited living wage employer. Everyone who works for the Labour Party is paid a living wage.

And I urge every Labour councillor to make their council a living wage employer too. 

Look too at the fantastic work Caroline Flint is doing on energy switching. It means the Labour Party will be able to offer people cheaper energy – not after an election, but now.

It means standing up to the powerful, like Tom Watson has done over News International.

It means seeking justice like Andy Burnham has on Hillsborough.

We may be out of office in Westminster but again and again we are able to show we can make change happen.

This is a different politics.

Imagine what it will be like when people say: this is what they helped us with when they weren’t in government, imagine what they can do when they are.

When I’ve visited party members in every nation and region of the UK, spoken to the Fabian Society, Young Labour, Labour Students, Progress, the Co-operative Party and of course our trade unions, they tell me they understand the case for change.

And they are getting on with it. We are going to change politics. 

Not just because of our values and traditions.

But because it works.

When people ask, why should we believe you, vote for you, stand with you?

We say: judge us by our deeds, not just our words.

Judge us by the times you see us outside of elections.

Judge us by the way we look for answers and lead the way.

Judge us by the difference we make, before we ask for your vote.

Don’t just ask people if they vote Labour. 

You must be the reason why they vote Labour.

For me, that’s the biggest difference between us and our opponents.

Progressives believe tomorrow can be better than today. The Conservative Party believes the best days are behind us.

Progressives see the good in people. The Conservative Party fears the worst.

Progressives trust the people. The Conservative Party fears the ‘plebs’.

We don’t fear the plebs. We don’t show contempt for workers doing their jobs. 

Those who protect, and build, and teach, and care, and struggle for a better day.

We don’t insult them when they won’t kowtow. 

So the hard work starts now.

We have the courage to change.

Shoulder to shoulder with the next Labour Prime Minister, Ed Miliband.

Let’s rebuild our Party.

Let’s rebuild Britain.