Theresa May doesn’t want to lead a one nation party, but a one party nation

Labour's shadow equalities minister slams Tory grammar school policy at TUC Congress

Image: Rich Simcox

This is the full text of the speech delivered today by Angela Rayner MP, shadow secretary of state for education and shadow minister for women and equalities, at TUC annual congress.

Congress, President

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 seven 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

And Congress

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

So Congress

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

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