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Arya West Leadership Launch


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Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Dame Arya West, today launched her leadership campaign at a meeting of Labour Party members, local and national press, and affiliated members in Darlington. She was introduced by the Shadow Secretary of State for the Future of Work and Employment Rights, Jim Riley, and joined by the Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves. Before the campaign launch, she met local Labour councilors and joined them campaigning.

Friends, comrades,

Thank you for coming! It’s been such a great evening meeting members new and old passionate about making our country a better, fairer, greener place to grow up, live, and grow old in. When you compare the energy and the positivity in this room to the relentless negativity and scaremongering that we have on the other side… well, it’s a world of difference. And I think that kind of positivity is exactly what we can take to the country at the next election and deliver a Labour majority.

We are all here, I am sure it’s no secret, because I am putting my hat into the ring for the leadership. And today I am launching and making publicly available my leadership platform for all to see. To see the kind of offer I want our party to make to our country at the next election. That platform is a launching pad: it is a summary of what I believe, and what kind of platform I think Labour ought to offer. But I am one person. Even in this one room tonight, there are great ideas and firm passions and real commitments to change. I may be looking to be leader, but I am also looking to all of you, and all my fellow party members, MPs, mayors, councillors, and affiliated members for inspiration, for support, for action.

My offer to the Labour Party, and to our country, is this. Experience. Integrity. Vision.

I bring experience. I have been an MP for seventeen years, a Minister, a Shadow Minister. I have most of all served the people of my constituency. I like to think that over those seventeen years I have learned a bit about how to work in government and get things done in Westminster. And before that, my road to politics may have been a little unorthodox. It was my experience in schools and with children growing up in Tory Britain. Prefab classrooms so cold in the winter that everyone needed a coat - or those that could afford a warm one, anyway. Children I met who were too hungry to learn. Teachers doing everything they could to give kids the best start in life but hamstrung by that gross inequity and a system that didn’t seem to care. 

My route to politics was because I couldn’t stand by and watch that happen. I needed to do something. So I used my networks, what influence I could muster, and I worked with a fantastic team of people to get the last Labour government to commit to eliminating child poverty by 2020. And I wish that the story could have that happy ending. But it’s now 2022. And despite a decade of progress, we can all see the same pattern repeating. Kids growing up in homes their parents can’t afford to heat because of the cost of living crisis. Parents making the biggest sacrifices they can so that their sons and daughters don’t go to school hungry. More than two million of them, every single year, being forced to use foodbanks because our economy and our society - one of the wealthiest in the world - has let them down. Our country feels divided and our society bruised in a way that I haven’t felt in a generation - by class, by region or area, by people and areas with opportunity and those left behind.

We’ve got to do better than that.

But unfortunately, this Government can’t. Because it is so plagued by two obsessions. First, with austerity - the leading candidate to be Prime Minister promising “radical” cuts, after his party won its majority promising levelling up and investment in services. And second, with the trappings and the sleaze of unrestrained power. So that is my second offer to the party and the country: integrity. There will be no illegal parties in No10, no lucrative PPE deals for my mates, no tolerance for scandal or for sleaze. And where we must get our own house in order, I will be a fearless advocate for those that we have let down, and I thank Martin Forde for his report and urge everyone to reflect on its findings and recommendations.

And I will not shy away from taking out the broom and cleaning out the rot that has set in at the heart of Westminster. Which is why I will commit to an independent Ethics and Integrity commission that will hold Ministers - including the Prime MInister - accountable for breaches of the rules and of the standards the public expect of us. I will ban the revolving door from Minister to lobbyist. I will introduce new rules on Ministerial involvement in public procurement.

And the last thing that I offer is a vision. I have been in this game now long enough to know that there isn’t a politician on our side of the aisle that isn’t here because we want to right some wrongs in our country and our society. I am unashamedly Labour, and I have told you where that stand comes from. Many of you will have already heard me talk at conference about our need to combine a credible economic platform that improves peoples lives today with a positive vision for a fairer future. 

First, we need to hold this Government to account on the Cost of Living Crisis. Yes, there are international pressures. But there is no excuse - none - for the fact that so many of our people are so vulnerable to these events beyond their control. Government can and must take action to protect people - all of them doing the right thing, trying to get by and support their families. I will push the Government to increase and index the minimum wage, strengthen the energy price cap that lets energy companies continue to make bumper profits, eliminate VAT on domestic fuel, and end its unfair cut to universal credit.

Second, we need to set out a positive vision for a stronger, fairer, and greener economy that makes peoples’ lives and livelihoods more secure. We cannot have a repeat of the Tory decade of stagnation that has led to this cost of living crisis. Even before the cost of living crisis the average British family was still poorer than they were in 2007 when they had the highest income in Western Europe. Now we’re nearly 20% behind Germany. This is a uniquely British disease, a uniquely Tory failure, and we need to fix it. I want to bring industry, small business, unions, scientists around the table to set a clear modern and green industrial strategy - one that gives business confidence to invest, people a chance to upskill, and unions and opportunity to bid for fair wages. And that needs to come with a renewed commitment to fairness in our economy: a new Child Poverty Act, and a Royal Commission on Social Security that can identify an enduring, fair replacement for the failed and broken Universal Credit regime.

Third, we need to call out the levelling up agenda for the sham that it is and promise a new approach to regional equality. The Tory policy has been to make councils beg - beg! - Michael Gove for money to replace the billions the government cut from their budgets. The money has gone disproportionately to marginal tory seats. We need a completely new approach. I will set out an English Devolution Deal that puts power, money, and control in the hands of local leaders who can truly level up our country. We will build on Lisa Nandy’s fantastic work and give councils new powers to level up their communities. We will get a million new homes for rent or affordable purchase built - no ifs, no buts, no delays.

Fourth, we need to regain our ambition for world class public services. When we left government, nearly no one waiting more than 18 weeks for surgery. That pledge was so central that it’s in the NHS constitution. Now, there are more than two million people who have waited more than 18 weeks. Our courts are backed up so far that some victims are waiting years for their case to be heard. We can and must do better. The answer to this is surely not Will Croft’s plan to hand tens of billions to big and rich corporations. Nor is it the privatisation they don’t even just hint at any more. It’s public service, public ethos, well-spent investments - not PPE deals for Matt Hancock’s mates.

Finally, Labour needs to help Britain rediscover its proud patriotic place in the world as a progressive beacon. Rather than sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, we should be standing up for human rights around the world. We must support and be a leader in the international action to sanction Russia and support Ukraine’s fight for self-determination and democracy - and prepare ourselves and our NATO allies to grit our teeth and stick at it for the long haul. And we must be ready to pick up the pieces of this government’s broken and jingoistic attitude to our European friends and neighbours - to re-engage in good faith to fix the problems with the deal that Boris Johnson signed, and get out there to sign more free and fair trade deals with our friends and neighbours on this planet.

The road to Government is never easy. It is paved with setbacks, disappointments, frustrations, emotions. These twelve years have been hard for our country, hard for those of us who believe in Labour’s vision and in the great potential of our country and its people. My closing message to you is this: Labour can win again. Britain can be the fairer, freer, secure country that we all believe in. And I believe I have the experience, the integrity, and the vision to take us there.

Thank you very much, and good night!

Go West plays as Arya walks down to the crowd to talk to members.

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