Diane Abbott speech to Labour Party Conference 2019

30 Sep 2019
Good afternoon conference.

Warm socialist greetings to delegates, members, observers and those of you watching this conference at home.

Firstly I’d like to thank my wonderful Shadow Home office team. Aren’t they fantastic.

We live in extraordinary times. In Boris Johnson we have a Prime Minister who: wasn’t elected by the public; has yet to win a vote in parliament, has no majority, has no support for his only apparent policy of crashing out of the EU without a deal.

And whose own brother has resigned from his Cabinet. The first ever ministerial resignation to spend LESS time with your family.

But we live in extraordinarily serious times: violent crime is rising; there is a crisis of policing; a government in chaos over immigration policy.

And this entire conference knows that crashing out of the EU without a deal would be a disaster for this country.  That it would take years to recover from.

No Deal is a Boris Johnson project on behalf of Donald Trump.  We would be subordinate to a United States currently led by one of the most right-wing presidents of modern times. The danger would be: no action on climate change; more wars; a sell-off of our public services like the NHS and an Americanisation of working conditions.

As the government’s own documents tell us, No Deal could create civil unrest, public disorder AND undermine our ability to tackle crime and terrorism. International crime is rising. But a No Deal Brexit would mean that: we would lose the European Arrest Warrant; we would lose real time access to important Europe wide databases on criminals, terrorists and missing persons. AND justice and security co-operation would be threatened.

NOBODY who takes the security of this country seriously could support a No Deal Brexit.

By contrast Labour will defend the safety and security of all our citizens.  And that includes:  job security; a secure home; safe streets; and security from international crime. The Tories have failed on all fronts.  Just ask the victims of crime, or the people who watched their neighbours’ burn to death in Grenfell Tower.

Even Tory ministers now admit that there is a crisis of rising crime, and that police cuts have contributed. They are promising to recruit more police.  But Boris Johnson and the others did NOTHING to stop the 20,000 cuts to police officers the Tories have made since Two-Thousand-And-Ten.

And let’s not forget the LibDems. They would rather the public didn’t remember that their leader was in the Cabinet when most of those police cuts were made.  AND the cuts to NHS. AND the cuts to welfare.

There is no question that the cuts in police numbers have contributed to the rise in crime. But other contributors are the cuts to education, the increase in school exclusions, all the zero hours contracts, all the homelessness and inequality, all the cuts in mental health services. Have also played their part.

And these are all TORY policies.  When they say they will lead the fight against crime – do not believe a word of it.  They are the ones who have CREATED the conditions for rising serious and violent crime. Senior police officers are increasingly going on record and saying that cuts to public services have created an environment where crime flourishes. Cuts have consequences. You cannot keep people safe on the cheap.

Labour in government will address the ravages of austerity at every level. It is well-known that we have already committed to recruiting thousands of extra police officers.  We will recruit THOUSANDS of real police officers to the frontline.  For all their big talk about recruiting more police officers, the Tories seem to be relying on taking people out of police administration and putting them in a uniform.

Unlike this government, we aren’t encouraging more school exclusions.  Children should be in school, otherwise they will be schooled by gangs.  We will tackle mental health care underfunding and inequalities. We will build new homes and outlaw zero hours contracts. We will tackle the causes of crime.

And when I travel up and down the country talking to people about their concerns about crime and public order, they often mention the cuts to the Youth Service. Labour is listening. Soon we will soon be announcing details of an entirely new Youth Service to address the issues of: educational exclusion; a lack of role models: inequality and deprivation among our young people. My brilliant colleague the Shadow Minister Cat Smith will be leading on this.

The Tories are insulting our intelligence if they think the public will simply forget who caused this crisis of law and order.

They insult us too with their election platform. They think that can win votes with dog-whistle racism. Led by a man who described veiled Muslim women, as looking like letter boxes or bank robbers. And Boris Johnson has STILL not got round to apologising

The Tories’ rhetoric on immigration is just as false as it is on law and order.  They promised to cut net migration to 100,000 a year. They lied. It never happened.   They claimed international graduates should leave the country after finishing their degrees, because they were overstaying. The Tories have now done a U-turn to allow graduates to stay and work.

They said they would end the ‘hostile environment’ and end the scandal of Windrush. They have emphatically not ended the suffering of the victims of Windrush.

They said they would treat the EU 3 Million fairly. They have not done so. And the situation of EU migrants is a Windrush scandal in the making.

We WILL end the Windrush scandal. We WILL ensure justice for Grenfell. And We wIll uphold all the rights of the EU 3 Million.  We will tackle the scourge of knife crime and the underlying causes of crime.  We will repeal the 2014 Immigration Act and end the Tory ‘hostile environment’.

Election after election, Tories weaponise immigration, they weaponise anti-foreigner sentiment, and they use coded and un-coded racism to distract from their attacks on the livelihoods and living standards of ordinary working people, whatever their colour.  But Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn will not play the Tories game. We want to bring communities together.

The fact is that immigration is a net benefit to this country. Our businesses, our universities, our public services, would be worse off without it.  Our NHS would collapse without immigration.   And removing Freedom of Movement rights already granted, would be against the law.

Labour thanks all the migrants who have come here: helped to build and run our NHS; sustain social care; serve in the public sector; work in industry and have enrich our society

And I’ll let the Tories into a secret.  The British public increasingly agrees with Labour Party and its positive view immigration.  Back in 2011 most people when polled said immigration generally had a NEGATIVE impact. Earlier this year pollsters found that increasing numbers of people were saying the OPPOSITE and that immigration has generally had a POSITIVE impact.  The Tories are selling snake oil.  But the British public aren’t buying it. The haters are still very noisy.

BUT, haters gonna hate.

Britain has changed.  Labours leadership has changed. But it’s still the same old rabid Tories – just more extreme than the last lot.

Boris Johnson and his Tories have no vision for our country. Only division.

Ours will be a great reforming Labour government.  We will welcome refugees, including child refugees.

We will proudly uphold the torture ban and treat the victims of torture with humanity, not detentions and deportations.

We will end indefinite immigration detention, and limit it to the 28 days MPs were originally promised.

AND we will close Yarl’s Wood and Brook House detention centres and review the ENTIRE detention estate.

We will fund our police forces properly. And work to give our communities genuine security.

We will hold public inquiries into historic injustices – into Orgreave, into blacklisting.

We will release all papers relating to the Shrewsbury 24 trials and the 37 Cammell Laird shipyard workers.

I owe everything in life to the Labour movement. There was a post war generation of socialists who campaigned against colonialism. There was the NHS orange juice and cod-liver oil. There was my free university education. And above all the chance to serve as Britain’s first black woman MP.

We are on the verge of a general election. And I believe that, under Jeremy’s leadership, with our policies, and your commitment we will win!

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