UK Politics

Labour Party: Harriet Harman's speech to Labour Party Conference

News   •   Oct 01, 2010 12:13 BST

Harriet Harman MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, speaking to Labour Party Conference today, said:

This has been a historic conference.

It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions.

We’re disappointed to be in opposition, but proud of what we achieved in government.

We’re sobered by the scale of the challenge that lies ahead, but fortified by the energy and determination of our new leader – Ed Miliband.

In Ed’s Conference speech we heard about optimism and fairness and about the New Generation.

And I’m particularly excited about the new generation - so is Arlene Phillips…because we know he’s talking about us.

A new generation of fabulous older women.

As he told you on Tuesday – he used to work for me. And he’s asked me to give you a job reference for him.

Well, I can tell you he was always punctual, always neatly dressed, and makes a lovely cup of tea.

He was incredibly diligent and often he would work all night – even when everyone else was out partying – including me!

Conference, our new leader is intelligent, courageous and has a good heart.

We will all be united in support of him.

And I have no doubt he will be a great Labour Leader of our Party.

It was hard to lose the general election, to be out of office, to see the defeat of so many terrific Labour MPs and see Gordon Brown leave Downing Street.

It was daunting for me to take up the responsibility of leading the party at such a difficult time.

But throughout, I have just had the most fantastic support from the whole party,

Our Shadow Cabinet, MPs, trade union affiliates, party members and staff. I want to thank you all for your support and friendship.

Our Party has the best and brightest team of researchers, advisors, media monitors who all pitched in to help me.

I also want to say a personal thank you to Ray Collins who’s been a steady hand on the tiller in turbulent times.

And the whole party owes him and his team an enormous amount.

And I’d like to pay tribute to my exceptional team in the Leader of the Opposition’s office led by Anna Healy, Ayesha Hazarika and Charlotte Montague.

And I want to thank my family especially my husband Jack Dromey .

You all know Jack – wherever he goes he lights up the room – although often that’s just the light reflecting off his head.

As some of you may have seen, the Sky Top Trump cards which score MPs in a number of categories.

There were some surprising results.

I came out as the most fanciable female MP! If you were wondering why – clearly its because Jack used the Unite block vote.

Conference, May 6th was a blow to us all. And it was difficult for everyone to see us relegated to the opposition benches.

But the Shadow Cabinet dusted themselves down and lost no time in leading the attack on the Tories’ broken promises and the Lib Dems' downwright hypocrisy.

Alistair Darling transformed overnight from Finance Minister to political street fighter.

And though its not something that Alistair would have noticed - he’s been drawing many admiring glances from older women – you know, the New Generation.

We all know Joan Bakewell was called the thinking man’s crumpet – well Alasdair Darling is definitely the thinking woman’s oatcake.

Jack Straw masterminded the attack on the government’s outrageous gerrymandering of the parliamentary constituency boundaries.

Now, there’s been lots of jokes this week about Jack’s long service in public life.

People have commented that Jack was there when Moses came down from the mountain.

There’ve even been references to stair lifts. But Conference, that’s just not fair, because Jack is a man in his prime.

I’ll tell you something – he outdoes everyone in his spinning class in the House of Commons gym.

So today I’m inviting Jack to be the poster boy for my special new campaign – “you’re not past it when you’re past 60”.

I’d also like to thank Bob Ainsworth for the important work he’s done on Defence.

As we saw this week when he sat side by side with the head of the Army Families Federation he is steadfast in his commitment to our troops and their families.

And I’d like to say a few words about a good friend and colleague – Nick Brown – he has been a formidable Chief Whip. Loyal to the party and feared by the Tories.

It’s been a priviledge for me to work with Nick and he leaves our front bench with our deep gratitude and admiration.

We owe them all a huge debt of thanks.

And I’d like to pay tribute to David Miliband. He played a leading role in our years in government.

He was a dedicated Schools Minister, a pioneering Environment Secretary and an outstanding Foreign Secretary. He has been a towering figure in our party and it is certain that the work that he has started – such as the army of community organisers - will go forward.

The Labour Party is proud of him. We are proud of what he did in government. And I know we will be proud of what he does in the future.

Conference – though things are hard – we have a fantastic team of Labour MPs.

And our PLP have shown themselves to be a formidable opposition.

We’ve got 81 women MPs now – a higher percentage of women than ever before.

And we are a powerful mix of youth and experience.

Some of us are the facebook generation – some of us are the facelift generation. But together we make a fierce team.

And this Conference has seen the vitality of Labour women at our 700 strong women’s summit this Sunday – Labour women are radical, controversial and we are unstoppable.

Conference, the last 5 months have been the story of a party which could have given up but refused to do so.

Our new leader takes forward a party which is determined and which is growing stronger.

Every minute our membership is growing – 35,000 new members since May 6th.

And since our new leader was elected on Saturday afternoon, 3,000 more people have joined.

So if you voted Lib Dem – because you wanted to prevent the Tories being in government – join us today to get them out.

And we are going to need all of our members – old and new – to play a key role in shaping our policies for the future. There is an absolute necessity now for the voice of our members to be heard. And they will be.

Every week there are council by-elections up and down the country.

And we are winning again – winning against the Tories and winning against the Lib Dems.

Our team of councillors – who are in the front line of protecting local communities against unnecessary and cruel cuts – our team of Labour councillors is growing.

And we will fight for many more Labour councillors in next May’s elections.

And I want to pay tribute to Jeremy Beecham who has been the voice of Labour in local government for so many years. Jeremy has been a credit to our party.

We have strong Labour teams in the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament and we are determined next May to make Carwyn Jones First Minister in Wales and Ian Gray First Minister in Scotland.

Conference, the last 5 days have certainly been dramatic but we leave Manchester with a new leader and a laser focus on the future.

There are members to recruit.

There are elections to fight.

There are cuts to oppose.

We have work to do.

The contest for our leadership is over.

The contest for the future of the country begins.

And we are ready.

We have important work to do.

Let’s get on with it.