Leader of the Labour Party acceptance speech

Can I start by thanking everyone who took part in this election; this huge democratic exercise of more than half a million people all across this country. It showed our party and our movement passionate, democratic, diverse, united and absolutely determined in our quest for a decent and better society that is possible for all.

There are many people I want to thank before I say a few words if I may, first of all to Iain McNicol the General Sectary of the Party and all of the Labour Party staff for all their incredible hard work during this campaign, the general election campaign, and all the other campaigns that we do and will continue to do. Ian, thank you very much and please make sure that all our staff are aware of the appreciation we have for all of them.

I want also pay huge thanks and tribute to Harriet Harman who has been our acting Leader and our Deputy Leader and before that our acting Leader. I’ve known Harriet for a very long time and what I would say about her is, her absolute commitment and passion for decency and equality and the rights of women in our society is something we will honour her for; thank her for; and we have legislation that was brought about by her determination. Harriet, thank you so much for all you have done, and the way in which you have led the Party since the tragedy of the election result in May.

I want to also thank and congratulate Tom Watson on his election as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Tom is passionate about communication; passionate about holding the state and the unaccountable people, who don’t wish to be held accountable, to account. Tom is your man to do that.

I want also to thank Ed Milliband for all the work he did as Leader of our Party. I had a very long conversation with Ed a couple of days ago and I thanked him for all his work as Leader of the Party; I thanked him for his work as Environment Secretary and somebody who is passionate about defending the world’s environment against the way it is being destroyed at the present time. I also thanked him for the way in which he stood up to the abuse that he received from much of our media and the dignity he showed when his late father, the great Ralph Milliband, was so brutally abused by some of our media. So Ed, thank you for all of that.

I want to thank the fellow leadership candidates. We are discussing the number, whether it is 29, 35 or 39 hustings we have been to together since this election started. We will discuss that later and exchange diaries. But it has been a fascinating experience for all of us, and I want to thank them for the way that debates were conducted; the way we were able to put forward political debates and political differences and still come out at the end of it with a group hug. We’re going to reform ourselves as an Abba tribute band and continue this work in the future.

Andy Burnham was our Health Secretary and his passion and determination for a National Health Service as a human right, free at the point of use is something that comes over every time Andy speaks. And his passion for comprehensive education; to ensure all children have a reasonable, fair and decent start in life.

I want to say thank you to Yvettte Cooper for all the work she has done in Government and in the Party, but in particular over the past few weeks. Helping to shape and turn around public opinion to show sympathy and humanity towards refugees in the way they are treated. And one of my first acts as the Leader of the Party will be to go to the demonstration this afternoon to show support for the way refugees must be treated and should be treated in this country.

I want to thank Liz Kendall for her friendship during this campaign, for the way we have managed to have some moderately different opinions on a number of issues but we managed to maintain a very good friendship. And Liz is somebody that I admire because she absolutely stands up for what she believes in. Whether it’s easy, simple and popular or it’s uneasy, not simple or popular. So Liz thank you very much.

Those late night train rides will never be the same again. So thank you to my fellow candidates and to the thousands of Party members who attended the hustings events all over the country. It’s quite amazing that every one of them was completely full; standing room only while many, many other members and supporters were not able to get in to them. That is a tribute to our Party, all the candidates, both for Deputy Leader and for Leader – and the way in which our members want passionately to engage in the debate and be able to influence Party policy and make our Party more inclusive, more democratic and their membership better listened to in the future.

I want to thank my own campaign team, they have been absolutely amazing. We came together after we got on the ballot paper – I appreciate with some difficulty. Thank you to the 36 Members of Parliament, well, 35 plus me because I nominated myself, and for nominating me for this position. I know some of them had possibly some reluctance to do so, it is reported, but they did so in a spirit of inclusion and democracy, and I thank them for that, and I look forward to working with all of them after this election campaign because we have great work to do in the party. And so our campaign began with very little and we gained support and we gained volunteers.

I thank the unions that nominated me: Unite, Unison, the TSSA, ASLEF, the Communication Workers Union, the Prison Officers Association, the Bakers’ Union, the Socialist Education Association, the Socialist Health Association, and the support received from the RMT union, and the FBU, and all the other unions that took part in this campaign.

We are a Party organically linked together; between the unions and the Party membership, and all the affiliated organisations. That is where we get our strength from. And as a former union organiser in NUPE, now part of Unison, I fully understand the importance of unions at the workplace defending people’s rights standing up for their members and that’s why I don’t appreciate what this Government is trying to do to shackle the unions in the Trade Union bill they are bringing forward on Monday.

Our campaign attracted the support of 16,000 volunteers all over the country, organisers in each part of the country who organised all the events and meetings that we have held, and in total we have done 99 of those events, today is the century.

We are here today at the end of a very long campaign and it’s been quite incredible the numbers of people who have come forward to join our party. But before I get on to that I want to say a big thank you, they all know who they are, my many personal friends, many people, everyone in Islington North Labour Party for electing me to Parliament 8 times up until may this year. Their fantastic comradeship, friendship and support, it’s been quite amazing and I absolutely value their advice, sometimes it’s advice you don’t really want to receive, but that’s the best advice you get. And I say thank you to all of them in Islington North.

And I also say a huge thank you to all of my widest family. All of them. Because they have been through the most appalling levels of abuse from some of our media over the past three months. It’s been intrusive, it’s been abusive, it’s been simply wrong. And I say to journalists – attack public political figures, make criticisms of them, that’s okay, that’s what politics is about – but please, don’t attack people who didn’t ask to be put in the limelight, who merely want to get on with their lives, leave them alone, leave them alone in all circumstances.

During these amazing three months, our party has changed, we’ve grown enormously. We’ve grown enormously because of the hopes of so many ordinary people for a different Britain, a better Britain, a more equal Britain, a more decent Britain. They are fed up with the inequality, the injustice, the unnecessary poverty. All those issues that brought people in, in a spirit of hope and optimism.

And as the media and many of us simply didn’t understand the views of many young people within our society, they had been written off as a non-political generation who were simply not interested, hence the relatively low turnout and low level of registration of young people in the last general election. They weren’t, they are a very political generation that were turned off by the way in which politics was being conducted and not attracted and not interested in it. We have to and must change that.

So, the fight back now of our Party gathers speed and gathers pace. I’m delighted that Kezia Dugdale is here today, our Leader in Scotland, we’re all going to be campaigning in Scotland, for Labour in Scotland with those great traditions; those great labour traditions in Scotland.

I thank Carwyn Jones for his Leadership and the way in which we are going to fight in Wales and I congratulate them on ending the internal market in the health service in Wales something we need to do in the rest of Britain.

And I say congratulations to Marvin Rees selected yesterday as our Mayoral Candidate in Bristol. We’re all going to be down there Marvin, helping you and supporting you to win Bristol. And to my friend Sadiq Khan as our Mayoral Candidate in London and we’re going to be campaigning together. We’re going to be campaigning together particularly on the crucial issue of housing in London. I am fed up of the social cleansing of London by this Tory Government and its policies. We need a Labour Mayor in London who can ensure we do house everyone in London; who ends the sky-high rents; we do [need to] end the insecurity of those living in the private rented sector. We need a Labour Mayor to bring that about in this wonderful great City of London. And Sadiq’s the man to do it.

This week the Tories will show what they’re really made of, Monday they have the Trade Union Bill designed to undermine even the ILO conventions and to shackle democratic unions; and destroys another element of democracy in this country and our society, we have to oppose that. They’re also pushing Welfare Reform Bill which will bring such misery and poverty to so many of the poorest in our society. I want us as a movement to be proud, strong and able to stand up and say we want to live in a society where we don’t pass by on the other side [of the street] to those people rejected by an unfair welfare system; instead we reach out to end the scourge of homelessness and desperation that so many people will face in our society. We are strong enough and big enough to be able to do that, which is what we are about.

There are many, many issues we face, many people face desperation in other parts of the world and I think it’s quite incredible how the mood has changed in the past few weeks of understanding that people fleeing from wars, they are the victims of wars, they are the generational victims of wars, they are the intergenerational victims of wars. They end up in desperation, end in horrible places end up trying to gain a place of safety, end up trying to exercise their refugee rights. They are human beings just like you, just like me. Let’s deal with the refugee crisis with humanity, with support, with help, with compassion to try to help people who are trying to get to a place of safety, to try to help people that are stuck in refugee camps but recognise going to war creates a legacy of bitterness and problems.

Let us be a force for change in the world, a force for humanity in the world, a force for peace in the world and a force that recognises that we cannot go on like this with grotesque levels of global inequality, with grotesque threats to our environment all around without rich and powerful governments stepping up to the plate to make sure our world becomes safer and better and that those people do not end up in poverty in refugee camps, wasting their lives away when they could be contributing to the good of all of us on this planet. We are one world let that message go out today from this conference centre in London.

I conclude by this the Tories have used the economic crisis of 2008 to impose a terrible burden on the poorest people of this country, those who have seen their wages frozen or cut, those who can’t afford to even sustain themselves properly, those who rely on foodbanks to get by. It’s not right it’s not necessary and it’s got to change. We need an economic strategy that improves people’s lives that expands our economy that reaches out to care for everybody, you can’t do that if at the same time you do nothing about the grotesque levels of inequality in our society. We need to develop an economic policy that deals with those issues so our party is about justice, is about democracy, it is about the great traditions we walk upon.

Those who founded our party and our movement, those who stood up for human rights and justice, the right for women to vote, the right for others to vote. We stand here today because of their work, but we go forward now as a movement and a party bigger than we’ve ever been for a very, very long time; stronger than we’ve ever been for a very long time; more determined than we’ve been for a very long time. To show to everyone that the objectives of our party are intact, our passion is intact, our demand for humanity is intact. And we as a party are going to reach out to everyone in this country to take us on that journey together so no one is left on the side, everyone has a decent chance in life, and a decent place in our society, that’s what labour was brought about to achieve, that’s what we’re going to achieve.

This election campaign is, as we see here, about shaping our future. Our party is going to become, I hope, more inclusive, more involved, more democratic, and we’re going to shape the future of everyone in this country in a way that I think will be remembered as something that is good for everyone, that brings about the justice that we all crave, and that is what brought us all into this wonderful party and this wonderful movement ourselves. I say thank you to everyone for all their support, friendship and comradeship during this election process. And I say thank you in advance to us all working together to achieve great victories, not just electorally for labour, but emotionally for the whole of our society to show, we don’t have to be unequal, it doesn’t have to be unfair, poverty isn’t inevitable, things can and they will change.

Thank you very much.