My speech at the Labour’s Women’s Conference

Conference. Thank you for inviting me here to address you   and I apologise about the disruption caused by the other engagement this morning.

Thank you to you all for the inspirational contribution that you and the women that have come before you make to this incredible movement of ours.

I know everyone in this room today will want to join me in offering Sarah Champion our full and warmest support.

Sarah, you are a truly inspiring campaigner, who we all have complete trust in   and I know you will continue with the excellent work you are doing.

The advances for women in Britain and around the world have been fought and won by determined campaigners like you working together for real change often in the face of intransigence, resistance and even abuse. That’s the legacy of women in our movement.

But there’s one person who isn’t here today. And she would be if it weren’t for an act of hatred and violence that has robbed two children of their mother   and the Labour Party of a valued and cherished friend.

So many of you here today knew Jo we will never ever forget her never forget what she stood for never forget what she campaigned for and together – united – let us fight for the things that would make her proud.

Nobody who has seen the films and photographs shared by Brendan Cox can have failed to be touched by the images of a woman so clearly delighting in spending time with her young children. They remain in all our thoughts – and it is to them today that I would like to send my continued best wishes on behalf of all the Labour family.

As colleagues from across Parliament noted in their moving tributes to Jo she was adamant that there was much more that united than divides us. And there is no better way we can honour Jo’s memory than ensuring we unite and are resolute in our pursuit of making the world a better place.

We must ensure that the Labour Party remains at the forefront of championing policies which promote equality. That is why, earlier this week I urged the NEC to vote through a policy-making women’s conference, so that the voice of women across our movement can be heard loud and clear in our policy-making process.

The economic stagnation caused by austerity has seen a desperate drop in living standards for many people but it is women, above all, who have borne the brunt of this failed and destructive economic experiment. The Women’s Budget Group has found that 86 percent of the Government’s so-called tax and welfare ‘savings’ have come at the expense of women.

The u-turns and concessions we have wrung from this Government in the last year have in the main been victories which have stopped further cuts that would have disproportionately impacted upon women such as the cuts to Tax Credits.

I am pleased that having set out a clear anti-austerity, pro-investment economic policy Labour has changed the terms of economic debate in this country.

But there is much more to be done. Our society continues to be marked by grotesque levels of inequality, magnified by the actions of this Government and the previous Coalition.

We have to address the indefensible penalties which women pay in their everyday lives simply for being women.

We need to keep campaigning loud and clear to tackle inequality wherever it is found.

I would like to pay tribute here to Paula Sheriff for her campaigning work on the tampon tax   It is campaigns like that   that will make the difference on so many issues for women across Britain.

It means tackling inequality in the workplace where women remain in the lowest paid jobs and too often are paid less than men even where they are doing the same job.

I am proud that through our Workplace 2020 campaign, the Labour Party is setting out an ambitious vision for dealing with these issues  I urge all of you to get involved in that campaign.

And I want to pay tribute to Siobhan McDonagh for standing up for low paid women at M&S who are being deprived of the benefits of the increase in the minimum wage.

We know that creating a society in which everyone can achieve their full potential will also drive the creation of a stronger economy and that economic equality benefits us all.  The Women’s Business Council estimated that equalising men and women’s participation in the economy would add 10 percent to GDP by 2030.

During the recent leadership campaign  we put forward a range of policies aimed at achieving equality for women policies built on the work done over the past year.

Through investing £500 billion backed up by a publicly-owned National Investment Bank and regional banks in infrastructure, manufacturing and new industries to move us to a high skilled, high tech, low carbon economy.

We can transform our country’s economic fortunes and the opportunities and life chances of women across the country.

We have set out concrete measures to achieve equal pay.
Improving access to justice through abolishing Tribunal fees.
Providing the Equality and Human Rights Commission with enhanced powers.
Strengthening employment and trade union rights and taking on the occupational segregation in our labour market which contributes so much to women’s concentration in low paid, insecure work.

I have committed to the Labour Party publishing a regular ‘gender audit’ of our policies  to better communicate the positive impact all our policies will have on moving us towards a more equal society.

And I have committed to consult on establishing a high level, strategic Women’s Advisory Board supporting the work of the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and linked to the Leader’s Office to ensure gender equality is at the heart of all our policies.

I would like to take a moment here to thank Angela Rayner an MP who throughout the summer fought tooth and nail to hold the Tories to account on education, grammar schools, equality and women’s rights. Not for one second has she paused in that fight and I want to thank her for all that she has done.

To enable women’s equality we need to remove the barriers to their participation whether that is because of insecure work, expensive childcare, or entrenched out-dated attitudes.

The TUC report ‘Still just a bit of banter?’ found that more than half of all women polled have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. This is unacceptable.

Campaigns such as the Everyday Sexism project have powerfully used social media to expose the day-to-day examples of sexism in every aspect of women’s lives.

Under my leadership, the Labour Party has committed to consulting and working with women’s and other relevant organisations on how to strengthen the law   and its implementation   to tackle sexual harassment and threats online and increase organisations’ responsibility towards promoting safe and respectful ‘community standards’ online.

‘Reclaim the Internet’  which many colleagues here today, including Jess Philips have been supporting brings together women’s campaigns, think tanks, trade unions and media platforms to challenge the abuse that women face online.

Women who are in the public eye including women in politics face greater challenges, and outrageous abuse both on and offline. Wherever abuse occurs, it is incumbent upon us all to ensure that it is taken seriously and challenged.

And we must acknowledge the terrible truth that the abuse, threats of violence and bigotry that women in all walks of life are subjected to online are a manifestation of attitudes, culture and society offline.

Some 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year and domestic violence remains an appalling blight on our society. It will affect a quarter of all women in their lifetime. Two women a week continue to be killed by their current or ex-partners.

Colleagues in the women’s PLP have done an inspiring job of highlighting issues of domestic violence. One of the women in my own team said that she had been moved to tears by the powerful testimony of Angela Smith recently in Parliament   as she recounted the tragic story of one of her constituents whose children were murdered by her abusive partner.

That is why we are determined to resist at every opportunity the imposition of further cuts on services for women and girls facing violence cuts which have been devastating.

Supporting the provision of services re-balancing, the economy ensuring that the law protects the rights of women. These are all changes in the world out there which I am confident we all want to see   And they are changes which will only come about, I believe, if we are prepared to make changes in the world in here within our own Party.

Our party should be as inclusive as possible. I am committed to taking forward the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Inquiry to consult on and introduce a wider Equal Opportunities Policy, training and guidance for both Party members and staff.

If we are to increase women’s representation, voice and power in society as a whole we must increase them too within the Labour Party.

I have been clear in my support for All Women Shortlists to achieve 50:50 representations in Parliament. We should aim for 50:50 representations across all public offices with gender balanced shortlists.

Making this conference a representative and democratic annual policy making conference is a step towards strengthening women’s voice within the Labour Party.

Whatever result you were hoping for in the leadership election, I imagine that we are in agreement that it is deeply regrettable that the announcement of the election result should have been scheduled for the same day as this conference.

I hope very much that you will all enjoy Women’s Conference and that this will have been a rewarding and enriching day for you all.

And I hope that for those of you who remain here in Liverpool you will find the rest of the week equally enjoyable and stimulating.

I look forward to working with you all over the coming weeks, months and years and building a united Labour Party that together can win the next election and win for women across Britain.