Speech to Labour Connected2020
Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Mayor for the West Midlands
Thursday 24 September 2020
As we head into an Autumn of Anxiety and Winter of Worry, we’re going to need to pull together once again to get through it.
Today I want to set out first thoughts on how together we make sure that from the agony of our loss must come change
The stories I’ve heard from grieving families this year will stay with me for life.
The 35-year-old new mum who died after childbirth, never having the chance to hold her newborn son
The pastor's wife who lost first her husband and then her best friend while battling the virus herself in hospital - and then learned the pastor who was due to conduct her husband's funeral had also died
Or the son who said goodbye to his dad on WhatsApp while a doctor sat stroking his dad's hand and holding him close "as if he was his own"
After all the sacrifices of this year, we cannot have people rewarded with the sack, and a life on the dole.
Right now, we’re asking the residents of the West Midlands for their points of views, their opinions, their wisdom, for a plan to get through the winter and build a new future for our region, the heart of Britain, for the years ahead.
Today I want to share with you some of the views from the thousands of replies we’ve already had.
First things first.
What’s needed is testing that. Right now, the truth is THE TORIES AREN’T TESTING - aren’t testing anything like enough.
We knew we would need extra capacity when schools went back.
Yet residents are being sent all over the country to get tests - while local testing centres have loads of slots.
Manufacturing firms are telling us this is catastrophic for lean manufacturing.
Teachers are telling us this is terrible for kids education.
We need testing sorted.
But second we need an urgent plan to keep the West Midlands Working.
And what residents are saying is that we’d like a way to do that - and go green at the same time.
Everyone knows that a greener future is inevitable – indeed, that it is already coming.
But, people are worried about the potential economic cost.
So people feel they’re on the horns of a dilemma.
When jobs are about to lost, the economic recovery is the main priority.
But people don’t want to ‘kick the issue down the road.’ We know the future is going to be greener. We know the environment is changing and so we have to change too.
I think there’s a way to square the circle.
The answer is a plan to go green, and create jobs - by making our region Britain's Capital of Green Manufacturing
Once we were known as the workshop of the world.
Now, we have the chance to become a world capital of clean green manufacturing.
To be the place that makes the technologies the world needs to cut carbon emissions.
When you see firms like the London Electric Vehicle Company in Coventry, where we brought the Shadow Chancellor last week, you can see the potential
It’s time for us to be a leader again.
To build on our heritage and lead Britain’s new Green Industrial Revolution. And to be the workshop for a greener planet.
We should do this in a way that delivers cleaner air in our region; because cleaner air means longer, healthier lives.
To do this, we need to build a better infrastructure for low carbon transport and public transport – for electric cars, buses and bicycles.
We should make these things here.
We’ve been a centre of transport manufacturing for over a century.
Right here in our region, we’ve got the experience, the industry and technical know-how to make it work.
So, let’s crack on.
Now, if we do this in the right way, we can create new ladders for our young people
I passionately believe we need to end the basic injustice that the postcode where you're born defines your possibilities in life.
As a dad of three kids, I know our young people are incredible.
Hungry to learn.
At the forefront of social change.
They have the creativity, intelligence and energy to build a better world.
Look at the way our young people have led the youth climate strike, or the Black Lives Matter protests. They are hungry for change.
It's why I've fought so hard for investment in schools and training in my constituency - like the new school being built in the heart of Alum Rock
Yet they were comprehensively let down by the exams fiasco this summer.
The rug being pulled under their feet.
Talent is being wasted.
All of us are now worried about a lost generation.
About kids who leave school with hope, only to walk into a wasteland where they get lost, or make poor choices.
We need to give our young people better chances in life.
Safe spaces outside of school where they can socialise and play.
Help with mental health.
The aspiration to higher education, or the guarantee of proper training for work.
And at the end of it all, the hope of buying an affordable home, where they can bring up a family of their own.
If we are to hope for a better future, generations must learn from each other. The old must teach the young. And the young must teach the old.
They’ve got the talent. We just need to give them the tools.
BUT FINALLY, I BELIEVE THAT TO MAKE THESE THINGS POSSIBLE, WE NEED TO PULL TOGETHER Like never before.
We know that communities that stick together are stronger and safer.
THAT’S WHY I BROUGHT KEIR STARMER TO WALSALL FOOTBALL CLUB THIS WEEK, TO SEE THE WAY ORGANISATIONS LIKE our CLUBS ARE PULLING TOGETHER TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
If the recent crisis had a silver lining, it was seeing our instinct to pull together come to life. Neighbours talking to each other. Looking out for each other. Finding ways to help out.
It’s shown us the real value of local assets like shops, parks and neighbourhood support networks.
As we start to recover, we want to keep hold of this spirit. Our small businesses are going to be hit hard by the coming recession. High streets and precincts are already full of boarded-up shops.
Our region is seen as a poster-child for people getting along.
But we don’t always do enough to celebrate our spirit. We can use our culture of togetherness to re-invigorate our communities on ground level – to support community sports, markets, festivals. To truly bring our region back to life, and demonstrate our pride in who we are.
And with more police back on our streets, there’s a stronger guarantee that the spaces we share, the places where we come together, are places that are safe.
Now: delivering on these changes won’t be easy.
But that’s why we need a Mayor who is actually going to fight our corner - like Andy Burnham does for Greater Manchester
That’s why today, I’ve written to the chancellor to say: its time to give the west midlands our fair share of the national investment pot.
If we got the share of money that reflected our share of the national population they’d be an extra £7 billion to invest in our region in the next five years.
I think its time to pay up.
This week we heard from Sir Keir Starmer in a key note to the country at our conference.
He made clear something very important.
THE TORIES ARE UNDER BAD MANAGEMENT
BUT LABOUR IS UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
WE’D LIKE THE CHANCE TO WORK WITH RESIDENTS TO use that leadership to BUILD A NEW FUTURE FOR THE HEART OF Britain.
WE’RE THE COMMUNITY PARTY.
AND ITS BY WORKING TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY THAT AFTER THE SACRIFICE OF THIS YEAR, WE CAN CHANGE THINGS FOR THE BETTER