I attended the prestigious Labour Party rose network event in London this week which the majority of the shadow front bench attended.
As you would expect, there was the usual rallying of the troops about winning the next election, what we need to do and the important role that activists play in helping us win the next election, which is likely to be in May next year. It can’t come quick enough as we oust this out of touch, shambolic in-it-for themselves Conservatives and get the country moving in a positive direction.
One thing that struck me about the event is that there was a different feeling amongst members and those of the shadow front bench in comparison to previous events. Prior to Sir Keir Starmer becoming leader, the party was very much a left leaning puritan party that was more focused on class struggle as opposed to finding solutions that would reduce that struggle and improve the lives of ordinary people. The British public rejected that vision in the 2019 general election.
What we have now is a party that is progressive, pragmatic and determined to be the best it can be with a strong vision for a better Britain. A Britain where you can be whatever you want to be, where your background is not a barrier.
Words alone won’t change people’s lives for the better but as a party we do have a strong track record on this – national minimum wage and working tax credits are just a couple of examples.
Social mobility has and always will be a core priority for the Labour Party. The key theme running throughout all the speeches was about opportunity, prosperity and ensuring that no one was left behind, with Angela Rayner and Rosena Allin Khan both talking about how they benefited from the last Labour Party government.
At the event Sir Keir delivered a fantastic speech as did Emily Thornberry and Angela Rayner or “our Ange” as she was referred to by Keir but the speech that struck a chord in me was by Rosena Allin Khan, shadow cabinet minister for mental health.
Ms Allin Khan is a qualified doctor who, in addition to being an MP for Tooting in south London still works part time in a hospital in her constituency. She has first-hand experience of working for the NHS during the pandemic and the pressure that was put on it as staff attempted to fight this invisible enemy.
She spoke about working in a hospital in what can only be described as unimaginable conditions for the rest of us who sat at home watching the news and showing our support for the NHS by applauding it every Thursday night at 8pm. She talked about holding a tablet to enable the children of a patient who was in intensive care to send a message to their mum to get better and recover from Covid. They said: “Wake up, mummy”.
It was at that point that it dawned on me that we should never forget what the country has been through over the last two years as Covid-19 has illustrated the fragilities of life and work as we know it.
But more than that it also highlighted the flaws in successive Conservative governments who for the last twelve years have not invested in the NHS or public services. When we talk about the NHS being overwhelmed and under pressure, let’s remember it’s the result of a political decision that was taken by a party who opposed the creation of the NHS in the first place. That is why when the Labour Party win the next election our key focus will be on rebuilding the NHS, ensuring that it has access to adequate funding and a health service that is fit for the twenty first century.
Barrie Cunning is managing director of Pentland Communications and a former Scottish Labour Parliamentary candidate