Sadiq Khan speaks at the Labour conference in Brighton in 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Sadiq Khan's speech on the future of public services: full text

"The Tories just don't understand that there is a difference between public services and businesses."

Delivered at UNISON political conference

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today.

The power of ordinary people working together to create a fairer society – trade unionism – is at the heart of my beliefs and those of the founders of the Labour Party more than a century ago.

And friends, it should fill us all with hope, not just that there are so many people in this hall today, but there are so many UNISON members and other trade unionists completely dedicated to building a better future for Britain.

Many of you have dedicated your careers to our beloved public services and then go above and beyond - getting involved in the union and in politics - to help create a better society.

UNISON - you are true public service heroes.

So, can I begin with a thank you? A thank you for everything you do for our movement and for our country.

Friends, today I want to talk to you about the future of our public services.

The institutions of cooperation, community and mutual support that hold our society together.

The only institutions which are owned by all of us, run in all of our interests and on which we can all rely.

And the institutions - from the NHS to the education system, access to Justice and local government - that the British public truly treasure.

Because friends, I don't need to tell you that our institutions are at a crisis point.

Some will have you believe that this is the consequence of the austere times. A price we all have to pay. But we know better.

This is a crisis of deliberate design by the Tory and Liberal Democrat Government.

The Coalition is systematically demolishing the pillars of a fair and just society.

The pillars which our movement fought to create, forged from the horror of the Second World War and which to this day we fight to protect.

They have gone further than even Margaret Thatcher could have dreamed in attacking our welfare state and our public services.

Three years on from their unnecessary, top-down reorganisation of the NHS - we are beginning to see the true impact.

A health service that despite the best efforts of our dedicated doctors and nurses and thousands of UNISON members - is in chaos.

Waiting times have gone through the roof, treatment delayed and patients suffering.

There’s the crisis in our A&E's. Ambulances waiting to get patients in the door. and those that do left on trolleys.

Not a winter crisis as you might expect. But a summer crisis. Caused by the Coalition's policies.

It should give none of us any pleasure to say “we told you so” but we shouldn’t shy away from reminding many of our communities what we know to be true.

You can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.

And the same is true in local government.

How many of you are Councillors?

Thank you. Thank you for all you do even when massive cuts are being made to your budgets by central government.

Every week I meet with Councillors and Council Leaders who tell me just how desperate their situation is.

They tell me that by the time of their next elections they won't be able to afford to deliver anything other than their statutory services.

That the crucial public services they provide - from libraries, to children's centres and employment support - will have to be severely cut if not close. All directly as a result of the actions of this Government.

And we are beginning to see the same in education too - with the complete lack of accountability and democracy of Michael Gove's free schools coming back to bite him.

You simply can't run an education system centrally from Whitehall. No matter how hard Gove tries.

And access to Justice has been severely limited too.

Individual union members have seen their rights watered down and their ability to secure justice curtailed.

This Government’s attacks on access to justice are unprecedented.

They’ve slashed legal aid for the most vulnerable.

They’ve made judicial reviews more difficult.

They’ve slapped a huge fee on Employment Tribunal cases

Meaning your rank and file members are being denied basic workplace rights.

And, if the Tories have their way, they’ll abolish the Human Rights Act, and take the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights.

And do you know what really rubs salt in the wound?

When you hear the likes of David Cameron extolling the virtues of British values, preying in aid the Magna Carta ahead of its 800th birthday next year, and championing the rule of law.

When at the same time they’re weakening the rule of law left right and centre.

And we know who it is who’ll suffer.

It’s the marginalised, the vulnerable, the weak and the poor.

That’s why we need to oppose these cuts and stand firm against any further attacks on access to justice

Now the Tories say - these are crises caused by austerity  - and that we would be in the same position whichever party was in Government.

And there is no doubt that the cuts have placed a huge amount of strain on our public services.

But they miss the underlying point.

That this crisis is about something far more fundamental than just budgets - it is about values.

Because the Tories just don't understand that there is a difference between public services and businesses.

Public services do more than just provide a service to a set of customers.

They are the institutional bonds that tie our communities together.

They embody the power of cooperation and working together.

And they are there to serve us as human beings – as citizens - not merely as customers.

And it is this failure to understand the values of public services that is behind some of the most damaging attacks made by this Government - even more so than the lack of funding.

It's this failure that makes the Coalition believe that there need be no level of accountability to local communities ordemocracy in free schools and that instead they should be run directly from Whitehall.

It's this failure to understand public services that is behind the Work Programme.

Which outsourced huge contracts to the Tories private sector chums, but created a programme with no links to real communities or local knowledge and that is failing as a result.

And it's that failure to understand public services that is behind Chris Graylings desperate rush to privatise probation.

Disregarding evidence or facts and blinded by the Tory ideological belief that private sector is good and public sector is bad.

So conference, the next Labour Government will face a monumental task.

We will have to repair the damage done to our beloved institutions.

We will have to root them back in our communities.

And ensure they serve the people of Britain - rather than making their lives more difficult.

And we will have to do this at a time when public finances are tighter than ever before.

We will be left with a massive financial debt on May 8th next year

We should be under no allusion - It will not be easy.

But friends, under Ed Miliband the Labour Party is up to the challenge.

I know the man, seen him at first hand.

Seen him take on Rupert Murdoch – and win

Seen him take on the big 6 energy companies – and win

Seen him take on the headlong rush into a war that was ill thought through with no planning or strategy - and win

There has been a lot of criticism and chatter about our party recently.

We have too few policies. And we have too many policies.

We don't have a story to tell. And we have too many stories to tell.

We don't have a vision for Britain. And our vision for Britain is from the 1970's.

This is complete nonsense created by a Tory party that knows it is in trouble.

Ed Miliband's vision for the future of Britain has resonated with the British people.

And the public can see the damage caused to their cherished public services by the Tories.

They sense their time is up.

And are desperately scrabbling to cling to power.

Ed Miliband is a winner and he will walk into Downing Street as Prime Minister in just over 10 months.

It’s because he’s a winner that he’s getting flak in the media.

He’s got them worried and their instinct is to play the man not the ball.

I want to make two predictions.

First.

As we get closer and closer to the election the attacks on Ed and on Labour will intensify as the Tories sense their time is up and Cameron desperately tries to cling to power.

Second.

There WILL be a Leadership election after the general election. But you’ll only get to vote if you are a Tory or a Lib Dem. When we unceremoniously boot them out of office after just one term, the Tories and Lib Dems will dump their failed leaders and look for new ones.

This week alone Labour has clearly demonstrated our vision for the future of Britain - under a radical and reforming Labour Government.

A vision that will not just rebuild our common institutions, but will renew them for the challenges of the century ahead.

And make them stronger than ever before.

In the last week we have heard from the IPPR's 'condition of Britain' report.

We have published a strategy for growth.

And next week we will publish our Local Government Innovation task force, devolving powers down to local communities from Whitehall.

All of them tell the same story for Britain's future.

And while not all of their recommendations are Labour Party policy yet, together they show how the next Labour Government will save our public services.

By devolving power away from faceless Whitehall bureaucrats to local people who understand local communities and needs.

By empowering our great cities and local Councillors like those in this room.

And by building up local institutions - like our public services - to support our communities.

It's why we will repeal the Coalition's hated Health and Social Care Act and push real integration between the NHS and our care services.

It's why we will increase the local accountability of free schools, rather than trying and failing to run them from Whitehall.

It's why we will devolve power and money to local Councils. Because they will spend it more effectively than Whitehall.

It's why we will devolve the work programme to a local level - embedding it within the communities it is supposed to support. Because we know local people will get better results.

And it's why I will not sign any contracts to privatise probation that are on my desk when I become Justice Secretary in May 2015. And one of the first things I will do is to see if we can unpick the contracts that are being hurriedly signed before the General election

Conference - this coming election is a choice more stark than any in a generation.

Between those that understand that individuals cannot succeed alone and need help and support and those that don't.

Between those who devalue our common institutions, bonds and links.

And those who cherish them more than anything else.

Between those who believe in the power of cooperation and mutual aid, and those who believe only in the individual, competition and the market.

Between a Tory party that will manage Britain into decline and create a less equal and more fragmented and divided society.

And a Labour Party that will renew our bonds of community. Create a more equal society. And build a better future for Britain.

Between racing each other to the bottom or working together in cooperation to get to the top.

But conference; the Labour Party can’t do it alone. We can't do it alone.

We need your help.

You dedicated, public service heroes, will be more important to the outcome of the next election than us politicians.

We need your help to tell your friends, your family, your neighbours and your communities about the choice we face.

To convince them that this time it really matters.

That the choice has never been so important.

I look forward to working with you over the next ten months to ensure the election of the next Labour Government.

Thank you.

Sadiq Khan is MP for Tooting, shadow justice secretary and shadow minister for London.
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In her first interview of 2017, I pressed the Prime Minister for Brexit clarity

My week, including running out of cat food, reading Madeleine Thien – oh, and interviewing Theresa May on my show.

As the countdown to going live begins in your ear, there’s always a little rush of adrenalin. Especially when you’re about to launch a new Sunday morning political programme. And especially when you’re about to conduct the Prime Minister’s first interview of 2017. When you hear the words, “Cue Sophy,” there’s a split-second intake of breath – a fleeting moment of anticipation – before you start speaking. Once the show is under way, there’s no time to step back and think; you’re focused on what’s happening right now. But for that brief flicker of time before the camera trained on you goes live, you feel the enormity of what’s happening. 

My new show, Sophy Ridge on Sunday, launched on Sky News this month. After five years as a political correspondent for the channel, I have made the leap into presenting. Having the opportunity to present my own political programme is the stuff that dreams are made of. It’s a bit like having your own train set – you can influence what stories you should be following and which people you should be talking to. As with everything in television, however, it’s all about the team, and with Toby Sculthorp, Tom Larkin and Matthew Lavender, I’m lucky enough to have a great one.

 

Mayday, mayday

The show gets off to a fantastic start with an opportunity to interview the Prime Minister. With Theresa May, there are no loose comments – she is a cautious premier who weighs up every word. She doesn’t have the breezy public school confidence of David Cameron and, unlike other politicians I’ve met, you don’t get the sense that she is looking over her shoulder to see if there is someone more important that she should be talking to.

In the interview, she spells out her vision for a “shared society” and talks about her desire to end the stigma around mental health. Despite repeated pressing, she refuses to confirm whether the UK will leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. However, when you consider her commitment to regaining control of immigration and UK borders, it’s very difficult – almost impossible – to see how Britain could remain a member. “Often people talk in terms as if somehow we are leaving the EU but we still want to kind of keep bits of membership of the EU,” she said. “We are leaving. We are coming out. We are not going to be a member of the EU any longer.” Draw your own conclusions.

 

Women on top

This is probably the kind of thing that I should remain demurely quiet about and allow other people to point out on my behalf. Well, screw that. I think it’s fantastic to see the second female prime minister deciding to give her first interview of the New Year to the first woman to front a Sunday morning political show on television. There, I said it.

 

Escaping the bubble

In my view, every journalist should make a New Year’s resolution to get out of London more. The powerful forces that led to the political earthquake of 2016 came from outside the M25. Every week, I’ll be travelling to a different part of the country to listen to people’s concerns so that I can directly put them to the politicians that I interview. This week, it was Boston in Lincolnshire, where the highest proportion of people voted to leave the European Union.

Initially, it was tricky to get people to speak on camera, but in a particularly friendly pub the Bostonians were suddenly much more forthcoming. Remain supporters (a minority, I know) who arrogantly dismiss Leave voters as a bunch of racists should listen to the concerns I heard about a race to the bottom in terms of workers’ rights. Politicians are often blamed for spending too much time in the “Westminster bubble”, but in my experience journalists are often even worse. Unless we escape the London echo chamber, we’ll have no chance of understanding what happened in 2016 – and what the consequences will be in 2017.

 

A room of one’s own

Last December, I signed a book deal to write the story of women in politics. It’s something I’m passionate about, but I’ll admit that when I pitched the idea to Hachette I had no idea that 2016 would turn out to be quite so busy. Fitting in interviews with leading female politicians and finding the time to write the damn thing hasn’t been easy. Panic-stricken after working flat out during the EU campaign and the historic weeks after, I booked myself into a cottage in Hythe, a lovely little market town on the Kent coast. Holed up for two weeks on my own, feeling a million miles away from the tumultuous Westminster, the words (finally) started pouring on to the page. Right now, I’m enjoying that blissful period between sending in the edited draft and waiting for the first proofs to arrive. It’s nice not to have that nagging guilty feeling that there’s something I ought to be doing . . .

 

It’s all over Mao

I read books to switch off and am no literary snob – I have a particular weakness for trashy crime fiction. This week, I’ve been reading a book that I’m not embarrassed to recommend. Do Not Say We Have Nothing, by the Canadian author Madeleine Thien, tells the haunting story of musicians who suffered during the Cultural Revolution in China. It’s also a chilling warning of what happens when anger towards the elite is pushed too far.

 

Political animals

However busy and exhilarating things are at work, my cat, Ned, will always give me a reality check. In the excitement of the first Sophy Ridge on Sunday, I forgot to get him any food. His disappointed look as he sits by his empty bowl brings me crashing back down to earth. A panicked dash to Sainsbury’s follows, the fuel warning light on all the way as I pray I don’t run out of petrol. Suddenly, everything is back to normal.

“Sophy Ridge on Sunday” is on Sky News on Sundays at 10am

Sophy Ridge is a political correspondent for Sky News.

This article first appeared in the 12 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's revenge