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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Who will win in Copeland? The Labour heartland hangs in the balance

The knife-edge by-election could end 82 years of Labour rule on the West Cumbrian coast.

Fine, relentless drizzle shrouds Whitehaven, a harbour town exposed on the outer edge of Copeland, West Cumbria. It is the most populous part of the coastal north-western constituency, which takes in everything from this old fishing port to Sellafield nuclear power station to England’s tallest mountain Scafell Pike. Sprawling and remote, it protrudes from the heart of the Lake District out into the Irish Sea.

Billy, a 72-year-old Whitehaven resident, is out for a morning walk along the marina with two friends, his woolly-hatted head held high against the whipping rain. He worked down the pit at the Haig Colliery for 27 years until it closed, and now works at Sellafield on contract, where he’s been since the age of 42.

“Whatever happens, a change has got to happen,” he says, hands stuffed into the pockets of his thick fleece. “If I do vote, the Bootle lass talks well for the Tories. They’re the favourites. If me mam heard me saying this now, she’d have battered us!” he laughs. “We were a big Labour family. But their vote has gone. Jeremy Corbyn – what is he?”

The Conservatives have their sights on traditional Labour voters like Billy, who have been returning Labour MPs for 82 years, to make the first government gain in a by-election since 1982.

Copeland has become increasingly marginal, held with just 2,564 votes by former frontbencher Jamie Reed, who resigned from Parliament last December to take a job at the nuclear plant. He triggered a by-election now regarded by all sides as too close to call. “I wouldn’t put a penny on it,” is how one local activist sums up the mood.

There are 10,000 people employed at the Sellafield site, and 21,000 jobs are promised for nearby Moorside – a project to build Europe’s largest nuclear power station now thrown into doubt, with Japanese company Toshiba likely to pull out.

Tories believe Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on nuclear power (he limply conceded it could be part of the “energy mix” recently, but his long prevarication betrayed his scepticism) and opposition to Trident, which is hosted in the neighbouring constituency of Barrow-in-Furness, could put off local employees who usually stick to Labour.

But it’s not that simple. The constituency may rely on nuclear for jobs, but I found a notable lack of affection for the industry. While most see the employment benefits, there is less enthusiasm for Sellafield being part of their home’s identity – particularly in Whitehaven, which houses the majority of employees in the constituency. Also, unions representing Sellafield workers have been in a dispute for months with ministers over pension cut plans.

“I worked at Sellafield for 30 years, and I’m against it,” growls Fred, Billy’s friend, a retiree of the same age who also used to work at the colliery. “Can you see nuclear power as safer than coal?” he asks, wild wiry eyebrows raised. “I’m a pit man; there was just nowhere else to work [when the colliery closed]. The pension scheme used to be second-to-none, now they’re trying to cut it, changing the terms.”

Derek Bone, a 51-year-old who has been a storeman at the plant for 15 years, is equally unconvinced. I meet him walking his dog along the seafront. “This county, Cumbria, Copeland, has always been a nuclear area – whether we like it or don’t,” he says, over the impatient barks of his Yorkshire terrier Milo. “But people say it’s only to do with Copeland. It ain’t. It employs a lot of people in the UK, outside the county – then they’re spending the money back where they’re from, not here.”

Such views might be just enough of a buffer against the damage caused by Corbyn’s nuclear reluctance. But the problem for Labour is that neither Fred nor Derek are particularly bothered about the result. While awareness of the by-election is high, many tell me that they won’t be voting this time. “Jeremy Corbyn says he’s against it [nuclear], now he’s not, and he could change his mind – I don’t believe any of them,” says Malcolm Campbell, a 55-year-old lorry driver who is part of the nuclear supply chain.

Also worrying for Labour is the deprivation in Copeland. Everyone I speak to complains about poor infrastructure, shoddy roads, derelict buildings, and lack of investment. This could punish the party that has been in power locally for so long.

The Tory candidate Trudy Harrison, who grew up in the coastal village of Seascale and now lives in Bootle, at the southern end of the constituency, claims local Labour rule has been ineffective. “We’re isolated, we’re remote, we’ve been forgotten and ignored by Labour for far too long,” she says.

I meet her in the town of Millom, at the southern tip of the constituency – the opposite end to Whitehaven. It centres on a small market square dominated by a smart 19th-century town hall with a mint-green domed clock tower. This is good Tory door-knocking territory; Millom has a Conservative-led town council.

While Harrison’s Labour opponents are relying on their legacy vote to turn out, Harrison is hoping that the same people think it’s time for a change, and can be combined with the existing Tory vote in places like Millom. “After 82 years of Labour rule, this is a huge ask,” she admits.

Another challenge for Harrison is the threat to services at Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital. It has been proposed for a downgrade, which would mean those seeking urgent care – including children, stroke sufferers, and those in need of major trauma treatment and maternity care beyond midwifery – would have to travel the 40-mile journey to Carlisle on the notoriously bad A595 road.

Labour is blaming this on Conservative cuts to health spending, and indeed, Theresa May dodged calls to rescue the hospital in her campaign visit last week. “The Lady’s Not For Talking,” was one local paper front page. It also helps that Labour’s candidate, Gillian Troughton, is a St John Ambulance driver, who has driven the dangerous journey on a blue light.

“Seeing the health service having services taken away in the name of centralisation and saving money is just heart-breaking,” she tells me. “People are genuinely frightened . . . If we have a Tory MP, that essentially gives them the green light to say ‘this is OK’.”

But Harrison believes she would be best-placed to reverse the hospital downgrade. “[I] will have the ear of government,” she insists. “I stand the very best chance of making sure we save those essential services.”

Voters are concerned about the hospital, but divided on the idea that a Tory MP would have more power to save it.

“What the Conservatives are doing with the hospitals is disgusting,” a 44-year-old carer from Copeland’s second most-populated town of Egremont tells me. Her partner, Shaun Grant, who works as a labourer, agrees. “You have to travel to Carlisle – it could take one hour 40 minutes; the road is unpredictable.” They will both vote Labour.

Ken, a Conservative voter, counters: “People will lose their lives over it – we need someone in the circle, who can influence the government, to change it. I think the government would reward us for voting Tory.”

Fog engulfs the jagged coastline and rolling hills of Copeland as the sun begins to set on Sunday evening. But for most voters and campaigners here, the dense grey horizon is far clearer than what the result will be after going to the polls on Thursday.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.