Conference 2023
Conference 2023

Thank you Conference,


It’s an honour to speak here again, because after 13 years, it is clear that the Conservatives are off the rails.


And what more do you need to know about their years of failure than a flagship levelling-up project which reaches neither Central London nor the North of England. 


Only in Tory-run Britain could they blow £45bn on a high-speed train that hits the slow coach lane the instant it reaches the north.


What this fiasco tells us about the Conservatives is their resounding message, their pitch to the country, their plan for Britain, can be summed up in three words: ‘no we can’t’.


And in its place – what did they give the north? Roads that don’t exist, trams that had already been built, and a train line ditched by tea time. Is it any wonder people cant believe a single word they say?


Conference, it’s clear, we cannot afford five more years of this, and didn’t last week prove it?


While sole traders see petrol prices soar and care workers wonder how on earth they will afford their car insurance, the Tories had literally nothing to say about the cost of living crisis.


They were too busy talking to the fringe in their party, to tackle the issues facing the country.


Labour won’t stand by as families suffer, we will act.  


That’s why the plan I have announced today will take action on rip-off prices at the petrol pump…and crack down on unfair car insurance fees hitting people hard. 


Because whether its commuters stranded on trains, pensioners stuck at the bus stop, or drivers seeing petrol prices soaring. 


People know that under the Conservatives, Britain just isn’t working for them.


It’s our job to change that.


After 13 years, that change feels difficult to imagine – people feel powerless. That’s why the easy option would be to do nothing.


But that’s not who we are in Labour. That’s why Conference, I can tell you – with Labour, change is coming.


Our message, our pitch to the country, our plan is to deliver the biggest reform of public transport in more-than a generation.


Taking power out of the hands of Whitehall. Out of the hands of operators. And giving it back to the public, where it belongs.


Take the Conservative’s failing bus system, a broken bus, a shoddy service, a lifeline route slashed.


It doesn’t matter what communities do or say, because they have no power to change it.


For years, for decades, people have said we need to fix this.


Well conference, the next Labour government will do it.


And we will do it by giving the public back control of the bus services they depend on.


Last month in Greater Manchester we saw a glimpse of what that could mean with our brilliant mayor Andy Burnham, but only a handful of areas can follow his lead.


So Conference, I can confirm – one of the first acts of a Labour government will be to hand every area of England the power to take back control of its bus services and lift the ban on municipal ownership too.


Because after years of decline, we want to give the public power again.


And Conference, we have to fix our broken railways too.


Because the Conservatives’ view is that the country which created the railways, can no longer build them.


They believe all our major competitors can do it, but not us.


Labour reject that. It’s not the skill and ingenuity of British workers and British industry that’s the problem. It’s the chaos and incompetence of the Conservatives.


That’s why we will launch an independent review looking at the failures of HS2, and learn lessons on delivering major projects on time and to budget.  


And we will commit to working with local leaders, mayors, businesses and unions to deliver a credible and transformative programme of transport infrastructure investment, including Northern Powerhouse Rail within our fiscal rules.


And we won’t stop there. 


Because the rail model of the last 30 years is at the end of the line. It would be easy for Labour just to muddle on with the Tories’ failing system. 


But it wouldn’t be right for passengers, and it wouldn’t be right for the country.


Our first female Transport Secretary, Barbara Castle, said: “in politics, guts is all.”


That’s why a Labour government will do the right thing, and overhaul our broken rail system. 


To deliver this bold reform, a Labour government must, and a Labour government will, bring our railways back into public ownership where they belong.


In place of the fractured, fragmented chaos we see today.


We will deliver a unified rail network with passengers at the heart.


A passenger-focussed railway with a single guiding mind.


As Secretary of State for Transport I won’t be running the railway day-to-day. 


But I will be the passenger-in-chief – holding the railway to account on behalf of those who use it. 


And everything – everything – will be tested against delivering for the passenger.  


Make no mistake, this reform won’t be easy. Reversing years of failure never is.


But it’s the right choice for passengers, and it’s the right choice for the country.


Conference, at the next election – the choice is clear.


Change with Labour, or more of the same failure with the Conservatives.


The next Labour government will call time on our failing public transport.


And we will run a transport system that finally works in the interests of the public.

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