Theresa May Will Never Cut it as Prime Minister: My Speech to Labour Party Annual Conference

In my speech today I told conference that Theresa May is a Prime Minister who prevaricates and a Tory leader who can't make a decision. It's one of the reasons she will never cut it as Prime Minster. 

Her hesitation on the Hinkley Point power station was shambolic and her inability to explain exactly what her Grammar School proposals consist of is unacceptable. She's failed to give strong leadership on a host of other issues, from the Northern Powerhouse to Heathrow. You can't run a country like that. 

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I pointed out to conference something that is becoming increasingly obvious to the country - no one, least of all Mrs May, knows what her ‘Brexit means Brexit” slogan actually means. It's s a clever soundbite, but ultimately it's cowardly one. The Prime Minister should stop playing word games with our future. 

Labour can and will provide strong opposition by holding Theresa May and her Ministers to account. But, as I reminded conference, we need to remember all that we achieved during 13 years in power. We need to stop focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments. We’ve been doing it for six years. Enough. Trashing our own record is no way to enhance the Labour brand. We won't win elections like that. 

And we have to win again. I remember when Labour won in 1997. I was thirty years old and we hadn't won an election since I was seven.  I've never got over growing up under Thatcher and I can't face the thought of putting my children through another long period of Tory rule. I don't want anyone's children to experience that. 

Yesterday our Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said Labour is a market socialist party. I agree. The Labour Party works with the market and harnesses what it does best, but unlike the Conservative party, we don’t worship it. The ideological, blinkered belief that markets are the answer to everything is the Tories’ greatest blindspot. We know that markets needs managing. We know the market has to work for everyone. 

But we have sometimes sounded like we are anti-business, anti-prosperity and anti-success. We are not and we never have been. Yes, we need to stand up to the abuse of corporate power, as the Tories never will. But capitalism is not the enemy. Money’s not the problem. Business isn’t bad. The real world is more complicated than that, as any practical trade unionist will tell you.

And it’s getting more complicated. Automation and digital technology are changing our working lives. Today I was pleased to announce in my speech that I’ll be serving as co chair of a new independent commission on the future of work, with particular focus on this issue of automation. Helen Mountfield QC will be joining me as co chair, and we’ll be bringing together leading figures such as Naomi Climer and Jon Cruddas MP to consider future work trends in this ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – particularly in the light of Brexit.

I look forward to updating conference on the Commission's work in Brighton in twelve month's time.