Speech to Labour Party Regional Conference

Here is the speech made by Karin Smyth MP’s to the south west regional conference of the Labour Party, on 21 November 2015, introducing Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn MP:

Watch a video of this speech using this link

SW regional Conference Nov 2015“We meet here six months after what is one of the worst election defeats in our party’s history.

“And we meet here in the south west region where the challenges facing Labour are amongst the greatest anywhere in England.

“I have the privilege of being an all-too-rare breed – a newly-elected Labour Member of Parliament, proud to represent the constituents of Bristol South for Labour.

“I’m acutely aware a member of a painfully small breed: Labour MPs in the south west region. There are four of us. Four Labour MPs. 51 Tories.

“So in the months since May 7 when people have asked me: ‘What it’s like being an MP in Westminster?’ It’s incredible – but its full of Tories. This is something that surprises us here in Bristol – where people often don’t know many Tories, don’t socialise with Tories where they have little representation.

“So my answer is, frankly, it’s lonely. It’s lonely amongst all those Tories. It’s almost enough to make you think you miss the Lib Dems. Not quite, though.

“It is all a far and distant cry from the high point of 1997 when we had 15 seats in the south west. Back then I was ward organiser for Valerie Davey who ousted William Waldegrave in Bristol West. Remember him?

“And I remember seeing seats few outside our Party seriously believed we would win turning Labour: Forest of Dean, Wansdyke (now North East Somerset), Exeter, Falmouth & Camborne, to name just a few.

“So there can be no mistake to win a general election again and get into Government, winning the majority that those who rely on Labour to speak for them so desperately need, we must win seats in the south west that we’ve lost in recent years, like Kingswood, Stroud, seats in Plymouth and Swindon, Gloucester and elsewhere.

“The electoral challenge for Labour here in the south west is huge. And that means the responsibility upon us all is huge too, if we realistically want to win again soon.

“But let us pause for a moment to reflect on some positives.

“For in May our grip on one of those 1997 gains, Exeter, has been strengthened, thanks to our excellent MP there who nearly tripled his majority in May, Ben Bradshaw.

“There were other bright spots in May, of course, with Thangam Debonnaire’s excellent victory in Bristol West, and Kerry McCarthy holding Bristol East.

“And of course there were many, many strong campaigns from some terrific candidates in seats that we believed to be eminently winnable, but that we lost, through no fault of any single candidate, agent, organiser or volunteer team.

“Many of those individuals and those teams will have learned important lessons and gained vital experience that will hold them – and us – in good stead next time.

“We owe them a great debt – and I would like to take a moment to thank them for their work and commitment on behalf of people in our region.

Watch a video of this speech using this link

“And let’s look ahead to the positives that lay before us. There are a number of opportunities in the very near future.

“Local council elections with wards to win in Bristol, Plymouth, Swindon and Gloucester and elsewhere.

“And a mayoral election here in Bristol.

“All of which provide perfect opportunities for Labour to show we are turning things around.

“And another huge positive. We have a rejuvenated membership, the seeds of what can become – inspired and eager to play a part – a formidable volunteer election-winning army.

“And even though I was in Oldham last week campaigning in the by-election there for our excellent candidate Jim McMahon, I am pleased to let you know that it’s not the north-west but the south-west that has seen the highest increase in Party membership of all the regions.

“Our members and new members will be able to explain, campaign and convince people that Labour policies are better for them and for their families. People who suffer from – and whose opportunities are limited by – the failed policies of the Tories.

“And in wishing you a positive regional conference today I am delighted to be able to welcome to Bristol – and to introduce to you all – the man who has been charged with the task of leading our common task, to win elections across the region next May and to bring us back, in 2020, to serve in government.

“Jeremy knows the south west well, having grown up in Wiltshire, and having family close by. So Jeremy welcome home. It is my pleasure to serve as part of his team as PPS, to Heidi Alexander and the Health Team as we take the challenge to the Tories over their handling of our NHS .

“Please welcome the Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn MP.”