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Alex Mayer MEP's speech to Labour Party Regional Conference - November 2017

IMG_1346.JPGGood morning conference.

Firstly I'd like to thank my staff: Peter, Luke, Alex, Joe and Chris.

A year is a long time in politics isn't it?

So first let's rewind to Easter, and the calling of that snap general election by the popular, competent, strong and oh so stable Prime Minister. And as she stood outside Downing Street my phone rang and BBC local radio were on the line. They wanted reaction. And the first question, “Alex, it's going to be a disaster for Labour isn't it?” “No,” I said, “not at all, I welcome any opportunity to kick out the Tories.” “But you’re 20 points behind in the opinion polls, you're going to get wiped out” ... and so it continued ...

The thing is they didn't count on our manifesto, did they?

And no one counted on our campaign, did they?

And what a campaign. Millions of newsletters delivered, street stalls popping up, garden stakes and posters, visits by Jeremy to Watford, Stevenage, Harlow, Norwich, Waveney and Peterborough, sharing on social media, and thousands of doors knocked. And what seemed at first to be a slogan "we're building the biggest ever, people powered campaign, in history," became a reality.

I will never forget on election day on a phone bank when a voter said yes she’d voted Labour but now she wanted to help. Could she join the phone bank? And she turned up and did. Arriving, calling and staying until she made the very last GOTV phone call of the evening from the campaign centre.

We showed them. You showed them. And we were rewarded. With Sandy, Fiona and Yasin. And stonking results in Luton, Norwich and Cambridge.

But sadly our NHS is under threat. I've visited the Norfolk and Norwich, Queen Elizabeth, Luton and Addenbrookes. I've met nurses relying on food banks. Because austerity continues. Because we didn't win.

It has been a difficult year for our councillors. Sadly we lost many excellent councillors in the county council elections, and despite a great campaign led by Kevin Price in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayoral election, there a Tory mayor was returned.

And day in, day out, our Councillors struggle to maintain front line services with slashed budgets.

It has also been a year marred by terrorist attacks. In Manchester and London. And I certainly won’t forget the morning I stood in silence in the European Parliament to remember the victims of the Brussels attacks one year on, and literally hours later the news came through that a man with a knife was attacking Westminster.

And Brexit of course. Rewind to March and the Government triggered Article 50.

Yes Brexit. Now I don't think it will come as a surprise to you, as I reveal the mood in Brussels is not great and those Brexit talks, they're not going well.

Theresa May’s credibility is shot. Her cabinet are fighting each other. They spend more time negotiating with themselves than our European partners. Is it any surprise when I speak to EU leaders they say they feel they are getting mixed messages?

Even the simplest of negotiations, has been made complicated. Relations unnecessarily soured. On citizens rights’ - why, oh why couldn't the Government have followed Jeremy Corbyn’s lead and make a generous offer giving EU citizens who have made their homes here immediate guarantees? What do they think would have happened ? Because you know what I think would have happened if the government had offered that on day one, the EU would have said, UK citizens living in EU countries could stay there too. And we'd have got off on a constructive foot and untold misery would have been avoided.

And everywhere I go... I find a new Brexit problem...

I judged the best turned out horse in the 2.05 at Fakenham Races. And met industry leaders worried about the free movement of throughbreds. They’re not horsing around.

I met a group of Musicians in Bedford. They wanted to talk about pan-European copywrite law and their ability to tour round Europe. “Don’t stop me now” they said. But maybe there’ll be no more “leaving on a jet plane”. And I replied, “Nobody said it was easy...”, except Boris Johnson!

I went to Mars, well the research facility that mimics Mars, in Stevenage. They told me their EU satellite programme is under threat. I think the Brexiteers are on another planet.

But I do worry about our country. Hate crime up. Public services creaking. Economic uncertainty.

And I believe as I did in June 2016 that Brexit will leave us weaker, poorer and more isolated.

Those who tell you otherwise are spinning you a yarn.

Across our region uncertainty is already taking its toll.

The sad collapse of Monarch. Job losses at RAF Marham. Even our Mustard is under threat in Norwich. And the Tories?
David Davis says let them eat chlorinated chicken. Boris Johnson says clear away the dead bodies to make Libya a tourist hub. Theresa May thinks diplomacy means holding hands with Donald Trump.

Their MPs are picking and choosing when to vote. They didn't even turn up for the vote on Universal Credit. I mean, I know I back the Part Time Workers directive but the Tories seem to have got the wrong end of the stick here.

In power, but in paralysis.

And EU leaders know it. They are baffled. They know she won't last.

And you know - do watch the YouTube clip of this - in October while Theresa May was being snubbed at a summit. Jeremy was in Brussels too. Talking to socialist leaders and Prime Ministers at a packed conference. And being cheered to the rafters.

And that's something else I can report from Brussels, it seems all over Europe people now know the words to the song “Oh Jeremy Corbyn”.

I sometimes used to think of politics in vignettes.

Maybe the crowds at Glastonbury chanting “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” - surely that would end the film of the 2017 election. Yes we can. The crowds at the Brandenburg Gate. A new dawn has broken, has it not. The thousands stretching out as we marched against Iraq. Farage declaring this is our Independence Day.

And that the political process was about getting to, or avoiding those moments.

The truth I think now, is far, far more complicated.

There are small changes you can effect every day. And lines you have to draw in the sand. And arguments you need to make and remake every day.

Labour MPs got the Universal Credit helpline charges scrapped from opposition.

When I went on a delegation to Washington, on your behalf, a congressman explained to me how Trump could tear up the Paris climate accord but he couldn’t stop that congressman’s state from tackling greenhouse gas emissions.

Like when I voted in the European Parliament to stop a right-wing inspired amendment to stop a woman’s right to choose in Poland.

This week, when I was on Look East speaking about the unfair working conditions Ryanair pilots and cabin crew have to put up with. Because I could use parliamentary privilege to tell a Ryanair pilot's story when he is too afraid to speak out himself.

And as everyone here does, come rain or shine, knocking on more doors.

Conference, I was afraid when we lost the referendum, that we lost an ideal.

But there are times in our country’s history when we’ve done the wrong thing.

We lost the Brexit vote and the General Election.

Well, we are Labour and from the East of England. We’re used to losing things.

But I have to say 2017 was better than 2016. And Labour has rediscovered our idealism and hope. When bad things happen, good people organise and fight and believe things can change. And they can.

So let us fight for them every day.
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