Category Archives: Equality
I am sure you will have seen some of the coverage of the increasingly desparate refugee crisis growing across Europe.
Yvette Cooper, who I am backing to be the next Labour Leader, made a speech earlier in the week lamenting Britain’s current position – Germany has given more sanctuary to Syrians in a month than we have in the last year – and calling for the Government and communities across our country to do more.
Yvette has called on the Government to convene an urgent national conference to work with councils and communities to see how many places we can offer to refugees from Syria and the Mediterranean.
“If every city took 10 refugee families, if every London borough took 10 families, if every county council took 10 families, if Scotland, Wales and every English region played their part, then in a month we’d have nearly 10,000 more places for vulnerable refugees fleeing danger, seeking safety.”
You can read the full text of Yvette’s excellent speech here.
In her speech Yvette mentions the leading work of the City of Sanctuary movement which is working with cities such as Birmingham and Sheffield to make them places of welcome and safety for those seeking sanctuary. You can find about more about this work here. is doing on through the City of Sanctuary
I would also encourage you to take action and sign two petitions. The first calls on Parliament to debate the issue of the European refugee crisis when it returns next week – sign here. The second urges David Cameron to work with other European Union countries to set and welcome a quota of refugees – sign here.
If you would like to help out or get involved in a more practical way then the Independent Newspaper has put together a helpful list of suggestions which you can find here.
With all best wishes
This morning OFFA, the fair access watchdog, has announced new access agreements with Universities which aim to ensure poor and disadvantage students are able to go to University.
More details here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-33537265
In response to this announcement Liam Byrne MP, the Shadow Minister for Universities has made the following statement.
“The Government’s plans to scrap maintenance grants are a huge gamble.
They will see the debts of the poorest students soar.
These access arrangements may not be enough to ensure able students are not put off university by the enormous burden of debt.”
You may have seen my piece in the Sunday Times yesterday on lessons for the Labour Party from this year’s election.
You can read it here or below:
You can access a set of slides which sum up my argument; here.
Liam Byrne MP – Sunday Times – 14 June 2015
How Labour rebuilds the radical centre
It was the election that ended one of the oldest myths in progressive politics.
Depressed by decades of Tory dominance, Labour’s 20th century thinkers thought they knew the answer. Reunite the centre left, bring together Labour and Lib Dem visions, voters and voices, and hey presto a new ‘progressive majority’ would be born.
Well now we know the truth. In 2015, the Lib Dems collapsed to the status of a fringe party. And who prospered? Not Labour. But UKIP, the SNP and ultimately the Tories. The jury is in and the verdict is simple. You can’t build a radical centre in British politics around some mythical ‘progressive alliance’ of Lib Dems and Labour. Because it doesn’t exist.
Let me confess I find this a painful conclusion. The notion of the ‘progressive alliance’ has a long and distinguished history on the left. And few were better makers of the case than my predecessor in Stechford, Roy Jenkins. Urged on by Roy, Tony Blair and Paddy Ashdown chewed the fat for years fathoming what might be possible.
But, as Churchill once said; however elegant the strategy it is wise to occasionally look at the results. And the results of the 2015 election are very clear.
Amongst Labour’s target seats, victories were few and far between. The 22 seats we did win – like Cambridge, Lancaster, Bradford or Dewsbury – were by and large alike: they were either home to large numbers of ethnic minority voters or what marketeers call ‘urban intellectuals’ – university educated, middle class, and quite possibly enjoyers of the Guardian.
But let’s look at the target seats we lost to the Tories. There were 74 of them in England and Wales. Here the Lib Dem vote collapsed as we knew it would. But Labour’s disastrous ‘35% strategy’ – aka ‘a Hail Mary pass’ – aimed to mobilise a risky, narrow core vote plus a few and had assumed one in three grumpy Lib Dems would come our way. So what happened? Nothing of the sort.
In the target seats we lost to the Tories, the Lib Dem vote collapsed by an average of 6,585 – but more than two thirds sailed right past us and went to UKIP; their vote rising by an average of 4,853. The remaining Lib Dem losses split between Tory and Labour – and the Tories took the bigger slice. We won on average just one in 13 of the fleeing Lib Dem voters. So much for the progressive alliance. Worse, in 33 of the target seats we lost, not only did the Lib Dem vote fall – but the Labour vote fell as well. The Lib Dems quite simply were not and are not a reservoir of closet lefties.
What are the conclusions for people like me who want to rebuild and dominate the radical centre in British politics?
I think three basic ideas stand out.
Number one. There is no substitute to building a bigger stake in what Keith Joseph once called the ‘common ground’ of politics. This isn’t some kind of triangulated, dead centre split-the-difference position between Tories and Labour. As Keith Joseph explained; ‘the middle ground is a compromise between politicians unrelated to the aspirations of the people, the common ground is common ground with people and their aspirations.’ We need to own the common ground – not triangulate with the Tories.
Second, we have got to renew our radical roots and win back support from the radically minded, often collectivist, anti-establishment voters who today see UKIP, the SNP and the Greens as a better home than Labour. They should be ‘our voters’. And unless we make it so, we’ll be in opposition for ever.
This means we need not Blue Labour, but ‘blue collar Labour’. Blue collar workers dominate the seats where both the Lib Dem and Labour vote fell – seats like Burton, Nuneaton, Dover, and Harlow, where I grew up and started my working life in McDonalds, later spending a happy summer as a white van driver. Labour’s share of the skilled working class – once 50% back in 1997 – is now down to just 32%. It barely improved on our disastrous 2010 performance. This is why the Tories blue collar Conservatism is such a smart move. Yvette Cooper is right when she says: we have to win back the towns once again.
To this we need to add ‘Green Labour’, because in 43 of our target seats the Green vote went up by more than the Labour vote. I spent most of the campaign on the road with the Labour Students minibus. Our amazing younger activists were very blunt with me: if we want to own the future we have to become far greener in policy and character.
Third, we have to be the party of older voters and not just the young. I’ll put this as gently as I can: Labour is facing a demographic time-bomb unless we transform our standing with older voters.
We had a brilliant offer for young people at this election. Our Youth Manifesto, co-written by young people, was magnificent. At its centre was our most expensive £3 billion pledge: to cut tuition fees and raise grants. But we had little to offer the over 65s – and what happened? The Tory majority amongst over 65s soared to almost 2 million votes – more than the overall Tory Majority.
We had almost nothing to say to older voters beyond our warnings about the imminent collapse of the NHS. Meanwhile the Tories hammered away about stability, Ed Miliband, the triple lock on pensions and access to pension piggy-banks that sounded like free gold for a golden retirement.
We must never again fail to be the party that speaks for older Britain. And the conclusion for our leadership debate is quite simple. If the next Labour leader does not connect with older people – especially older women – then quite simply we will lose again. Remember at the next election there will be 1.5 MILLION more voters over 65 as the baby boomers retire – and 40% of voters will be over 50.
If there’s one thing I learned from my political hero Tony Blair, it’s that when modernisers stop modernising we fail. We have a mountain to climb to win back power. But Labour’s history tells us that we’re great mountain climbers when we dare to face facts, grasp nettles – and change. Today, trade, technology, the world of work, and demographics are completely re-shaping the radical centre of British politics. The coalition we need to win back is now clear.
Let Labour’s change begin.
You may have seen the report by the BBC’s Newsnight last night on Tory plans to cut student maintenance grants.
This is deeply troubling. You can read the full story on the BBC News website here:
And my statement on the matter is below:
“The coalition betrayed students and tripled tuition fees. A Labour Government would of increased maintenance grants by £400 a year. Now this Tory Government is drawing up plans to slash this vital lifeline for poorer students.
This is a very frightening prospect for young people and their parent’s. The average student now leaves University with debts of £44,000, cuts to maintenance grants will force poorer students to take on even more debt from commercial loan sharks just to make ends meet.”
Many of you will have read, in my Winter Newsletter, about the three constituency wide residents meeting that I will be holding between now and the election. They’re on the 3 big issues residents tell me are most important – and I want to hear what you think needs to change in the years ahead.
· Fighting for more and better jobs, especially for our young people who need more to do
· Battling for a better NHS which residents feel is under real pressure. We need it to be world class, especially for our kids and older residents who have paid in for a lifetime
· And of course, changing our immigration system, which I’ve always talked about as long as I’ve been a MP
The first of these is this coming Saturday 24 January from 11:00 – 12:30 at St Margarets Heritage Hall. Details below.
Saturday 24 January 2015 11:00 – 12:30
Immigration: What needs to change?
Venue: St Margarets Heritage Hall, St Margarets Road B8 2BA
I hope you can join me for the first of these exciting opportunities to discuss the issues that really matter to us.
I look forward to seeing you on Saturday.
With all best wishes
PS. Details for the remaining two meetings are below:
Saturday 14 February 2015 11:00 – 12:30
NHS and Social Care: What’s the service we need in the 21st century for patients and carers?
Venue: The Beaufort Sports and Social Club, Coleshill road B36 8DX
Saturday 21 March 2015 11:00 – 12:30
New Jobs, Fair Pay, Fair Taxes – and Fair Tax Credits!
Venue: Shard End Community Centre, Packington Avenue B34 7RD
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Liam Byrne MP
Birmingham Hodge Hill
35a Coleshill Road
Birmingham, B36 8DT
This morning UCAS released their admission service figures for 2014.
You can read the full report here: http://www.ucas.com/sites/default/files/ucas-end-of-cycle-report-2014.pdf
My statement in response is below:
Commenting, Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills Liam Byrne MP said:
“More people going into higher education is good news – as a country unless we get smarter, we’ll get poorer. But today’s figures show the mountain we’ve got to climb getting thousands more people from the poorest parts of Britain to university. That’s why we’ve got to fix our broken university finance system, which this government seems happy to see fall off a cliff.”
1 Today’s UCAS report finds that: “For 18 year olds in England the entry rates to higher tariff institutions range from 3.2 per cent for the most disadvantaged fifth of areas to 21.3 per cent for the most advantaged fifth of areas” and that “in the most disadvantaged areas, the entry rate in 2014 for 18 year olds was 15 per cent for men and 22 per cent for women, making women around 50 per cent more likely to enter than men.”
Time to Start Backing and Stop Attacking Our Young People – My speech to Burnt Mill – Tuesday 16 December 2014
I am also delighted to say that the visit was covered by YourHarlow – here.
If you have felt exploited by a long unpaid internship then I want to hear from you.
Drop me a line with your story to firstname.lastname@example.org
————————————————————————-PPC outside Burnt Mill Academy with staff and pupils
Time to Start Backing and Stop Attacking Our Young People
Speech to Burnt Mill [Academy], Tuesday 16th December 2014
Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP
[Thank you very much.]
It’s a big relief to leave the turmoil of the capital and find the calm of your campus.
Back in Westminster, there’s so much doom and gloom it feels like the government wants us to live in some kind of Narnia: always winter and never Christmas.
Everywhere, there’s cynicism when we need a bit of idealism.
Too much fear, when we want hope.
That’s why it’s brilliant to be back in Burnt Mill, the place that set me on my road.
It’s been brilliant to watch your star shine in the years since I left
It’s been incredible to watch your turnaround under the amazing Helena Mills
It’s a really proud moment to speak here in what’s now an Outstanding School
That’s a testament to your hard work, your parents’ support and some amazing teachers.
But what I love about Ms Mills approach is this
She’s ambitious for you to be able to compete anywhere in the world: here in Britain, in Europe, in China, in America
I’m here to say that I think it was time politicians signed up to same ambitions as your teachers and parents – and stopped running you down and started backing you up.
It’s time for a government that stopped attacking you and started backing you.
Right now there’s just too many people who want to tell you that’s nothing possible, when you live in a world of possibility.
The truth is the future is going to be amazing.
But that future is going to be unlocked by you.
Your generation holds the key.
By the time you’re my age, you’ll have seen a revolution in artificial intelligence, robotics, mapping our own genome to personalise our healthcare, generating energy, storing it. They’ll even invent smart-phones that don’t run out of battery by 4pm.
Massive changes in infotech, in biotech, in nanotech will not only change the world, they’ll create extraordinary new products, new services, new jobs, new companies and new opportunities for you.
When I was here back in the 80s, we had one clunky old Commodore PC in the science lab upstairs that you could sneak on at lunchtimes when the physics teacher Mr Dunbar let you.
Today, Britain’s computer gaming industry is £2 billion big and gives jobs to thousands of people.
It’s bigger than our film or music industry.
Its technology is hard-wired into our most advanced products from smart phones to planes to cars.
I’m told the infotainment system in a Range Rover is now worth more than the engine.
Like you, I had some great teachers when I was here.
One of the teachers inspired my love of science. In fact she ended up as head of science here.
Ruth Byrne wasn’t just my teacher. She was my mum.
And when she died of cancer aged 52 she left me with a vivid sense not only of how much science has done – but how much left science has to do.
And beating cancer is just one of the things you’ll see happen this century.
You’ll be among the leaders of this revolutionary change in the years to come – if you get the backing you deserve.
We are amongst the greatest pioneers on the planet.
Here in Britain we cracked the atom, decoded DNA, invented the world wide web.
Today it’s an old Burnt Mill boy, Michael Arthur, who now leads one of the world’s greatest universities, University College London.
He started his education sitting where you are.
If people like me can make it into the Cabinet, if Michael can lead one of the world’s greatest universities, then so can you.
But here’s the BUT.
If our country is to help unlock this amazing new future we need you to do well.
The truth is the prizes in the future are going to be bigger.
But the race is going to be tougher.
You have to compete in a world that is far harder than I did.
When I was here, I don’t think we worked as hard as you.
We spent a lot of time thinking about the fights with Netteswell down the road.
Or how to get served in the off-licence at the Willow Beauty.
Music was as important to us as it probably is to you.
I was totally into the Jam and the Clash – and you’ll find this hard to believe now, it inspired me to get a mohican not long after I left. Those were the days.
You’re in a much tougher race. A race where the competition is global.
This Easter, I was in Bangalore.
I spent a Saturday afternoon with the Chief Executive of a major British manufacturing company on the shop-floor of his Indian joint-venture.
‘Here in India’ he told me ‘I’ve the choice of 850,000 engineering graduates every year.
Let’s say 15% are fit to hire – actually the real number is 50% – but let’s say its 15%. It means I have hundreds of applicants for every job. Quality wise they’re just as good as my apprentices in [the Midlands].’
‘What are they paid?’ I asked.
‘About £5-7,000 a year’ came the reply.
That kind of challenge means we have to work harder to keep you ahead of the game. Because unless we constantly get smarter we will get poorer.
Your head is a great teacher because she’s determined that you’re equipped to win in this world.
But that is why we need to stop running young people down and start backing them up.
With new answers to help them get on in life.
Look at how the cards are stacked against young people today.
Young people today are now more likely than pensioners to be living in poverty.
Young people today are the first generation in a century to be poorer than the generation before them.
One in six young people are still out of work.
There’s over 5,000 fewer apprenticeships for young people than there was three years ago.
It is now harder to get into BAE Systems’ apprenticeship programme than to get into Oxford.
If you get into university, you leave with £44,000 of debt that takes until your early 50s to pay off.
Those lucky enough to get work, have seen their earnings fall by over £1,600 a year on average since 2010.
Young people’s household income is down by a fifth – in effect, they’re working Friday afternoon for free.
When I left school, a deposit for a house took six month’s pay.
Now you have to save every penny you earn for more than two years. A house for a first time buyer cost £36,000. Now it costs £190,000.
Result? Only one in six of under 35s now own their own home when it used to be more than one in four – and there’s half a million more young people living with their parents than in 2010.
Oh, and just for good measure, young people are now expected to work three more years before they get their state pension.
You have to ask yourself: can they make it any harder for young people?
That’s why it makes me so furious when people decide to add insult to injury, and start moaning about young peoples’ attitude.
There’s one writer who calls this generation, Generation Wuss.
Last year, Jamie Oliver, who I generally like, was labelling young people ‘whingers’, ‘wet behind the ears’ and ‘too wet for work’ – and the Mayor of London promptly backed him up.
The Daily Mail is always running stories about companies like Greencore complaining that they have to employ East Europeans because Brits won’t take low paid jobs.
And it wasn’t so long ago a group of Tory MPs actually wrote a book [Britannia Unchained] claiming ‘lazy’ Brits preferred a lie in to hard day’s work.
And a while ago, a Tory minister was saying that our young people lacked ‘grit’
How dare they!
While you’re slogging hard – they’re sloping off putting Parliament on a three day week and playing Candy Crush in committee hearings.
When is this going to stop?
Have you noticed, when you hear politicians slagging off young people, it’s never their own kids they’re talking about? It’s always someone else’s.
I’m sick of it.
Our country needs your rebellious optimism now more than ever before.
We need politicians to stop attacking young people and start backing young people.
I’m someone who’s done every job under the sun.
I started working life frying chips in McDonalds in the High.
I’ve been a white van driver for Johnsons, which I managed to smash up by reversing into some scaffolding. I’ve swept floors. I’ve picked fruit. I’ve sold suits. I’ve sold photocopiers – badly. And I’ve started a hi-tech business that created jobs for others.
I’ve learned that any job is better than no job.
But a good job is better than a bad one.
And right now we need more good jobs – and you need more help getting them.
That’s why there’s one big change that is top of our ‘to do’ list.
The biggest change in the professional jobs market has been the boom in unpaid internships.
There’s now around 100,000 internship opportunities a year; most in London and many unpaid.
And more than one in three graduates employed by firms have worked for the firm before – often as an intern
But here’s the challenge.
The average unpaid internship is three months long and can cost over £930 a month.
If you’re from a low income background you just can’t afford to do that.
The result is that the best jobs are getting locked up by those with the richest parents.
That isn’t right. It isn’t fair. And it needs to change.
This change has got be part of a wider ambition to once more put the power of government behind you – and not against you.
Like a new Tech Bacc, so young people who want take a professional and technical route to work, have got a gold standard qualification.
A Youth Allowance to support anyone under 21 studying at college.
More high-quality apprenticeships so by 2025 as many young people can start an apprenticeship each year as enter university – and new Technical Degrees so apprentices can study up to degree level skills.
More university degrees which cost less to study.
A jobs guarantee for the under 25s so no-one is ever again left to languish on the dole.
A minimum wage at £8 an hour and a ban on exploitative zero hours contracts.
And action to build 200,000 homes a year by 2020 so you stand a chance of getting a place to call your own once more.
These are the changes we WILL make if we’re elected next year and they’re changes that will put government back on your side once more.
ANGER AND OPTIMISM
You might call this an action plan for optimism.
It’s definitely a plan to put government behind you – not against you – once more.
It’s a plan that’ll help you build a future for all of us.
I feel so strongly about this because growing up in Harlow taught me that in politics you need more than anger.
You need optimism.
Here in Harlow I learnt most of the lessons that lasted me a lifetime.
My Mum and Dad came here in the 1970s.
They were drawn by a sense of idealism.
When I talk to my Dad about why he came, he said what he loved about Harlow was that it was a leap of faith.
A new town, built by a can-do spirit.
Our grandparents founded this town while we still had rationing.
It didn’t stop them.
Couples came from the bombed out East End in search of a job and a home and somewhere to raise a family and build a new future.
They were pioneers.
And great public servants like my mum and dad came because they wanted to help build around those families a strong community.
Like the sports scene that gave us one of the best local football leagues where Glen Hoddle, the most famous Burnt Mill boy trained.
Or the arts scene that grew-up around the Playhouse.
Or the incredible voluntary sector that gave the town a real sense of compassion in action.
My mum and dad wanted to part of that great effort to build a better place where people could get on.
A town of ambition and aspiration and compassion in action.
When I was growing up here there was a lot of anger about the government that seemed determined to divide working people.
Everyday I used to hear my parents talk about how tough it was doing their best when the government was cutting everything so hard.
From them I learned my sense of compassion and anger at injustice – and that’s what inspired me to join Harlow Labour party when I was 15.
But back in the 80s, we also had a sense of optimism and aspiration.
Optimism born of a confidence that things can be better.
And that’s what I came to see was the most important thing of all.
But when people give up hope they turn to extremists – as they did in our country back in the 1930s – and which many are doing again today
Today I serve one of the youngest constituencies in Britain.
Everything I learned in politics has taught me that right now, there isn’t anyone better to inspire us than you.
But our job in politics is to match your optimism with a plan.
That’s what the builders of Harlow had back in the 1940s.
They had a vision of a better country.
Not just for some.
But for all.
Those dreamers built this town.
They built this school.
And they built a better, richer, fairer country.
A country where people could build better lives.
As they did here in this town.
Today we need to rediscover the optimism, the idealism and the impatience of the people who built this school and built this town,
That is how futures are really built.
That’s how you will build once again a greater Britain.
#InclusiveGrowth14 – No Place Left Behind: A debate on the future for regional growth with Lord Heseltine and Lord Adonis, chaired by Katja Hall of the CBI – 2 December 2014
I am delighted to share news of this afternoon’s inaugral conference of the APPG on Inclusive Growth.
The day before an Autumn Statement expected to be full of announcements on regional development and growth Michael Heseltine and Andrew Adonis, the two leading advocates of regional and local devolution, regional growth and business engagement discussed the topic of regional growth – chaired by the brilliant Katja Hall, Deputy Director of the CBI.
The debate continued on twitter at #inclusivegrowth14
You can still view a video of the debate here: www.policyreview.tv/video/1000/7715
It’s well worth a watch!
After the debate we were joined by Sir Bob Kerslake, head of the Civil Service for a number of private seminars on a range of topics.
Today was the inaugural event of the APPG on Inclusive Growth.
The All Party Group on Inclusive Growth brings together senior politicians from across the main parties to discuss Britain’s economic future.
In July 2014 a cross-party group was set up to establish the All Party Parliamentary Group on Inclusive Growth. The APPG is now working with business, finance, trade unions, faith groups and civil society with the aim of forging a new consensus on reform of markets.
For more information about the APPG on Inclusive Growth please visit our website here: www.inclusivegrowth.co.uk
I have enclosed some photos of today’s event below.
With all best wishes
I have just returned from the West Midlands Labour Annual Conference at Warwick University in Coventry.
It was an excellent couple of days with great opportunities to engage with fellow MPs, members and regional staff.
One of the most important things to come out of the conference was the final draft of Labour’s West Midland’s Economic Plan which I helped work on.
You can download a full PDF version of the plan using the link below.
All the best
My letter to Sir Albert Bore: “Power to our people: A Birmingham Constitutional Convention” – 19 September 2014
Please see below my letter to City Council Leader Sir Albert Bore, dated today, entitled “Power to our people: A Birmingham Constitutional Convention”