contributed by Emily Pritty, Hitchin and Harpenden CLP Membership Officer
Being born in 1979, my entire childhood was under a Tory government. With activist Labour parents who worked in housing and the NHS I joined the Labour party in my youth and know the difference Labour can make in government in these areas.
Attending this conference was an overwhelming experience and reminded me deeply of what Labour stands for. I have a firm belief in social justice, reducing inequality and acting with compassion and an obligation to look after those who are in the most vulnerable position in society to allow the country to flourish as a whole. This was reinforced at the weekend. Over the last couple of years, I have been so focussed on the enormity of Brexit and the disaster if Tory Brexit goes ahead, I hadn’t had appreciated the true and devastating scale of harm this Tory government has already inflicted on the most vulnerable in our society.
Listening to delegates from around the UK about the impact of the Tory policies on the lives of individual’s in their communities and was truly shocking and reinforced how much a Labour government is needed. The subjects for debate were:
Rights for migrant women – Speakers exposed the “hostile environment of the 2017 regulations requiring undocumented migrant and refugee women to pay up front for antenatal and maternity care in the NHS putting mothers and babies at risk – a Labour Government would rescind this policy. 1500 women seeking asylum are locked up indefinitely in detention centres each year. Migrant women are at risk of gendered violence and Tory immigration policies mean they do not have access to secure and safe exit from the violent situations they endure.
Universal Credit and Employment Support – heard how austerity programme is further entrenching inequality and that 86% of cuts have fallen on women since 2010, including the impact of the 2 child limit which is austerity imposed directly on children. Too many people told of child poverty, hungry children and reliance on foodbanks. The UN rapporteur summarised in 2017 that “there is such a gender dimension to [austerity] that if … a group of misogynists [were brought together].. to make a system work for men and not women they wouldn’t have come up with many ideas that are not already in place.”
We also debated Abortion Rights and the barbaric policy in Northern Ireland; the underfunding of Social Care and the disproportionate impact on women; Pensions and WASPI women and Violence against women and Girls. In the Early Years, Education and Childcare debate Kay Tart spoke brilliantly about the impact of direct assessment on reception aged children. I spoke about Women in the Workforce in a break out session with Shami Chakrabarti on equality law, and my experience as an employment lawyer of advising many women who have been disadvantaged at work due to maternity and pregnancy discrimination.
Finally, it was enthralling and inspiring to hear the many speakers talking about equality and justice. From the female opposition MP from Zimbabwe who had everyone singing “We shall overcome” to Jeremy Corbyn talking about his meeting with European socialist leaders, to Dawn Butler who was my personal favourite in her championing of equality for women and girls of all race, class and creed whilst singing along to “Something inside so strong” and making it clear racists, antisemites, sexists, misogynists are not welcome and have no place in the Labour party.