September and October form party conference season, the time of year members of major political parties gather to hear from their leaders and debate the key issues of the day. Clearly, getting large numbers of people together from across the country in one place, often in cramped conditions, isn’t a good idea in the midst of a pandemic. So, while physical party conferences won’t be taking place this year, last week Labour held a virtual conference, giving party members the ability to participate in a range of sessions and to hear from party leaders on the crisis facing the country right now.
While Keir Starmer’s speech was the centrepiece of the virtual conference–setting out how under his leadership the party would stand for fairness, openness and security, it was the Shadow Chancellor’s speech which was of the greatest importance to Crawley.
Anneliese Dodds is a great friend of the town, she previously served as one of our MEPs and I have welcomed her to Crawley on many occasions, most recently taking her to Gatwick to discuss the extent of the impact the Government’s restrictions are having on our local economy and securing her support for our campaign to save Crawley’s jobs. In her speech she spoke of the importance of providing targeted support for hard-hit sectors to save jobs through the pandemic, while criticising the haphazard way public money has been wasted through poorly-targeted interventions so far. For Crawley, the hardest hit town in the UK, targeted support will be vital to getting our local economy back on its feet and saving residents from years of unemployment.
Following her speech, we did hear from the Chancellor that there would be a scheme to replace furlough at the end of the month. This is a positive step from the Government, unfortunately reading through the detail it’s clear the support will be far too little to offer any hope of saving jobs in Crawley’s largest employment sectors. The Treasury needs to think again and act to save our community from mass-unemployment, while stopping viable industries from being lost from the UK.