Memorable moments at the Labour conference

Wednesday 24 September 2014

We offered food (essential for a lunchtime meeting) and distributed Labour conference 3hundreds of invitations (I found the morning coffee queue a particularly good place to hand them out). We also made our invitations as interesting and engaging as possible (even including a prize quiz).

But would anyone come along to our fringe event at the Labour Party Conference yesterday? Happily nearly 50 people did.

Of course, food and quiz notwithstanding, it was probably the terrific panel that did it, and, I hope, a growing interest in the issues we’re talking about and recognition that they need to be addressed by whoever wins the General Election next year. Certainly the energy and the engagement in the room gives me lots of reasons to feel that the conversation Young Women’s Trust we wanted to begin is really getting under way now.

The other thing we offered would-be attendees at our event was the chance to watch Ed Miliband’s speech on TV afterwards; a surprisingly tempting offer at conference for all those who haven’t got a seat in the main hall to hear the Leader’s speech in person.

So several of us stayed on to watch his 64-minute feat of memory and reality kicked in, but not because I couldn’t see any support for the changes we want to see. Indeed, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women & Equalities Gloria de Piero had already told our event that her party is committed to ending zero hours contracts.

We highlighted the particular impact of zero hours contracts in our recent report and it was the lack of acknowledgement of the particular impact upon young women of these sorts of issues that concerned me. What about those low-paid jobs that Mr Miliband rightly wants to do away with? Four out of five of those who have had minimum wage jobs in the last ten years are women.

That said, there was one moment in his long speech when Ed Miliband hit the nail on the head. Saying he wants more apprenticeships, the Labour Leader invited Elizabeth Shepherd, a 20-year-old apprentice auto-electrician on to the stage.

He turned to this young woman said: “I think it’s fair to say, Elizabeth that you are breaking through in what’s been pretty much a man’s world.”