We must make the law work for women.
We must make the law work for women.

Friends, it’s been a year, but I’ve got to say, it feels like nothing’s changed. Matt Hancock’s still making a prat of himself. Liz Truss is still having breaks from reality in public. Suella’s still on manoeuvres against Rishi. Rishi’s still too frightened to sack her.

The economy’s still wrecked. The rivers are still full of sewage. Waiting lists are still rising. Schools are still falling apart. It’s like we’re trapped in some never-ending time loop of Tory incompetence. The Groundhog Day of Gross Dereliction. The Multiverse of Crapness.

But conference, if the British people decide to break this cycle, get rid of this government, and give us the chance to fix the damage they have done, we will be ready for the task.

And for Yvette, Shabana and me – the first time either Party has had three women in our roles – we know one of our biggest jobs will be rebuilding the criminal justice system, restoring the rule of law, and tackling the injustices that plague our country.

And that must include renewing our fight against the most widespread, most historic, and most entrenched injustice of all. Our society’s treatment of women.

We walk in the footsteps of the Legends. The Giantesses, the Vivionns of the past, Who fought for Equal Representation. The Right to Vote. The Equal Pay Act. And the Abortion Rights Act.

We pay tribute to the women in recent years who have fought to extend maternity rights. To eliminate the Tampon Tax. To outlaw Upskirting and Revenge Porn. And to bring reproductive freedom to Northern Ireland.

We applaud Anneliese, Bridget and Angela, who right now are leading the fight to get misogyny treated as a hate crime. To tackle the poison of ‘rape culture’ in our schools. And to close the gender pay gap.

And with the support of our whole movement, over the coming years Yvette, Shabana and I will dedicate ourselves to Keir Starmer’s mission to halve the horrific level of violent crime against our country’s women and girls.

But there are further injustices we must address if we are going to create the truly equal society, that our mothers and grand-mothers fought so hard to achieve, and which our daughters and grand-daughters have the right to demand. And I want to announce action on three of those injustices today.

For too long, women in co-habiting couples have been left with no rights when those relationships come to an end. If there is no joint property or shared parental dues, a man can leave his partner with nothing, especially if he has the means to take it to court and – thanks to the Tories – she does not.

It is time we reviewed this issue in England and Wales, just as it has been in New Zealand, Scotland and Ireland. No woman should be forced to get married or stay in an unhappy relationship, just to avoid ending up on the street.

For too long as well, a woman suffering sexual harassment at work has faced a terrible choice. If she speaks out, the man responsible may be investigated, but even then she still risks losing her job and her other employment rights while he gets a slap on the wrist.

Conference, two-thirds of female surgeons recently admitted that they have suffered sexual harassment at the hands of senior male colleagues. A third say they had been groped and assaulted even when they were in the operating theatre!

And if women of that professional standing did not feel they could speak out, what chance is there for a teenage intern on a television show?

So it is time we offered the same protections to people reporting sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination in the workplace as we do to other whistleblowers. No woman should be forced to stay quiet for fear of being sacked.

And finally, conference, for too long millions of women have had to live life in the shadow of a stalker, afraid every single day to walk out of their door or switch on their computer and be told by the police that no action can be taken until ‘something more serious’ happens. That is why, in our country it is two hundred times more likely for a woman to be a victim of stalking than it is for her stalker to end up in prison.

So it is time we treated stalking with the seriousness it deserves. Strengthening the use of Stalking Protection Orders. Developing the right for women to know the identity of their online stalkers. And working to end the sick practice of stalkers abusing our court system to bring vexatious claims against their victims. Because no woman should be forced to wait until she is attacked to get the protection she deserves.

These are the practical changes that only a Labour government will deliver: on stalking; whistleblowing; and co-habitation. Making women better protected in the streets, online, at work, and in their homes.

And over the coming months I will review the current laws in these areas through the eyes of the women who are having to navigate them. Supported by the advice of experts like Marina Wheeler KC, who has spent years working on harassment and discrimination cases. And Nicola Thorp, who has spoken so courageously about her own experiences as a victim of stalking.

All of us sharing the belief that no woman should have to live in fear. No woman should have to suffer in silence. And no woman should have to hope for the best when it comes to keeping a roof over her head.

Those are the next set of injustices we must fight. And Conference, that is the difference between a Tory government that pretends to care about women’s rights. And a Labour Party that actually delivers them.

Thank you.


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