Thursday, July 28, 2016

News: Owen Smith outlines pledges in Rotherham speech

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Last month, the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham was visited by Leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn MP. This month it was chosen by his challenger to that role, Owen Smith MP, as he set out twenty policy pledges for "Labour's future."

The AMP is home to a number of world-class companies and research organisations. It is a joint venture between public and private sector organisations including land-owner and developer, Harworth Estates, to create an internationally recognised centre for engineering, innovation, research and manufacturing excellence.

Backed by Government and European-funding, industry and academia have combined to create multimillion pound facilities at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). At the same time, companies such as Rolls-Royce have invested in new manufacturing facilities on the site of the former Orgreave Coking Plant.

Outlining the themes of his leadership campaign, Owen Smith, said: "This speech feels like the best expression of what I feel about our country right now, and what I want to fix in our country, and why I'm standing for this job - the Labour party needs to take a new course, a new generation needs us.

"We need revolution not evolution. Not some misty eyed romanticism about a revolution to overthrow capitalism. But a cold eyed and practical revolution."

On choosing South Yorkshire to give his speech, the MP said: "I wanted to do it here at Orgreave for two reasons really. One, Orgreave symbolises so much about me and my politics. I grew up in the South Wales Valleys and the seat that I represent, Pontypridd, a town that was once surrounded by 13 pits and a coke works, much like Orgreave - all gone now of course. I wanted to do it here to remind us of the great battles, the great victories that we have fought as a movement, and the losses that we have endured too."

The MP used the opportunity to call for a Hillsborough-style public enquiry into the confrontation that took place on the site in 1984 between police and picketing miners.

Smith continued: "The other reason that I wanted to do it on this site, in this fantastic Advanced Manufacturing Park, is that it is such a symbol of what we can do when we win. It's a fantastic illustration of the power of government to do good. It's a brilliant example of what we can build when we are at our best. And we've got to remember that we can only build places like this when we win."

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His speech focused on his desire to end austerity and included the start of a series of "unbreakable promises" on fair employment, fair taxes and fair funding.

Pledges he described as radical but credible include banning zero hour contracts, repealing the Trade Union Act, a wealth tax on the top 1% of earners to fund increased spending in the NHS and building 300,000 houses a year.

The Welsh politician proposes a major investment scheme to create jobs and improve infrastructure - A "British New Deal" based on borrowing more. This includes a commitment to invest £50 billion in the North of England, and to bring forward HS3 - a high speed rail link connecting the North's great cities which could significantly reduce journey times across the region.

He said: "The cities of the North in centuries past have been the great powerhouse of our economy and they must be again. It is not enough for us to rely on London and the South East to power Britain. We need to capture the ingenuity, the innovation, the skills and the know how of the North of England - of Wales, of Scotland, of the East of England - places that have been left behind and feel left behind. I will do something about it, I promise you that.

"HS3 across the Pennines. HS2, delivering not a drain of resources from the North but a push of resource into the North. That's what we need. We need to go further and we need to be bolder. Our economy is far too London-centric and this is in part because, both our existing transport infrastructure, and new investment, are all concentrated far too much in London. London is fantastic, and we wouldn't want to diminish it, but we need "mini Londons" across the country."

Images: Owen Smith Campaign / Twitter

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