Lucy Powell PPC for the forthcoming by-election here in Manchester Central.
And, conference, if elected I would be the first ever Labour woman MP for the City of Manchester.
But I’m not here to talk about me. I’m here to talk about plight of many families across Manchester Central
Out knocking on doors every day, I meet family after family who tell me they are struggling to make ends meet. Some have several jobs, but still struggle to get by. Others have too few hours but have seen their tax credits slashed. And some have no job at all but are desperate to work.
Time again, the actions of this Tory-Lib Dem government are making their struggle harder and harder, not better.
The evidence backs this up.
Research I recently commissioned showed that female unemployment in Manchester has risen by nearly thirty percent since the election.
This sharp rise in female unemployment has been accelerated by this government’s complete failure to understand the lives of women and families. They’ve cut the lifeline from so many with changes to tax credits, by slashing Sure Start budgets, and by leaving many women in a position where working costs more than not working.
Child poverty in Manchester is also on the up. New, shocking figures, highlighted in the brilliant campaign by the Manchester Evening News, show that today over 40,000 children in Manchester are living below the breadline. In Manchester Central alone over 50% of all children live in relative poverty.
These sorts of figures should bring shame on our country.
And no, Labour didn’t eradicate child poverty but we made huge inroads - progress that is quickly being wiped out under this government.
But let’s not misunderstand the lives of these families.
The people that I meet every day in Manchester are proud; they are happy; they certainly wouldn’t describe themselves as living in poverty. They don’t want handouts or food parcels; they don’t want a label.
They just want to get a wage they can live off, get the hours they need, get training and support to better themselves and some good affordable childcare to help them in work.
Conference, is that really too much to ask in the 21st century?
Tackling these basic needs must be at the heart of our offer at the next election.