AAD: Thursday 24 May Dawn Butler

24 May 2018

Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent Central, and Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, told delegates today: ‘It’s an absolute disgrace that this Conservative government is giving so much money, each year, to the privatised train companies to run the railways so badly.


‘This week we heard how the privatised train companies were instructing staff to ignore disabled people if allowing them to get on a train would make that service late. Withdrawing help from disabled people is disgraceful.


‘This week we heard about a hypothecated tax to fund the NHS. We must remember that the Tories’ mission is to privatise the NHS. I know the Tories hate me – but I wear that as a badge of pride.


‘My dad’s first job, like most of the Windrush generation, was on the railway when he first came here. My cousin works on the railway. And when I worked at the GMB I looked after the staff at ASLEF – there were no public fall outs, just stiff talks behind closed doors – so I feel I’m among friends.


‘Those of us who are trade unionists have always known the value of trade unions. While those who have tried to destroy the trade union movement have never understood trade unions or what they do.


‘As a black woman – just in case you didn’t notice! – working in computers, then the employment service, then PCS, the GMB, and now Parliament, I walk into a lot of rooms which are white and male. The structural barriers in our society, and in the workplace, need to be undone. We need to recognise the privilege that comes with being who you are. As a black woman I was always told you had to work twice as hard, and be twice as good, to get to where you want to be.


‘You’re visible – and invisible. If you do something really well, no one notices. But if you do something wrong, it’s “Well, what did you f***ing well expect?”


‘James, my assistant, is white and male and I’ve lost count of the number of times that people we’re going to see assume he’s the MP – called Dawn? – and I’m the assistant. They talk to him and then, when they realise they’re wrong, and turn to talk to me, it’s usually time to go!


‘I’m going to end on a song, Something Inside So Strong by Labi Siffre, but I’m not going to sing it, because my voice has gone after Mick kept me out last night: “The higher you build your barriers, the taller I become / The farther you take my rights away, the faster I will run / You can deny me, you can decide to turn your face away / No matter, ’cause there’s something inside so strong”.’









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