Although very low on the list of sacrifices that coronavirus has forced on people, I was sorry not to have my annual catch-up with local government friends and colleagues from across the UK at the Labour Party Conference.
The online replacement exceeded my expectations though, and the visibility of councillors across the event demonstrated the increasing recognition of our importance to Labour.
The highlight was undoubtedly Keir Starmer’s keynote speech. His message was clear: Labour is under new leadership.
He has set out his vision for Britain to be the “best place to grow up and grow old in”, and for Labour to champion the values of decency, opportunity, fairness, compassion and security.
“I am proud our new leadership has embodied a progressive patriotism and care for our communities”
The empty slogans that the Prime Minister is so fond of were notably absent from Keir’s speech. Instead, he acknowledged the distinct divisions in Britain and outlined a roadmap for closing these gaps.
These include gaps in academic attainment among school pupils and “the deep injustice that a child’s future is determined by their postcode, not their potential”, and in the funding of social care and support for care workers who are “under-paid, under-recognised, and under-appreciated”.
I have been delighted by the interest Keir has shown in local government, and his recognition of the work of Labour councils and councillors. He has worked with LGA Labour to link lead councillors with our Shadow Cabinet team and created wider sounding boards of leading councillors to improve mutual engagement between national and local politicians.
Britain needs a government that it can trust, and I am proud our new leadership has embodied a progressive patriotism and care for our communities.
Keir has established Labour as a credible Opposition, demonstrating the sort of constructive criticism that is needed in a time of crisis: mature enough to support the Government when they do the right thing, but unafraid to highlight their incompetence when they get it wrong.
I hope the country does take another look at Labour under Keir Starmer – because if they do, they’ll see a prime minister in waiting.