Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry stopped off at Crawley on the general election campaign trail.
She was shown around Tilgate Park’s nature reserve by her party’s candidate in Crawley Peter Lamb, who is also leader of the borough council.
Earlier in the day (Friday November 8) she had met with workers to discuss Labour’s plans to improve conditions for women in the workplace.
These include increasing statutory maternity pay, tackling sexual harassment, giving workers the right to choose working hours that suit them and requiring large employers to introduce a menopause workplace policy to break the stigma.
She said: “I had a meeting earlier today with women of all different types of backgrounds midwives, people who work in schools, landscape gardeners, cooks and people who work at the airport in security or as cabin crew and it was just really interesting to hear the reality of their lives versus what their legal rights are.
“We know there’s absolutely no point in people having rights if they are not enforced, if they do not know what they are and if employers take the mickey.
“The most important part of our announcement is that we are going to set up something a bit like the Health and Safety Executive that has a job of checking to make sure things are being done properly. We will set up an organisation whose positive job will be to check up on employers to make sure they are not discriminating against women.”
She added: “Statistics and academic studies are all very well but it’s when you talk to real people who are at the sharp end of this stuff it gives you real fire in your belly because you can see the faces of the people whose lives you can change.”
Ms Thornberry was also asked about Labour’s spending commitments and if this would mean increased taxation for the majority of ordinary people.
In response she said they would have a fully-costed manifesto and suggested over the last decade the very richest and the biggest companies had seen their taxes cut. Labour would be asking ‘those with the broadest shoulders to help a bit more because the inequality in our country has gotten much worse’.
Meanwhile on the climate agenda, Labour would be looking at a tidal power project in Wales, more offshore wind farms and saying to local communities if they generate electricity through new schemes they can share the profits.
She added: “Far too often on the green agenda people are told it’s their individual responsibility. To a certain extent it is, but there has to be strong government leadership and this has to bring communities with you and persuade people.”
On the issue of better funding for schools, she described the fact that some teachers were expected to look after classes of 30 or more children as ‘an impossible job to do properly’.
She explained: “Fairer funding begins with making sure that there’s an assistant in every class, funding properly special educational needs so that these kids get the support they need in order to do well and what has happened to our breakfast clubs and after-school clubs because those things are really important as well.”
On social care Ms Thornberry believed it was ‘another really good example of how self-defeating austerity has been’.
She described how people without care are more likely to end up in a crisis at A&E, something that costs more in the long run.
She said: “I’m a true believer in making sure we invest in social care because I think in the end it saves us money and it treats people the way they deserve to be treated.”