Thursday night saw Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, visit Cambridge Regional College as part of a fundraising dinner which also saw him speak on the future of employment in the United Kingdom.
The Park restaurant was staffed by talented young students attending Cambridge Regional College who made the night go brilliantly, both in terms of the delicious food and the excellent service. There were around seventy people present for the evening, which was a good opportunity to meet other Labour members from across Cambridgeshire, as well as to promote the efforts of the Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Dave Baigent.
Whilst Tom’s talk was what we had come for, meeting other members was also a really useful aspect of the evening. With the looming elections and referendum, being able to put faces to local names and to talk about our experiences was invaluable – there were a lot of passionate people who were happy to offer each other their time, skills and contacts for the coming challenges.
I would certainly encourage people to try to meet up with their fellow members if at all possible (no, not just for dinners with speaking guests!). Pub quizzes, group volunteering for charity, a board game night or even just a curry would all be great places to get to know each other and your local party’s strengths, as well as raising visibility for Labour in local communities.
That aside, Tom’s speech was the main event of the evening. In it, he outlined a probable vision of the employment landscape in the next few decades. Although it may seem like the stuff of sci-fi, increased automation will lead to a drop of a third of all staff in the retail industry, driverless vehicles may well replace driven HGVs, and jobs in a variety of other sectors could be affected. Some forecasts put this change in the UK’s job market as being worth around 11,000,000 jobs, jobs which will become redundant and so require us to seek new industries and paths for the British workforce.
With an emphasis on the technology and science sectors, such as those around Cambridgeshire, it should be possible to alter the emphasis of British industry without losing those jobs. For some it may require retraining (at institutions such as CRC), as well as a shift in our current education model – but in order to reap the benefits we will need to make sure 2020 sees a Labour victory, as only Labour is acknowledging this looming change and planning accordingly.
It was a fun evening with an important message, and (despite not winning the Jeremy Corbyn t-shirt in the raffle) it was an excellent opportunity to strengthen local ties and meet some of the other wonderful people who make up the different wards across Cambridgeshire. We’ll have to get planning for something in South Cambs soon…