Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn took the stage to a standing ovation ahead of an electrifying closing speech at Labour Party Conference on Tuesday (September 24) – brought forward by one day after the UK supreme court’s bombshell decision which ruled Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament was unlawful.
Corbyn said the unanimous supreme court decision meant that we are at an “extraordinary and precarious moment in our country’s history.
“The people will have their say – tomorrow Parliament will return,” he said, adding that “this government will be held to account for what it has done. This unelected, unaccountable prime minister should now resign.”
‘Trump deal Brexit’
The Labour leader argued that now “this crisis can only be settled with a general election”.
But a general election can only happen once a no deal Brexit is taken once and for all off the table, he noted, as he highlighted the dangers of no deal, which he said in practice would mean a “Trump deal Brexit”.
“That would be the opposite of taking back control,” he said. “It would be handing our country’s future to the US president and his America First policy. Of course Trump is delighted to have a compliant British prime minister in his back pocket. A Trump Deal Brexit would mean US corporations getting the green light for a comprehensive takeover of our public services.”
Corbyn outlined Labour’s Brexit strategy going forward, which would include negotiating, three months after winning an election, “a sensible deal based on the terms we have long advocated and discussed with the EU trade unions and businesses: a new customs union a close single market relationship and guarantees of rights and protections”.
Within six months of being elected, Corbyn said, “We will put that deal to a public vote alongside remain. And as a Labour prime minister I pledge to carry out whatever the people decide.”
‘No one left behind’
The Labour leader went on to outline the transformative policies the Labour party would bring in so “that no one is held back and no community left behind”.
“We’ll bring about the biggest extension of rights for workers our country has ever seen,” he said. “We’ll scrap zero-hours contracts; introduce a £10 living wage – including for young people from the age of 16; give all workers equal rights from their first day in the job; take action on the gender, disability and ethnicity pay gaps; and introduce flexible working time for workers experiencing the menopause.”
Corbyn went on to pledge that the Tory Trade Union Act would be scrapped in Labour’s first 100 days in government.
“Labour will never tell people they have to work until they’re 75,” he said. “A Labour government will mean better wages, greater security, and more say. Putting power in the hands of the people. And we’ll bring rail, mail, water and the national grid into public ownership so the essential services that we all rely on are run by and for the public not for profit.”
Corbyn told conference of nine-year-old boy Luis he met, who is being denied life-saving treatment for cystic fibrosis.
“Luis is denied the medicine he needs because its manufacturer refuses to sell the drug to the NHS for an affordable price,” he explained.
Labour would tackle this, Corbyn said, by using compulsory licensing to secure generic versions of patented medicines.
“We’ll tell the drugs companies that if they want public research funding then they’ll have to make their drugs affordable for all,” he noted. “And we will create a new publicly owned generic drugs manufacturer to supply cheaper medicines to our NHS saving our health service money and saving lives.”
After he pledged Labour would also end prescription charges in England, as has been done in Wales in Scotland, Corbyn turned to social care and education – pledging to introduce free personal care for those who need it, and abolish university tuition fees, as well as childcare fees. Vocational and technical education would be free as well.
All pledges, Corbyn assured conference, will be achieved by taxation on the top five percent.
The Labour leader said it was the party’s job to “get our economy working in every town and city” as he outlined an ambitious programme of investment in transport, energy and broadband infrastructure.
“That’s the scale of Labour’s ambition,” he said. “No more tinkering around the edges — because these aren’t abstract numbers on a spreadsheet. They stand for an economic transformation that will change your daily life.”
The Labour leader told of the party’s vision of tackling what he called a “climate emergency” by bringing down emissions, taking on “the big polluters” and carrying out a massive public investment scheme in renewable energy and green technology.
“That’s not a burden,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to kickstart a Green Industrial Revolution that will create hundreds of thousands of high-skill high-wage unionised jobs as we triple solar power, double onshore wind and bring about a seven-fold increase in offshore wind projects.”
‘Bring people together’
Corbyn lambasted a Boris Johson-led Tory government for sowing division and fuelling the far right, and said Labour would do the opposite.
“We will bring people together,” he said. “A Labour government will transform our economy and communities. We stand not just for the 52 per cent or the 48 per cent but for the 99 per cent.
“The Labour government I lead will take on those who really run our country – the financial speculators, tax dodgers and big polluters – so the real wealth creators, the people of this country, can have the jobs, services and futures they deserve.”
The Labour leader praised ordinary people he’s met who he considers leaders in their communities — and said the party will work with such grassroots campaigners to inform their future government.
“I will be a different kind of Prime Minister,” he said. “Not there from a sense of born-to-rule entitlement. Certainly not there for some personal power trip. There because I want to put government on your side. To put power and wealth into your hands — there because I believe government should work for you.”
Concluding his speech to another standing ovation and thundering applause, he inspired conference to go into a general election confidently.
“The tide is turning,” he said. “The years of retreat and defeat are coming to an end. Together, we’ll take on the privileged, and put people back in power.”
Unite GS Len McCluskey – ‘Inspiring’ speech
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey hailed Corbyn’s speech.
“These are extraordinary times and this has been an incredible conference,” he said. “From tackling the climate crisis to rebuilding manufacturing to ending the indecency of food poverty, Labour has again and again stepped up with a message of hope for the people of this nation. It has been inspiring.”
McCluskey added that it was only a Corbyn-led government that can bring people together divided by Brexit and prevent a disastrous no deal Brexit.
“Labour would actually end austerity, not just pay lip service while our public services crumble under a decade of deliberate decay, mending its wounds and transforming our nation so we can be proud world-leaders in social justice once again,” he said.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s dignity and decency shone through today”, McCluskey went on to say. “When the moment comes, and it will be soon, Corbyn and the Labour family will sweep the Tories from power so that they can do no more harm – and the urgent work of building a better country with nobody and community left behind begin.
“This will be the fight of our lives, but we are ready for it.”