As the Labour Party Conference ended today (September 28), Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn outlined the party’s plan to offer shared prosperity to all in a forward-looking programme which he dubbed “socialism of the 21st century.”
But first he said that nothing could be achieved without winning power, “in local and national government, to deliver the real change our country so desperately needs.
“That’s why the central task of the whole Labour Party, must be to rebuild trust and support to win the next general election and form the next government. That is the government I am determined to lead, to win power to change Britain for the benefit of working people.”
He added, “But we will only get there if we work together.”
He argued that his re-election as Labour leader last week, less than a year after winning his first contest with an even greater mandate, had little to do with him, but instead was a sign of the times.
“People are fed up with a so-called free market system, that has produced grotesque inequality stagnating living standards for the many calamitous foreign wars without end and a political stitch-up which leaves the vast majority of people shut out of power,” he said.
“Since the crash of 2008, the demand for an alternative and an end to counter-productive austerity has led to the rise of new movements and parties in one country after another.”
Despite the present Tory government under Theresa May only recently appropriating the language of social and economic justice, Corbyn argued that their actions demonstrate otherwise.
He pointed to years of deregulation, outsourcing and privatisation that have caused inequality to grow unchecked.
“They’ve cut taxes for the privileged few sold off our national assets to them, always on the cheap and turned a blind eye to their chronic tax avoidance,” he said.
“Home ownership is falling as more people are priced out of the market; evictions and homelessness go up every year; council homes are sold off without being replaced.
“And another consequence is that we’re paying over £9bn a year to private landlords in housing benefit,” Corbyn added.
May: poor government
“Instead of spending public money on building council housing, we’re subsidising private landlords. That’s wasteful, inefficient, and poor government.”
Turning to the jobs market that’s been decimated under a government that’s torn employment legislation and trade union rights to shreds, he pointed to the growing number of people on zero-hours contracts, the millions living on less than the living wage and the legions of workers, who, despite in employment are nonetheless trapped in poverty.
But he hailed the work that trade unions are doing despite working under a government that’s shackled them, quoting Unite’s work at Sports Direct.
“Trade unions are not taking this lying down,” he said. “Look at the great campaign Unite has waged at Sports Direct, to get justice for exploited workers and hold Mike Ashley to account. That is why Labour will repeal the trade union Act and set unions free to do their job.”
And issues around self-employment and job security were crucial. “I have said that Labour will put security at work and employment and union rights from day one centre stage.
“But one in six workers now in Britain are now self-employed. They’re right to value their independence but for too many it comes with insecurity and a woeful lack of rights.
“So we will review arrangements for self-employed people including social security that self-employed people pay for in their taxes, yet aren’t fully covered by.”
Labour’s programme that will dismantle all the harm that successive Tory governments have wrought, Corbyn noted, will include decisive policies.
These included raising the minimum wage to a real Living Wage; banning zero hours contracts; taking the railways back into public ownership and regulating banking so that “reckless bankers never wreck our economy again.”
He pointed to 10 key pledges that will form the platform for the Labour party at the next election, pledges that have been endorsed at the conference.
“They lay out the scope of the change we need to see for full employment, a homes’ guarantee, security at work, a strong public NHS and social care, a National Education Service for all, action on climate change, public ownership and control of our services, a cut in inequality of income and wealth action to secure an equal society and peace and justice at the heart of foreign policy,” he said.
“They are values Labour is united on. They are values our country can and will support as soon as they are given the chance.”
He praised the many Labour councils, which, despite vicious Tory cuts, have still chosen to invest in their local communities and fight privatisation.
National investment bank
Corbyn pledged that Labour would embark on a broad national investment programme to jump-start an ailing economy, starting with a national investment bank with £500bn in investment to “bring our broadband, our railways, our housing and our energy infrastructure up to scratch.”
He said, “A country that doesn’t invest is a country that has given up. That has taken the path of managed decline. A Labour government will never accept second best for Britain.”
Corbyn argued that the Labour party has and always will stand firmly against hate against any group, especially oppressed groups such as the disabled, ethnic minorities and migrants.
Denouncing anti-migrant fervour unleashed after the EU referendum, he said, “It isn’t migrants that drive down wages, it’s exploitative employers and the politicians who deregulate the labour market and rip up trade union rights.”
Arguing that only a united Labour party can win broad appeal, Corbyn said the party will prepare itself for a snap general election next year.
“We are half a million of us, and there will be more, working together to make our country the place it could be.”
And he ended as he began – with a plea for unity. To cheering and standing ovations he declared, “United we can shape the future and build a fairer Britain in a peaceful world.
Real hope for hungry for change Britain
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey hailed Corbyn’s speech, saying it had given voters hungry for genuine change real hope of a brighter future.
“Jeremy Corbyn gave a speech that declared proudly this is what the Labour party is and only a Labour government can build a better Britain,” he said.
“People have lost faith in politics and politicians – Brexit made that abundantly clear, too many feel left out and left behind so sent a message to the political class that they must step up.
“What we heard from Jeremy today is a leader determined to rebuild trust and nourish hope.”
McCluskey said that these were “the policies needed to deliver a real alternative” and they were taking shape. He said this was a “genuine programme to halt rampaging inequality, a serious plan to invest in our industrial communities and share wealth more fairly, and a determination to defend our shattered public services.
“That’s what voters want. Not a hark back to policies of yesteryear which failed to deliver equality or Conservative policies for the very few, but a party that is capable of convincingly facing the challenges of life today head-on.”
He added, “They want to look at this party and be able to say without a moment’s pause ‘that is a party on my side and a leader who will fight for me every step of the way’. And they got all of this from Jeremy today.”
Watch Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in full below: