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Corbyn: a brave politician

Let’s stay united in what we stand for
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, Friday, October 7th, 2016

The Tories gathered in Birmingham following a Labour Party conference which opened with what we hope is not an annual event – a Labour leadership result – and was closed by a confident leader’s speech full of radical policy proposals.


In contrast it’s the party of government that is showing the cracks in its edifice.  No sooner does a Minister open their mouth on the subject of Britain’s exit from the European Union than Number 10 reels them back in. Perhaps most worryingly is the manufactured confusion over protecting workers’ right in the post-EU age.


One minute there is a pledge from PM May to protect them; the next another cabinet minister is saying that only `some’ will be safe.  Equally, business is getting fed up of the mixed messages from the three Brexiteers – an unintentional comic element to the process, akin to putting Groucho, Harpo and Zeppo in charge of global relations.  On access to the single market companies such as those employing Unite’s members in car manufacturing need clarity out of Number 10 in order to develop their investment plans.


For Labour, with the summer’s hullabaloo giving way to a rosy red optimistic spirit as we left Liverpool, enthused by the policies that made this party truly distinctive, united behind our leader, our party has the almighty challenge of preventing this government from abusing our people’s living standards.


My belief is that the contest over the summer resulted in one major positive for Labour – a highly talented, determined and united shadow cabinet has stepped up to the plate.


Certainly Labour’s policies are now truly distinctive to the Conservatives’ agenda. For the first time in decades the Labour party is making its own the sort of policies my members have long hungered for.


‘Never again’

Last week, on an anniversary that was weighing heavy on the mind of thousands of workers – a year on from the closure of the Redcar steel plant – Jeremy Corbyn stood before the country and promised that his would be a government that would never again allow such an aberration.


A National Investment Bank would support our vital industries, music to the ears of Unite’s members and the companies they work for as they face head on the challenges of our changing economy. This bank would put us on the same footing as Europe’s industrial powerhouse, Germany, dedicated to making sure our world-class industries stay so.


Jeremy also committed to a national education service to support our children as they seek to equip themselves with the skills they need to take their place in the world – as equals, not as the products of hope-killing segregation.


A homes-building programme, setting men and women to work to put decent, affordable roofs over people’s heads, arresting the scandalous wage-devouring rents in this country and retrieving the hopes of home ownership which have receded into Tory dreamland for millions.


Jeremy also revealed that he is a brave politician. While some in his party interpret Brexit as an act of phobia by my class, Jeremy has stood firm to say that we never, ever pander to those who peddle fear. We face it head on, exposing the truth that the destruction of our services is not the responsibility of our Polish, Portuguese or Pakistani neighbours – who are more than likely helping to defend them, working day and night to care for our needy – but the fault of a slash and burn government. Jeremy’s response is that we do not divide our communities; we repair them.


Labour is now, after years of personality confusion, distinctive to the Tories. Fairness versus division. Investment versus cuts. On your side versus on your own.


Now we need to stay united in what we stand for and behind our leader.


Profound challenge

Those who fail to read this new mood correctly must surely consider their consciences. Our country faces a profound challenge: how do we forge a new future for ourselves outside the European Union? The Tory party will have no qualms about dumping the hard-fought rights and living standards of working people into the Channel, cutting deals in desperation that will bounce our communities into the economic dark ages.


Our duty as a party therefore is to turn and fight with our every fibre for the best deal for the people we represent, not to wheedle and plot, to dissemble and deceive, to disunite our party and distract us from our purpose.


That purpose is, unequivocally, to win power. And the purpose of that power is to make ours a better Britain.


As we battle now for a good future for working people in a country wrestling with its place in Europe and the world, surely that’s an agenda to which everyone can sign up.


This comment feature first appeared in Tribune, October 7


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