Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ignited the party’s conference in his closing speech this afternoon (September 26) as he called for a “radical plan to rebuild and transform our country”.
He paid tribute to the Labour party’s reinvigorated membership who he said were “the voice of their workplaces and communities, and with our new community organisers we will anchor everything we do in people’s day to day experiences.”
“That is our strength. And together, we are going to change Britain,” Corbyn vowed.
Turning to Tory privatisation and outsourcing, he said evidence of its failure “is piling up day after day. What has long been a scam is now a crisis.”
He highlighted examples from only the last few months – a Birmingham prison run by G4S that had to be brought back into public hands; the collapse of the East Coast franchise for the third time in a decade; and Carillion’s sudden demise “sunk in a sea of reckless greed, leaving hospitals half-built, workers dumped on the dole and pensions in peril”.
“Privatisation and outsourcing are now a national disaster zone. And Labour is ready to call time on this racket,” Corbyn said as he vowed that the party would rebuild public services.
Key among these public services the Labour party would rebuild is the NHS.
“This Conservative Government has pushed our NHS into crisis, with more people waiting longer in A&E and to see a GP and over four million people on hospital waiting lists,” he said.
Corbyn likewise highlighted the mental health crisis as he told the story of a woman Angela who wrote to him.
Angela has a mentally ill daughter who has been told she will have to wait 12 months to get an appointment with an appropriate therapist.
“‘As a mother, I am at my wits end to know how to help her any more. I would hate her to become another suicide statistic,’” Corbyn recounted Angela’s letter as he vowed that “this has to stop under Labour and it will”.
The Labour leader spoke also of other “human consequences of the Tory government”, from the housing crisis, in which one in five homes are not fit for human habitation, to the assault on disabled people, who face a cruel social security system that sees so many fall through the cracks.
Calling for “solidarity between generations”, Corbyn pledged the Labour party would both aim to give young people their best chances in life, while also honouring older generations whose hard work “built modern Britain.”
Corbyn denounced the “government’s limited childcare pledge” which he said “has turned out to be free in name only.
“So today I can announce that Labour will make 30 hours a week of free childcare available to all two, three and four year olds.
“And we will provide additional subsidised hours of childcare on top of the free 30-hour allowance, free for those on the lowest incomes and capped at £4 an hour for the rest,” he added as he pledged also to raise the standards – and pay – for childcare workers across the UK.
Corbyn paid tribute to older generations who, he said, “after the war, kick-started our economy, built our NHS and created our social security system.
“So we owe it you, the older generation, to rebuild Britain so you too have peace of mind and dignity,” he added, as he pledged that the Labour party would protect the triple lock on pensions along with the winter fuel allowance, a free bus pass and a national health and care service that truly looks after the elderly and their families.
Transforming the economy
Corbyn called for a wholesale transformation of the economy under a Labour government.
“We can no longer tolerate a set-up where the real economy, in which millions work, is just a sort of sideshow for the City of London and for banks fixated on piling up profits around the world,” he said.
“The change we need requires new ideas and new thinking, as well as learning from those that have worked in the past and in other countries.”
Corbyn outlined the measures Labour would take to give workers a greater say in their workplaces, including through Inclusive Ownership Funds and requiring businesses to have workers on company boards.
“Decisions taken in boardrooms affect people’s pay, their jobs and their pensions,” he noted. “Workers deserve a real say in those decisions.”
On global climate change, the Labour leader blamed the “failed economic free-for-all for fuelling a global environmental crisis and has “hamstrung international efforts to tackle it.”
Corbyn outlined bold and ambitious plans to tackle this crisis including creating “hundreds of thousands of jobs and will make Britain the only developed country outside Scandinavia to be on track to meet our climate change obligations.”
Turning to Brexit, Corbyn said that Labour respected the decision of the British people in the referendum.
“But no one can respect the conduct of the government since that vote took place,” he asserted to applause.
He slammed the government and prime minister Theresa May for presenting the British people with only two options – either no deal or a bad deal.
“That is a threat to our whole economy, especially our manufacturing industry and to tens of thousands of skilled jobs here in Britain,” he said.
He told conference that the way ahead was clear — “if Parliament votes down a Tory deal or the government fails to reach any deal at all, the Labour Party would press for a General Election.
“Failing that, all options are on the table,” Corbyn said as he warned the government that if they cannot negotiate a good deal then they “need to make way for a party that can”.
Labour is ready
The Labour leader reiterated the party’s readiness for government as he concluded to a standing ovation and thundering applause.
“We represent the new common sense of our time,” he said. “And we are ready to deliver on it.
“Let every constituency, every community know Labour is ready. Confident in our ideas, clear in our plans, committed to rebuild Britain.
“Our task is to build that Britain and together we can.”
‘Prime minister in waiting’
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey hailed Corbyn’s speech, which he called “inspiring.”
“We heard a Labour leader draw a very clear line under the failed policies of the past, policies that have caused despair and division in our communities, and then set out a distinctive, different, positive Labour programme for the country,” he said.
“People watching at home will have heard something very new. They will be hearing a leader say that his party, the Labour party, will put their interests front and centre.
“Decent jobs, strong and secure public services, humane treatment for the vulnerable in our society, a future for our children that we can all be proud of,” McCluskey added.
“When it comes to Brexit, Corbyn exposed the Tories for their ideological zealotry, a creed that sees their leading figures line their pockets while lowering the living standards of the rest of us.
“Above all, they will have heard a prime minister-in-waiting, one that is leading the only party capable of putting their interests and that of the country first – and that party is Labour,” he went on to say.
“The game is up Theresa May. You and your party are a busted flush. If you have one shred of decency left, you’ll do the right thing – call a general election and give this country and its people the hope of a better future.”