The one word Jeremy Corbyn should say in his Labour Party conference speech – but won’t

Corbyn has decided not to use his first big set piece speech to fulfil his commitment to apologise for the Iraq War

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Indy Politics

Of all the things that Jeremy Corbyn could say in his speech on 29 September – perhaps the most important thing will be the one word that won’t pass his lips: “Sorry”.

Because the new Labour leader has controversially decided not to use his first big set piece speech to fulfil his commitment to apologise for the Iraq War.

Last week it looked like he would and journalists were briefed by his new Shadow Chancellor (amongst others) that a statement of remorse for Labour’s foreign military excursions in Government would be one of the centrepieces of his speech.

But Mr Corbyn and his aides are understood to have concluded that the apology (which he promised in his election campaign) would overshadow the rest of his speech – and dominate the media coverage through which many people will get their first impressions of the new leader.

One of the biggest voices in the party against making an apology is understood to have been Mr Corbyn’s deputy Tom Watson.

He was instrumental in ensuring that Trident never made it to the conference floor for debate and help push for the compromise on Labour’s Syria position.

Mr Watson is understood to have argued that this conference should be all about the one thing that the whole of the Labour Party could unite on: Fighting Government austerity. That meant junking the baggage.

“Tom has been very clear – that the message from this week should all be about fighting Government cuts and not getting distracted by divisions,” said a senior Labour source.

Mr Corbyn’s aides insist that the Iraq apology will happen – but it will have to wait for another day. 

The danger though, is that supporters who joined the party to back him and the many others who were already members who gave him their support will now question how much leadership has changed their hero.

Winning elections is all about promises. Leadership is all about compromise. As Nick Clegg found that can be a very uncomfortable transition.