Jeremy Corbyn speech: 5 things we've learnt about the Labour leader's 'honest' politics

The party's new leader has promised a range of ways he wants to create a 'kinder' and 'more caring' society

Matt Dathan
Online Political Reporter, Brighton
Tuesday 29 September 2015 18:07
The new Labour leader delivers his speech
The new Labour leader delivers his speech

Jeremy Corbyn has used his first major speech as leader to set out his plans for a new “straight talking, honest politics”, promising to make the UK a “kinder” and “more caring society”.

The Labour leader's keynote address at the party conference was short on policy but, as many of his shadow cabinet said afterwards, it would be unrealistic to have a detailed platform of pledges just two weeks after being elected leader and five years from the next general election.

Here are five ways he is planning to bring his honest politics to the UK.

He says he has a mandate for change

Mr Corbyn's landslide victory in the Labour leadership election has given him a “huge” mandate, which he says he will use to stand firm on some of his most controversial views.

This includes his determination to oppose the renewal of Britain’s nuclear deterrent when the vote on continuing Trident comes before MPs next year.

He said in his speech he will “make my own position absolutely clear” that the UK should not spend £100bn on renewing Trident as he pledged to win over the many Labour MPs and shadow cabinet members who disagree with him.

He’s putting social issues at the heart of Labour – not the economy

Ed Miliband was under huge pressure to prove Labour could be trusted on the economy and much evidence from focus groups and polls following his defeat in May found this was a significant hurdle to the party regaining power. He even put his promise for fiscal responsibility on the front page of Labour’s election manifesto.

But Mr Corbyn did not even bother trying to pitch the economy at the heart of his pitch, instead promising to prioritise social issues such as the “real priority” of mental health, the “top priority” of affordable housing, as well as offering big policy pitches on childcare and parental leave.

Mental health is “issue for all of us,” he said to loud applause. “Every one of us can have a mental health problem. So let’s end the stigma.”

There was no mention of the deficit – and that was not because he forgot it, he did not see it as important enough to his plan for winning back voters, even though his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has committed Labour to George Osborne’s fiscal pact of running a budget surplus in “normal times”.

A new kind of politics

Central to his pitch was for a new kind of politics. Mr Corbyn says he wants the misogynistic and abusive cyber bullying in UK politics to stop, including from his own supporters; and he wants the media attacks on him and his family to stop.

Mr Corbyn also promised to change the Labour Party’s internal politics too, with decisions over policy decided by the party as a whole rather than just the leader and a few of his top team dictating party policy in a top-down approach.

“I firmly believe leadership is about listening,” he said in his speech. “We will reach out to our new members and supporters. Involve people in our debates on policy and then our party as a whole will decide.”

“I want a kinder politics, a more caring society; don’t let them reduce you to believing in anything less,” he said. “Let’s get on with bringing values back into politics.”

The new kind of politics will apparently allow Labour MPs to disagree with each other - but that was healthy, he inists. He criticised the media for reporting disagreements as splits and agreement as compromises or capitulation. But instead Corbyn said this was all part of a new “grown-up politics” where “people put forward different views, we debate issues, we take a decision and we go forward together.” He added: “We look to persuade each other; on occasions we might agree to disagree.”

Change how the rest of the world views Britain

Ending the UK’s "cosy" relationship with authoritarian regimes and human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain would be a priority of his foreign policy.

He told David Cameron to “intervene personally with the Saudi Arabian regime to stop the beheading and crucifixion of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr,” who is threatened with the death penalty for taking part in a demonstration at the age of 17.

And he wants the Ministry of Justice to stop providing “services” for Saudi Arabia that help it carry out such sentences, while demanding the Government terminates Britain’s arms deals to countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

“We have to be very clear about what we stand for in human rights,” he said. “A refusal to stand up is the kind of thing that really damages Britain’s standing in the world.”

In relation to the Syrian conflict, Mr Corbyn rejected the use of air strikes against Isis, and insisted the answer to solving the four-year civil war was “too complex and tragic” to be found in a “few more bombs”.

Instead Britain should be pursuing a “clever, patient, difficult diplomacy” to ending the conflict.

A kinder society

“I want a kinder politics, a more caring society,” Corbyn said throughout his speech. His “kinder, more caring” society will not tolerate homelessness, more austerity or more inequality, he said.

And that did not just apply to British citizens, but to the millions of refugees fleeing conflict around the world.

He said he had been “inspired by people across our country” who have reached out to help Syrian refugees over recent weeks, speaking of his pride in making his first move as Labour leader an appearance at the Refugees Welcome rally in London two hours after he was elected.

“I wanted to send out a message of the kinder politics we are pursuing and a caring society we want to achieve,” he said.

He added: “These refugees are the victims of war - many the victims of the brutal conflict in Syria.”

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