Labour conference: Jeremy Corbyn vows to put party members in charge

The leader promised the 'transformation of Labour' and to oppose the Tories 'inside and outside' Parliament

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Saturday 23 September 2017 21:04
Jeremy Corbyn starts his third Labour conference as leader on Sunday
Jeremy Corbyn starts his third Labour conference as leader on Sunday

Jeremy Corbyn has launched his party’s conference in Brighton declaring that “the transformation of Labour is just beginning”.

The leader told supporters the annual conference would be “handed back to our members” and that the voices of ordinary people would be heard “loud and clear” in the party.

It follows the launch of a review of internal rules that would see the mainly Corbyn-backing membership given a greater role, including in leadership contests, at the expense of MPs with whom the leader has clashed.

Mr Corbyn also promised to oppose the Conservatives at every opportunity “inside and outside Parliament”, with a string of unions considering strike action over low pay.

It is the first Labour conference since the June election in which Mr Corbyn outperformed expectations, increasing Labour’s seats and stripping the Conservatives of their Commons majority.

The result has allowed him to consolidate his position, ending talk of a leadership challenge and overseeing an improvement in the party’s performance as an opposition.

He told supporters: “The next Labour government will take our authority from the many, not hoard power in the hands of a few. That’s why our conference will be different. For the first time in years, we are handing it back to our members.”

“Politics isn’t some technical specialism for an elite. Politics is about us all coming together to decide our futures. That’s why we’re doing things differently. We aren’t a lobbyists’ playground. This is a real conference whose decisions matter.

“And that’s why we’ve set up a review to democratise and open up our party from top to bottom. The transformation of Labour is just beginning.”

Hundreds of people crowded into the park to watch the Labour leader, who approached the stage in the middle of the crowd accompanied by the theme tune from the 90s TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

He was thronged by left-wing allies including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who joked that the “grey beards got it wrong” on Labour’s election chances – before clarifying he did not mean Mr Corbyn.

In scenes more akin to a music festival than a political rally, the start of Mr Corbyn’s speech was held up by loud chants of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ from the audience, some of whom sported slogan T-shirts and signs bearing the Labour leader’s face.

Labour will decide at conference – expected to be the biggest ever – whether to approve a string of reforms put forward by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee.

If passed they would mean future leadership candidates could stand with the backing of just 10 per cent of the party’s MPs.

Changes to the NEC itself have also been proposed, with three new seats being created, to be filled by representatives of the wider party membership.

Mr Corbyn also planned to turn his fire on the Conservatives, telling supporters: “We now have the chance to transform our country. To do that we must use our strength inside and outside Parliament to challenge the Conservatives at every step – and prepare to form a government whenever the next election is called.

“The Tories have no mandate for what they are doing. Wherever we can we will block their attempts to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy by making life worse for millions of people. We are in a moment of great change – in the economy, politics and across the world.”

Jeremy Corbyn hands out free food at food bank

“Our challenge is to marshal these forces of change for the real wealth creators – all of us – and to transfer wealth, power and opportunity to the many from the few.”

Close Corbyn ally Mr McDonnell has said Labour will support unions in the fight for better wages for public sector workers.

Prison officers, nurses, civil servants and higher education staff are among those considering industrial action with the TUC planning a day of action next month.

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