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Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour manifesto speech: what he said – and what he really meant

Our Chief Political Commentator provides the Labour leader’s running internal monologue as he unveiled the party’s programme for government

John Rentoul
Tuesday 16 May 2017 16:41 BST
The Labour leader unveiled his manifesto for the general election in Bradford
The Labour leader unveiled his manifesto for the general election in Bradford (AFP/Getty)

What Jeremy Corbyn said: Thank you to everyone in Bradford and indeed all across Yorkshire, campaigning in the past few days. What fantastic support we have had.

What he really meant: Be ye not discouraged by the pedlars of opinion polls and unsocialist pessimism. I am mobbed by happy crowds wherever I go whereas She Who Shall Not Be Named is kept away from the people in case they shout at her about Disability Living Allowance.

What he said: If you look at our shadow Cabinet you see experience, you see diversity, you see age range, you see people whose life experience is rooted in real life experience, who will never forget that when they are holding great offices of state, to deliver for the people who put them there.

What he meant: If you look at the shadow Cabinet you ask yourself: “Who are these people? I’ve never seen them before in my life.”

What he said: Bradford University had a chancellor, for a long time, and a great chancellor he was. He was Harold Wilson, a former Labour Prime Minister.

What he meant: My politics was forged in the hatred of Wilson and his sellout to America, capitalism and general disappointment.

What he said: Harold as Prime Minister did so much to expand universities to make them available to all, and his greatest legacy I believe is the Open University. Today we are setting out a manifesto to transform the 21st century in the same way that Harold Wilson in the 1960s sought to transform the 20th century.

What he meant: Still, the only thing even the older people in this audience remember about Wilson is the Open University and the white heat of technology. So I’ll claim those legacies.

What he said: This manifesto is the first draft of a better future for the people of our country.

What he meant: Actually, it’s the second draft because the first one was leaked last week.

What he said: As this campaign has continued, opinion has started to move towards Labour. There is no great secret as to the reason. People want a country run for the many not the few.

What he meant: The many are voting Conservative, the few are voting Labour. We may be few, but we have justice and right on our side.

What he said: Whatever your age or situation, people are under pressure, struggling to make ends meet. Our manifesto is for you.

Jeremy Corbyn unveils Labour manifesto's plans to raise taxes on corporations and highest earners

What he meant: We can’t offer an actual change of government or anything, but the manifesto is nice. It has a lot of colour pictures in it. We hope you like it.

What he said: We in Labour recognise that solving these problems requires a thriving economy. One that gets our economy working again, and rises to the challenges of Brexit for jobs and investment.

What he meant: Can’t decide if Brexit is good or bad? You’ve come to the right party.

What he said: Only Labour has a plan to make Brexit work for ordinary people. We are clear: the choice is now a Labour Brexit that puts jobs first, or a Tory Brexit that will be geared to the interests of the City, and will risk making Britain a low-wage tax haven. As we leave the European Union, because that is what the people have voted for, only Labour will negotiate a deal that preserves jobs and access to the single market, preserves rights and does not plunge our country into a race to the bottom.

What he meant: It says here, and Keir Starmer drafted it. Looks like a string of slogans to me, but he’s the lawyer.

What he said: All this is costed, as the documents accompanying our manifesto make clear.

What he meant: No idea. Ask John McDonnell.

What he said: And in the longer term we look to a faster rate of growth, driven by increased private and public investment, to keep our accounts in shape.

What he meant: Just what Harold Wilson said. Didn’t happen, of course.

What he said: This is a programme of hope.

What he meant: You’ve got to hope the magic faster rate of economic growth really would happen this time.

What he said: The Tory campaign, by contrast, is built on one word: fear.

What he meant: Two words: Theresa May.

What he said: I say to her today: Prime Minister, come out of hiding and let’s have that debate on television so millions can make up their minds.

What he meant: She’s not going to agree, thank goodness, so I can have some fun with this.

What he said: I am very proud to present our manifesto, “For the many, not the few”. Thank you very much.

What he meant: It’s a phrase from Tony Blair’s new Clause IV, which I opposed at the time. But that was before he went mad and became a war criminal. Vote New Labour.

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