Jeremy Corbyn's first Labour conference speech was a resounding success that proved Tories have warped 'British values'

Perhaps it's now time to stop pretending that Labour under Corbyn is a party in crisis

Liam Young
Tuesday 29 September 2015 15:35
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn making his keynote speech during the third day of the Labour Party conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn making his keynote speech during the third day of the Labour Party conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton

Today, Jeremy Corbyn buried TINA. The idea that ‘there is no alternative’ has been thrashed aside. Corbyn has proclaimed quite clearly: there is an alternative, and it is the Labour party that is that alternative. After such continual and vocal pessimism from his naysayers within and without the Labour party, this powerful speech felt like the rise of the phoenix.

Corbyn delivers first speech

This was a hope-heavy conference performance. Following from McDonnell yesterday, Corbyn demonstrated that a different world is possible – that there should not be 100,000 children homeless in Britain today, that the wealth extremists in the wealthy 1 per cent should not be allowed to capture as much wealth as the other 99 per cent, that a million families relying on emergency food packages is not good enough.

The myth of Tory success was laid bare. Ironic, perhaps, that it is Jeremy Corbyn who is the only one brave enough to defend the economic success of previous Labour governments. He called out David Cameron on the rent crisis facing this country at the moment, on the cutting of social care support for carers and on his gross failures to tackle Saudi Arabian injustices. Corbyn noted that the real risk to the security of this country was the Tories’ feeble economic recovery, built on doubling the national debt and an outdated austerity programme that balances the books on the backs of the working poor, rather than those who caused the crisis in the first place.

Before this speech, so many commentators and political pundits were united in the idea that Corbyn had to either betray his supporters or alienate the parliamentary Labour party. But today, Corbyn has demonstrated that he is actually on the side of a third, more important, group: the British public. Whether this be over rail nationalisation, a fairer taxation system or greater support for small businesses, it has been made markedly clear that Corbyn’s Labour party is in sync with public opinion. Corbyn attacked over-simplified commentariat style thinking head on: this is a new type of grown up politics, he said, where debate does not mean division. He said it with the conviction for which he is famed.

Let it be made clear that Corbyn has noted there is nothing un-socialist about supporting entrepreneurs, the self-employed and those who start and run their own businesses. The powerful want you to believe this, but it is simply untrue. Today, Jeremy noted that one in seven people in the UK are now self-employed, facing financial insecurity which has not been allayed by the Tories who claim to champion them.

Tackling some of the ridiculous media reports about him, Corbyn apologised profusely for ‘not doing the decent thing’ and going back in time to have a word with his great-great-great-great-grandfather who was alleged to be a workhouse owner.

And just in case any of us were still worried about the national anthem media fiasco, Corbyn was also clear that he is proud to be British. Above all, he produced an idea of ‘British values’ that the Tories fail to understand: that we are an open society, an outward looking nation, focused on helping the suffering and creating real aspiration, rather than one that rejects suffering refugees or cuts support for the working poor while offering an inheritance tax cut to the richest 1 per cent. When did the Tories get to redefine what British values are anyway?

At the beginning of the speech, greeted by rapturous applause, Jeremy had to ask, Any chance we can start?’ With such an uplifting first performance, I hope that he will be given the chance to make his real start unhindered: a chance to start changing the party, and changing our country, in the image of a kinder politics. His pledge was simple: to put Labour values, the people’s values back into politics – and this was an unexpectedly polished beginning, rounded off by a standing ovation, to what is clearly a popular movement. Perhaps it's now time to stop pretending that Labour under Corbyn is a party in crisis.

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