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View from conference

Will Sherlock, Associate Director

Jeremy Corbyn’s most ardent supporters and sceptics may disagree on almost everything, but they will be united in the view that he has just delivered a very confident performance. Whatever people say about the content of his speech, Corbyn is standing taller compared to a year ago. This was very much a celebratory homecoming finale for his supporters following Labour’s bitter leadership contest.

The vast majority of Labour MPs are now leaving Liverpool despondent that Corbyn is in a stronger position than before the summer. Many will be concerned that his speech was light on policy and where he did offer proposals they will alienate voters. In particular, his defiant position that Labour will ‘not offer false promises on immigration’ will cause huge concern that Labour has dismissed some of the lessons from the EU referendum.

Ten years ago Tony Blair gave his final speech as leader confident that he had re-cast Labour as a party of government. It is hard to underline how different the party is compared to then.

We can expect a reshuffle next week, where we will see Labour MPs re-join the shadow cabinet in a bid to show unity. There is still talk of shadow cabinet elections which would give the moderates more ownership of the process. However, they know that whatever the outcome this will not make the party more electable. Ultimately that falls to the leader.

Key speech

Jeremy Corbyn has delivered his keynote speech to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool. Please find a full summary below.

Corbyn began his speech by addressing the damaging divisions which have existed in the party over the summer. He urged the party to come together saying the central task of the whole Labour Party, now that the leadership election is over, is to ‘rebuild trust and support to win the next General Election’. He paid tribute to Jo Cox, quoting her maiden speech, saying it should be the motto of the Labour Party over the coming years – ‘We have far more in common with each other than things that divide us’.

Corbyn went to on to pay tribute to parliamentary colleagues who filled vacant Shadow Cabinet positions following the revolt against his leadership. He said that they ‘deserve the respect and gratitude of our movement’. Corbyn addressed complaints of abuse within the party saying that ‘robust debate’ has far too often resulted in abuse, leading to misogyny and anti-Semitism. He denounced such abuse ‘utterly’.

Corbyn attacked the Conservative Government saying that, despite Theresa May’s rhetoric, her Government is simply Cameron’s rehashed ‘with a new right-wing edge’. He attacked the boundary review as a Tory attempt to ‘gerrymander’ the next election and attacked the two hundred plus Peers appointed by ex-PM David Cameron.

Please see a summary of his key points below.

Economy

  • Corbyn said that ‘people are fed up with a so-called free market system, that has produced grotesque inequality, stagnating living standards for the many, calamitous foreign wars without end and a political stitch-up which leaves the vast majority of people shut out of power’
  • He said that Labour will ‘do things differently’ and pledged to build a million new homes – half of them council houses – and promised that a Labour Government will control private rents to ensure an affordable and decent home for everyone

Education

  • Corbyn said that a National Education Strategy will be ‘an essential part of the 21st century welfare state’
  • Corbyn promised to reinstate Educational Maintenance Allowance for college students and grants to university students

Tax avoidance

  • ‘Business shares in economic success’, he said, however it ‘must contribute to it too’. He added that he also recognises good businesses must have a level playing field
  • Corbyn said that a ‘Labour Government will clamp down on those that doge their taxes’ because businesses ‘should not be undercut by those who do not play by the rules’. He described tax avoidance as a ‘shabby act’ which deprives the NHS of money

Immigration

  • Corbyn said a ‘Labour Government will not offer false promises on immigration as the Tories have done’ and will not ‘sow division by fanning the flames of fear’
  • Corbyn pledged to reinstate the migrant fund to help communities deal with the strain on public services due to migration

Brexit

  • Corbyn said that Labour must respect the mandate the British people have given to withdraw from the EU
  • Labour, he said, will be pressing its own Brexit agenda ‘including the freedom to intervene in industry without the obligation to liberalise or privatise

Foreign policy

  • Corbyn re-emphasised the apology he made in summer over Labour’s role in taking the country to war in Iraq
  • He called for an ‘ethical foreign policy’ based on learning the lessons of the past

Next week

We will also be providing a daily roundup on the Conservative Party Conference next week. If you found our updates beneficial and would like to talk about your public affairs strategy please contact matthew.field@lexcomm.co.uk.

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