Jeremy Corbyn: ‘We are now the political mainstream’

Holding the centre: Jeremy Corbyn making his leader’s speech today

CONFERENCE SKETCH: Something has changed in British politics in the past year, and it was palpable at the Labour Party conference. Party veteran DAVID WHITE reports from Brighton

Transformed. I think that would be the word to describe the Labour Party at its Brighton Conference which finished with Jeremy Corbyn’s speech this lunchtime.

Corbyn now leads a party of 570,000 members – the largest political party in western Europe. More than two-thirds of them have joined since the 2015 General Election. In an assured conference speech today, Corbyn sounded Prime Ministerial and said the party is ready for government.

Naomi Klein, the acclaimed Canadian writer and political theorist had addressed conference on Tuesday. Referring to Labour’s policies and Corbyn’s approach to politics she said, “That’s why I’m proud to be standing with you today – with a newly transformed Labour Party.”

This year’s conference was far bigger even than last year’s in Liverpool. Alongside the main conference there was “The World Transformed”. This Momentum-backed event is like a huge series of fringe meetings – scores of debates, discussions and other events in half a dozen different locations. It was so popular that there were often queues round the block to get in.

There was some development of policy in the main conference debates, though the rigid structure of long composite motions and platform speakers replying to debates, often with more of an eye on enhancing their own positions than developing policy, somewhat restricted things.

I was pleased to see during the week the emergence of a new non-Zionist Jewish group, called “Jewish Voice for Labour”. This launched at a meeting on Monday evening attended by 400 people. It challenges the claims of the increasingly right-wing Jewish Labour Movement to be the voice for all Jews in the party.

Not everything in the party has been transformed.

There were still suits and SPADs round the fringes of Labour’s conference

There are still some SPADs in suits wandering around trying to look important, especially in and around the main Conference hotel. And there are still some unreconstructed Blairites, now calling themselves “moderates” and sniping from the sidelines or in groups like Labour First.

However many who might be described as “in the centre” or to the right of the party see now that left-wing policies like those of Corbyn are popular with the electorate and have revised their views.

In his speech today, Corbyn said that the General Election campaign had had two stars. He excluded himself – despite the audience’s chants of “Oooo, Jeremy Corbyn” – and attributed the largest increase in the Labour vote since 1945 to the manifesto and the party’s activists and supporters. The left, right and centre of politics had shifted, Corbyn said. “We are now the political mainstream.”

All in all it was a very inspiring conference. Provided it can remain relatively united, engage its hundreds of thousands of new members and project forward to the public, things look bright for this transformed party.

  • David White is a former member of the Greater London Council and is secretary of the Croydon Central CLP. He has written this column in a personal capacity

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6 Responses to Jeremy Corbyn: ‘We are now the political mainstream’

  1. Not so much a reply as a footnote. For those not in the know, and I was certainly one, a ‘SPAD’ is an abbreviation for ‘special adviser’. In this context, seemingly a self-important hanger-on or groupie with what they think are invaluable insights or knowledge, desperately hoping for fleeting fame by association.

  2. Labour and Corbyn ready for Government, Vince Cable thinks he could be the next PM and we’ll see what May says at the Conservative Conference.. It’s worth a bet that after the next General Election none of them will be PM.

    • declare2 says:

      Certainly Cable won’t be! and the Tories will probably change leader at some point in the next 2 or 3 years.

      Corbyn still has a mountain to climb, surely a new PM can do better than the Tories abysmal 2017 election campaign.

      With all the hullaballoo at Brighton anyone who’s been asleep for the past 4 months could be forgiven for thinking that Labour had actually ‘won’ this year’s General Election!

  3. Trevor Ellis says:

    If my memory serves me well
    a former leader of the labour party said that “Britain deserves better.”
    The new leader is now saying that their policies are “what most people in our country actually want”.
    That may be true
    but there is a big difference between understanding what we want and providing the means to satisfy them.
    Is the need for more affordable housing greater now than it was in 1997?
    The answer is obvious.
    So the next question has to be why did the Labour government fail to meet that need?
    “Because that’s what government’s do” is my opinion but what are the actual facts?
    My opinion is still the same.
    So it seems right to ask if there has ever been a political party that actually delivered on its promises after winning a general election?
    If the answer is no,
    then it seems logical to say that if the Labour party win the next general election
    it will follow the pattern set by every Labour government since 1945
    meaning that they see an urgent need for change but the changes they bring in never quite work out as they should and before you know it conditions grow worse for the common people rather than better.
    Let’s not kid ourselves, we all know that Blair promised much and gave us little of lasting value in return.
    And if we think of previous Prime ministers we will notice that they were the same.
    So though Jeremy Corbyn is now setting a new standard by daring to question whether capitalism has any place in the 21st century Britain,
    can our country function without it?
    My opinion is yes, but it would take many generations before it would become the norm to share the fruits of our Labour equally
    because capitalist greed is so deeply ingrained in our country and every government since 1945 has embraced it.
    So I would advise the electorate to think twice before falling for Corbyn and co.
    We have been in this place too many times to be fooled again.

    • David White says:

      Trevor Ellis, you’re understandably sceptical about politicians’ promises. However Labour Governments in the past have achieved important things, while falling short on others.

      The 1945 Attlee Government brought in the Welfare State and National Health Service. Harold Wilson’s Governments ended hanging, legalised gay sex between consenting adults and brought in abortion law reform.

      The Blair/Brown Governments brought in Sure Start Centres and invested heavily in education and the health service. They were weak on other things such as housing, and they made huge mistakes like embracing neo-liberalism and of course invading Iraq.

      I believe a Corbyn Government will make a real difference, particularly as Corbyn believes in a new approach to politics involving grassroots participation in policy making. Labour and the Tories have different philosophies of life and that shows in the interests they serve and the policies they pursue.

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