Friday 15 December 2017

Corbyn's pledge of 'kinder politics' wins over delegates

Delegates responded enthusiastically to new leader Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the Labour conference in Brighton
Delegates responded enthusiastically to new leader Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the Labour conference in Brighton
Jeremy Corbyn

Tim Sculthorpe

Jeremy Corbyn won a standing ovation for promising a new, kinder brand of politics.

He brought a Labour Party conference to its feet in Brighton with a pledge not to be rude to his opponents and condemning those who launch personal attacks online.

The Labour leader drew criticism during the leadership campaign after people claiming to be his supporters launched angry attacks on Twitter.

However, in his first conference address, Mr Corbyn told all activists to "cut out the personal attacks" and made specific calls on cyber bullying and misogynistic abuse.

"I want to repeat what I said at the start of the leadership election. I do not believe in personal abuse of any sort," he said.

"There is going to be no rudeness from me. Maya Angelou, the brilliant writer, said: 'You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.'


"I want a kinder politics, a more caring society. Don't let them reduce you to believing in anything less.

"So I say to all activists, whether Labour or not, cut out the personal attacks, the cyberbullying.

"And especially the misogynistic abuse online. Let's get on with bringing values back into politics."

Mr Corbyn urged all activists to "treat people with respect" and told them to "have that debate" when they cannot agree.

He also used his first conference speech to criticise Tony Blair and call for more government spending to help "the many with little or nothing".

He denounced Blair's 2003 invasion of Iraq and reaffirmed his own support for getting rid of Britain's nuclear weapons.

On the economy, he said Labour would be "challenging austerity".

He said government-funded maternity and paternity pay for self-employed workers should be increased and called for a big programme of house building by local authorities.

"Don't accept injustice, stand up against prejudice," Corbyn told the party as he ended his address in Brighton.

"Let us build a kinder politics, a more caring society, together."

"Young people and older people are fizzing with ideas. Let's give them the space for that fizz to explode into the joy we want of a better society."

The speech was notable as much for what it didn't mention: the budget deficit, Labour's defeat in the May general election and the question of immigration that's now uppermost among voters' concerns.

Instead, he demanded David Cameron take action on human rights in Saudi Arabia and then attacked media coverage of his leadership. He also addressed directly the prime minister's assertion that he represents a danger to Britain's security.

"Where's the security for hundreds of thousands taking on self-employment with uncertain income, no sick pay, maternity pay, no paid leave, no pension?" he asked.

His denunciation of Blair's actions came in a passage in which he demanded a political, rather than military, solution to the conflict in Syria, at a time when Cameron is weighing air strikes against Islamic State in the country.

"It didn't help our national security when we went to war with Iraq in defiance of the United Nations and on a false prospectus," Corbyn said.

"It didn't help our national security to endure the loss of hundreds of brave British soldiers in that war while making no proper preparation for what to do after the fall of the regime."

Corbyn had a net approval rating of minus 3pc in an Ipsos Mori poll last week - the worst on record for any new leader of the two main parties.

His predecessor Ed Miliband had a 19pc rating when he took over in 2010.

"The delegates absolutely loved it," said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University, London, who was in the hall.

"But I suspect there'll be an inverse correlation between how well it went down in the hall and how it will resonate with ordinary voters - most of whom aren't liberal and don't see themselves as downtrodden. In short, it was comfort-zone stuff, and that doesn't usually end well for Labour."

Union leaders hailed Corbyn's first speech as party leader to Labour's annual conference, saying it would appeal to the wider public.

"No whistles, no bells or flashing lights, just straightforward fresh politics about truth, compassion, decency and justice. I think this will resonate with the public," said GMB general secretary Paul Kenny.

"Let us not forget that his job description is the 'leader of the opposition' and this is a very good start in that job."

Irish Independent

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