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22nd Feb 2024

Labour’s Corbyn promises more inclusive politics, keeps quiet on EU

  • New leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, steered clear of European issues in his first speech (Photo: Ciarran Norris)

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK’s opposition Labour party, offered a more inclusive, kinder political system for Britain and his party, but steered clear of European issues in his first speech as leader at the party’s conference on Tuesday (29 September).

Corbyn pledged to renew politics and Labour, and called his leadership win a “political earthquake”.

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“It is a mandate for change,” he said.

“Let us build a kinder politics, a more caring society together,” Corbyn promised, adding, “Let us put our values, the people’s values, back into politics.”

He said that more than 50,000 supporters have joined the party as members since his election as leader in mid-September.

Corbyn promised a “kinder, bottom-up, more inclusive” politics with real debate.

Corbyn called the economic policy of prime minister David Cameron’s government “unbalanced, unsustainable and dangerous”.

He said the Tory’s economic policy “works for the few, not for the many.”

He vowed that Labour will challenge austerity and inequality and protect workers better, provide affordable housing, and take advantage of the low interest rates by investing in Britain’s infrastructure.

In the sphere of international affairs, the former activist Corbyn promised a human rights-based policy. “We will be supporting the authority of international law and international organisations, and not acting against them,” he said.

He again called on Cameron to intervene with the “Saudi regime” to stop the beheading and crucifixion of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr for taking part in an anti-government demonstration at the age of 17.

Silent on Europe

The new Labour leader touched on the subject of Europe only twice in his hour-long speech.

Talking about the refugee crisis, he said, “the scale of the response form Britain and Europe isn’t enough".

“Lets reach out the hand of humanity and friendship to them,” he said of refugees.

Corbyn did not specifically mention the upcoming referendum on the UK’s EU membership. He only referred to the EU’s protection of workers' rights, and criticised Cameron for trying to water down these rights.

“There is nothing good about the Prime Minister touring Europe trying to squirrel away workers' rights,” the 66-year-old leader said.

His restraint on EU matters may signal that he is less than enthusiastic about putting Europe on top of his agenda.

“While Jeremy Corbyn has set aside his own reservations about the EU and accepted that the party’s official stance will be to support continued membership, the scant attention he paid to one of the defining questions of UK politics in his speech suggests that this will not be a personal priority for him," said Pawel Swidlicki, policy analyst from the London-based think tank, Open Europe.

“Up until now there has been a surprising degree of cross-party consensus on the EU policy between Labour and the Conservatives, but under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour could pursue a more distinct set of EU policies – the consequences of this for the referendum campaign are hard to predict,” Swidlicki added.

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