In the weeks following Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise victory in the Labour leadership elections, a torrent of public and media attention alike has surrounded the party and the new Leader of the Opposition. This meant that there was an increased interest in the annual Labour Party Conference, which took place this week.
Corbyn delivered the keynote speech, while his right-hand man, shadow chancellor John McDonnell, set out Labour’s plans for the UK economy should they succeed at the next general election. Here is a round up of the key points from the conference, as well as those from the women’s conference, where defeated Labour leadership candidate Yvette Cooper also spoke.
Jeremy Corbyn’s keynote speech was the main focal point of the conference and reinforced the new Labour leader’s commitment to the honest, direct, ‘no-nonsense’ political delivery that has been the trademark of his short tenure as head of the party. His speech was smattered with short, snappy sentences as he pledged “Politics that’s kinder, more inclusive” and “above all, straight talking. Honest.”
Corbyn is clearly intent on continuing with the ‘inclusive’ style of politics that he demonstrated at Prime Minister’s Questions on September 16th, where he broke tradition by asking David Cameron questions sent in by members of the public, rather than ones he had prepared himself.
The rest of Corbyn’s speech saw him make pledges to challenge austerity under the Conservatives, highlighted a plan for “100,000 new council and housing association homes a year,” and reiterated his desire to dispose of Trident, Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
The Labour leader faced fierce opposition from within his own party over the issue this week, as trade unions rejected the possibility of debating the matter at the conference, arguing that nuclear disarmament would put thousands of jobs in jeopardy.
The rift in the party over the topic, which has been labelled as disastrous for the new leader, did not deter Corbyn from his warpath of nuclear contraposition, as he declared: “I don’t believe £100 billion on a new generation of nuclear weapons taking up a quarter of our defence budget is the right way forward.” It is evident that Corbyn will continue to oppose the renewal of Trident, despite a lack of support from his own party.
The Labour women’s conference also took place, where Yvette Cooper condemned the online “misogynistic abuse” that has been suffered in a number of political campaigns this year by leading Labour women. After highlighting instances where women such as herself and Harriet Harman received online abuse from opposition supporters, she stated that “Unless misogyny on the internet is challenged, more women’s voices will be silenced.”
One of the most noticeable speeches at the conference was delivered by John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn’s close political ally and shadow chancellor. In an effort to lessen his reputation as a divisive, far-left figure in British politics, McDonnell opened his speech by reassuring the audience that “this is not my usual rant, they get me into trouble and Jeremy has told me to behave myself.”
Both McDonnell and Corbyn have received criticism and scrutiny by media of the radical, far-left activism of their past, and it seems that they are eager to appear as a more electable force, rather than simply a leftist flash in the plan. McDonnell also outlined his plans to oppose austerity, with the rich targeted should Labour win the next election. As well as increasing inheritance tax, McDonnell pledged to “force people like Starbucks, Vodafone, Amazon and Google and all the others to pay their fair share of taxes.”