New Labour leader gave his first speech to party conference yesterday to raucous applause
Labour’s party conference this autumn has been somewhat different to those that we have seen over past decades; more radical, more principled, and above all far more left wing than any since Michael Foot in the 1980s. The shadow chancellor’s speech on Monday, despite lacking much physical policy, was dripping with socialist overtones, and when conference voted for the policy of railway nationalisation the new regime was bolstered considerably.
The anticipation of Corbyn’s first proper speech to the party (both for the MPs of the Parliamentary Party and the new members he has introduced to the team) was tangible, and as he took to the stage a hush fell over the crowd. With a five-year climb to 2020 only just beginning, how would he phrase what has to be done?
He started graciously, thanking delegates and members for electing him and his fellow leadership contenders individually for their part in the election. He did not talk about the failure of the party during the general election; a clean break from the past is required if he is to distance himself from both Blair and Miliband’s successive regimes.
His speech, like McDonnell’s, lacked policy substance, but the party has ordered significant reviews into many areas that will eventually spawn some socialist-style policy ideas. These areas include working rights for the self-employed, increased NHS and housing expenditure, and mental health parity of esteem, along with strategic defence reviews and an investigation into the effectiveness of HMRC. From these reviews we will eventually be told what Labour Party policy will be, and at that point it will become clear whether or not they have even an outside chance of winning the election in 2020 and making Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister.
He also made a great show about his love of this country, in response to the national press outrage over his failure to sing the national anthem last week. He rebuked the Tories and the press, and made a few cursory jokes about David Cameron.
It was, all in all, a strong speech from a socialist leader of a very fractious party, but as has been the case with his leadership so far, it left you wanting more; something definitive, something concrete, to show that his words can be reinforced. We, and the party at large, must hope that over the coming weeks, months, and years this will be provided, so that 2020 can bring a change that we will all benefit from.