UK Politics

Jeremy Corbyn: Decoding conference speech's key quotes

Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright PA

Jeremy Corbyn has given his first party conference speech as Labour Party leader. What were the key passages and what message was he trying to get across?


Sense of humour

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What he said: "I notice in some of the newspapers that they have taken a bit of an interest in me. According to one headline Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the prospect of an asteroid wiping out humanity. Asteroids are pretty controversial and it is not the kind of thing I would want to rule out... without a full debate at conference and a review so can we have the debate later in the week."

What he meant: I am relaxed about negative newspaper headlines and can laugh at my portrayal in the media. Some people may regard my election as being akin to the end of the world but let's talk about it all the same.


Winning elections

What he said: "I want to speak to everyone in Britain about the task that Labour has now turned to. Opposing and fighting the Tory government and the huge damage it is doing and developing Labour's alternative. Renewing our policy so we can reach out across the country and win next year, starting in Wales, Scotland and London."

What he meant: I am not just talking to Labour supporters in the hall but introducing myself to people out there in the country who know little about me. Under my leadership, Labour won't just be focused on opposition but winning back power.


Leadership and debate

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What he said: "I have been given a huge mandate... and I believe it is a huge mandate for change. First and foremost it is a vote for a change in the way we do politics, in the Labour Party and the country. Politics that is kinder, more inclusive, bottom-up and not top-down and in every community and workplace, not just Westminster. Real debate, not necessarily message discipline but above all straight-talking, honest politics."

What he meant: The 60% of the Labour Party members who voted for me give me a different kind of authority and Labour MPs had better remember that. There will be policy disagreements and at times, it will look messy, but you will have to get used to it.


Economic risks

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What he said: "I want to tackle one thing head on. The Tories talk about economic and family security being at risk from us and perhaps even more particularly from me. I say this to them how dare these people talk about security for people and families in Britain. Where is the security for families shuttled around from one rented flat to another on six month tenancies with children endlessly having to change schools... where is the security for young people starting out on their careers knowing they are locked out of any prospect of owning their own home by soaring house prices. Where is the security for families driven away from their children, schools and communities by these welfare cuts... that is the nub of it, Tory economic failure. An economy that works for the few not the many."

What he meant: The Tories have painted me as a threat to people's jobs, incomes and financial security but I am going to turn this question on its head. The economy may be growing but millions of people aren't feeling the benefits and are struggling to get by. Only Labour can help the many, not the few.


Raising the nuclear stakes

What he said: "There is one thing on which I want to make my position clear and I believe I have a mandate to do it. I don't believe that £100bn spent on a new generation of nuclear weapons taking up a quarter of our defence budget is the right way forward. I believe our country should honour our obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and take a lead in making progress towards international nuclear disarmament."

What he meant: I know that many of you disagree with me on the need to renew Trident but I am not going to give up without a fight. I believe that peace is not incompatible with security and I do not believe Trident makes the world a safer place and I don't want my Labour Party to be in favour of replacing it.


Politics and the internet

What he said: "I don't believe in personal abuse of any sort. Treat people with respect, treat people as you would wish to be treated yourself. Listen to their views, agree or disagree but have that debate. There is going to be no rudeness from me... I say to all Labour activists 'cut out the personal abuse, cut out the cyber-bullying and especially the misogynistic abuse online and let's get on bringing real values back into politics'."

What he meant: I want a more civilised tone of politics and the free-wheeling, no holds-barred discourse on Twitter and other social media has gone too far. Labour supporters should not fight fire with fire. This new, "kinder", politics is part of my pitch to those disenchanted with how things have been done over recent decades.


'We lost our way in Scotland'

What he said: "I know people in Scotland have been disappointed by the Labour Party in Scotland. I know you feel we lost our way. I agree with you. Kezia Dugdale (Scottish Labour leader) has asked people to take another look and that is what I want people to do. Under my and Kezia's leadership, it will change. We will learn the lessons of the past and make Labour again the great fighting force you expect us to be."

What he meant: With Holyrood elections coming up next May, Scotland is crucial to my future and denying the SNP a majority will be seen as a key barometer of my performance. An apology for Labour's past mistakes is a necessary starting point.


'Don't take what you're given'

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What he said: "Since the dawn of history, in every human society there have been people who have been given a great deal and many more who have been given little or nothing. Some people have property and power, status and capital that are denied to the many. And time and time again, the people who receive a great deal tell the many 'be grateful to have anything at all'. They say the world cannot be changed and the many have to accept the terms of which they are allowed to live... Labour is the voice that says to the many at home and abroad 'you don't have to take what you are given'. Labour says 'you may be born poor but you don't have to stay poor'. You don't have to live without power or hope or set limits on your talent or ambition and that of your children. You set the terms for the people in power over you and you dismiss them when they fail you."

What he meant: It might be characterised as an old-fashioned, outdated argument but this is my central economic and political pitch. Labour has and always been the people's party, standing up the dispossessed and the less fortunate in society. The Tories represent the most privileged and will always defend their interests. Labour is the true engine of social mobility, the natural home for those who aspire to a better life.

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