A new kinder politics

by Daphne Liddle

JEREMY Corbyn last Tuesday, in his keynote speech at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton, set out his plans to transform the structure of the Labour Party and the way it operates to make it more open and accessible to rank and file constituency members and union affiliates.

He failed to get the debate he wanted on the future of the Trident nuclear weapons system — showing that there are some deep divisions among his newly-chosen shadow cabinet members and among major union leaders, who opposed even debating the issue.

And he conceded an open vote on Britain becoming involved in bombing Syria, despite his own personal strong views against this —showing he has yet to convince some of the right-wing Blairite MPs on the matter.

Corbyn is trying to unite a wide spectrum of views by encouraging the widest possible open debate on all issues.

“I am not leader who wants to impose leadership lines all the time,” he said I don’t believe anyone of us has a monopoly on wisdom and ideas — we all have ideas and a vision of how things can be better.

“I want open debate in our party and our movement. I will listen to everyone. I firmly believe leadership is about listening. We will reach out to our new members and supporters. Involve people in our debates on policy and then our Party as a whole will decide.

“I’ve been given a huge mandate, by 59 per cent of the electorate who supported my campaign. I believe it is a mandate for change. I want to explain how. First and foremost it’s a vote for change in the way we do politics. In the Labour Party and in the country. Politics that’s kinder, more inclusive. Bottom up, not top down.

“In every community and workplace, not just in Westminster. Real debate, not necessarily message discipline all the time. But above all, straight talking. Honest. That’s the politics we’re going to have in the future in this party and in this movement.”

Corbyn is more confident in support for his anti-austerity economic policies, developed with new Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who made the keynote economic party statement to conference on Monday. On this issue the unions are united behind him.

McDonnell won a warm reception when he said austerity was a political choice and not a necessity. “We are saying, tackling the deficit is important but we are rejecting austerity as the means to do it,” he said. “We are setting out an alternative based upon dynamically growing our economy, ending the tax cuts for the rich and addressing the scourge of tax evasion and avoidance.”

The following day Jeremy Corbyn backed this line: “Let me be clear under my leadership, and we discussed this yesterday in conference, Labour will be challenging austerity. It will be unapologetic about reforming our economy to challenge inequality and protect workers better.”

Later he added: “But I want to tackle one thing head on. The Tories talk about economic and family security being at risk from us the Labour party, or perhaps even more particularly, from me. I say this to them. How dare these people talk about security for families and people in Britain?

“Where’s the security for families shuttled around the private rented sector on six month tenancies — with children endlessly having to change schools? Where’s the security for those tenants afraid to ask a landlord to fix a dangerous structure in their own homes because they might be evicted because they’ve gone to the local authority to seek the justice they’re entitled to?

“Where’s the security for the carers struggling to support older family members as Tory local government cuts destroy social care and take away the help they need?

“Where’s the security for young people starting out on careers knowing they are locked out of any prospect of ever buying their own home by soaring house prices?

“Where’s the security for families driven away from their children’s schools, their community and family ties by these welfare cuts?”

A good start for the new Labour leader but signs serious clashes ahead with the remaining Blairite wing of the party.

The opening up of inner party democracy and involvement of the masses of working class people now joining, or rejoining, can only help. We have a new phase in the class struggle in Britain.