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A BIG welcome to all Labour delegates in Brighton this week for our annual conference.
It’s an important week for our party. Conference is about lively discussions and debates. It’s about meeting friends old and new. It’s about preparations for a general election and for going into government.
But let’s all hope that it’s our last one in opposition so that when we gather again next year it will be to hear the first conference speech of Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister.
As we meet, the choice facing British politics has never been clearer. Gone are the days of people saying: “You’re all the same.”
We have a Tory Party ruthlessly prepared to deliver for the billionaire class at home and desperate to create a partnership with Donald Trump that would be a Thatcher-Reagan alliance for the 21st century.
And we have the Lib Dems, who have become home from home for disgruntled Tory politicians and whose leaders are already declaring that in government they would make “tough choices” — Establishment talk for making massive cuts.
In contrast, Labour is ready to deliver hope for the country with a radical vision of change that will bury the free-market policies that have scarred our country for decades.
I hope that the coming weeks will see history being made as we force the general election to kick Boris Johnson and the Tories out by Christmas.
There have been some tactical battles dominating Parliament in the last few weeks around stopping a “no-deal” Brexit.
The hard-right Tory Party will use any excuse to reshape our economy, our public services and the position of workers in our society.
We know that for some, no-deal Brexit is an opportunity for them to wage class warfare on behalf of the billionaire class in the kind of process that Naomi Klein writes about in her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
But once we have shut off that no-deal risk for sure in the coming few weeks, then we are coming for Johnson and the rotten system he represents.
A general election is the way out of the crisis our country faces. A general election is the way we can ensure Team Johnson-Trump can’t cut a deal that will help to flog off our NHS to multinational corporations, further drive down wages and further deregulate our own already scandalously deregulated economy.
We will be trying to force a general election to get Boris Johnson and the Tories out so we can have a Labour government that serves the interests of our class just as much as Trump and Johnson serve the interests of theirs.
Johnson seems to see himself as some sort of historian. So, here’s a bit of history for him. We’re going to try to make Johnson the shortest-serving PM since Viscount Goderich in 1827, who lasted just 130 days.
Let’s make sure that one day Johnson is nothing more than the answer in a pub quiz. An ignominious fate for one who thinks he’s “born to rule.”
So, Johnson and his privileged mates shouldn’t get too comfortable squatting in No 10.
Our movement will be seeking to ensure he is writing his Christmas cards from some country retreat that’s not Chequers.
Now some are saying that we don’t need a general election. They say we just need a public vote. Well they couldn’t be more wrong.
We need a general election first, not just to secure the final say on Brexit, but to kick out the Tories and to begin the fundamental shift in wealth and power that will serve the 99 per cent and that will be needed to help bring the country back together.
Our party has a Brexit position that we can all unite behind. We will offer a credible Leave option — which any referendum needs — and the option of Remain.
Jeremy Corbyn is a democrat who is in politics to bring people and communities together. That’s why as prime minister Jeremy would then implement whatever the people democratically decide.
This needs to be about giving power back to the people, not politicians telling people what to do.
Quite rightly people are frustrated with the way things have dragged on. But I believe that in government we can negotiate a deal with Europe very quickly — that is, in a matter of weeks, given the work our party has done already.
That would be based on our proposal of a new customs union, a close single market relationship and environmental, consumer and workers’ protections, which contrasts with the race-to-the-bottom Tory Brexit plans.
Then it’s for the people to decide. Personally, once we have a deal secured, I will then take the opportunity to discuss it with my Constituency Labour Party, listen to their views and perspectives and then we’ll decide how we campaign.
What a contrast this is with the approach of the Lib Dems, that the decision of the people is overturned without going back to the people.
The 2019 general election that we’re going to fight for will be an epoch-defining general election in the same way that the 1945 general election was.
And it will be your efforts and those of our wider movement that are going to win it.
When that happens, Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and others will be praised — and rightly so.
But like all of the greatest victories of our movement and of our class, the reality is that when the history books are written, they'll say “who did that?” And the answer will be: “the people did it themselves.”
Richard Burgon is shadow secretary of state for justice and Labour MP for Leeds East.
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