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Labour Party Conference 2023 Unprecedented crises call for bold solutions

Transformative politics and a renewed commitment to democracy are needed if we’re to build a more equal, sustainable and peaceful world, writes JEREMY CORBYN MP

SUELLA BRAVERMAN’S conference speech was testament to a Conservative Party that is desperate to scapegoat vulnerable people for 13 years of economic failure. 

Devoid of solutions for the crises they have created, the Tories have resorted to punching down on the most marginalised people in our society. 

Rishi Sunak’s speech was an equally spineless charade. Not a word on housing. Nothing on social care. Does he care 4.2 million children live in poverty? Does he know that we’re sleepwalking into climate catastrophe? 

Having witnessed this horror show of fear, despair and division, the Labour Party has a choice this week in Liverpool. 

Do we let their hatred spread unchallenged? Or do we offer an alternative of inclusion, equality and hope? Do we allow them to convince the British public that inequality and poverty are inevitable? Or do we mobilise around the possibility of a better world? 

Unprecedented crises call for bold solutions. That means building a new economy that satisfies human needs, not corporate greed.

First, after more than a decade of real-term cuts to their wages, workers deserve a decent pay rise. 

It is healthcare workers who keep our NHS afloat. It is posties who keep us connected. It is transport staff who keep our trains running. It is teachers who educate the next generation. Their contribution to society should be recognised, starting with an inflation-busting uplift in pay. 

We can’t stop there, however. While workers fight for fair pay, private corporations are making millions in profit. How much longer will we let fossil fuel giants destroy our planet before we kickstart a Green New Deal that invests in renewables? 

How much longer will we let PFIs drain our NHS dry? How much longer are we going to let water companies dump sewage into our rivers and seas before we admit privatisation has failed? Regulation is not enough — it’s time to bring water, energy, rail, mail and our NHS back into democratic public ownership.

Third, we need urgent action on the housing crisis. How can a civilised society let 250,000 people sleep on the streets? The time for rent controls is long overdue, as is a massive council housebuilding programme and the end of no-fault evictions to guarantee security of tenure. 

Fourth, we should find the courage to take on the rich and powerful. A 1 per cent wealth tax on assets over £10 million would raise £10bn. 

And we’re supposed to believe that scrapping the two-child benefit cap is unaffordable? With the money from that wealth tax, we could scrap it seven times over. We have mobilised against austerity before. And we will do so again, uniting instead around a redistribution of wealth, ownership and power.

Finally, we must stand up to the appalling strategy of divide and rule that we saw at this year’s Conservative conference. The right to asylum is under attack — and it’s up to us to speak up for our shared humanity. 

Refugees are being scapegoated for an economic crisis they didn’t create. Our response must be loud and clear — refugees are welcome here. That means building a humane immigration system based in compassion, dignity and care. 

It also means addressing the root causes of their displacement. In a world that is desperate for environmental sustainability and an end to starvation and hunger, we need more voices for peace. That’s why I am proud to be a founding member of Stop the War and proud to support its campaigns.

The war in Ukraine is a growing humanitarian catastrophe. It has already led to hundreds of thousands of casualties — of civilians, Ukrainian soldiers and Russian conscripts. Whole regions of the country have been devastated. Millions of people have had to flee their homes.
I have condemned — and continue to condemn — Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. As this appalling conflict wages on, we echo calls made by the UN secretary-general, Pope Francis, and several leaders of nations across the global South such as President Lula of Brazil: for an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated, lasting peace. 
These calls for peace are becoming more urgent by the day. The war is entering a dangerous new phase, and the risk of nuclear war is greater than ever before. 

Most recently, Russia responded to reports that Britain could host US nuclear weapons by threatening to deploy its own countermeasures. 

The British government has already sent depleted uranium shells and cluster munitions. This is a decision that could cause generations of human suffering and environmental devastation, as seen in southern Iraq from the Gulf war.
More and more human beings are paying the price for war — not just in Ukraine but in Yemen, Palestine, the Congo, Sudan and nations across the Sahel region. Across the globe, people are dying from horrific and unnecessary conflicts. I’m not interested in bombs. I’m interested in peace. 

There is a reason why these demands for a more equal, sustainable and peaceful world are not being made by the Labour leadership. 

The absence of transformative ideas has been caused by a dearth of democracy. This year marks 50 years since we founded the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. 

We did this to empower party members and expand their rights. Today, these rights are under attack up and down the country. 

Local branches like my own are being sidelined, party members are being silenced and democracy is being stifled. This is not coincidental to the drastic political shift away from our redistributive programme. 

Our transformative policies from 2017 and 2019 were not imposed from the top. They were developed, formulated and defended by members and affiliates. 

That is how it should be. Democracy is the foundation of the Labour Party. It is essential to a healthy, creative and collective movement. 

And, ultimately, only a movement that empowers its members can generate the transformative policies this country desperately needs.

Millions of people have been plunged into stress. Our schools and hospitals are crumbling after 13 years of austerity. And in their desperation to reach a place of safety, human beings are drowning at sea. There is a kinder alternative. This weekend, I’ll be standing beside those who believe in a better world.

Jeremy Corbyn is MP for Islington North.


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