Jeremy Corbyn compared himself to a mountaineer in the closing speech of the Labour Party conference. The party’s leader, re-elected with an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote, was in front of a mountain of an election: rugged, yet scalable. And the leader has become a more experienced climber, after a year during which his climbing companions — the Commons of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) — have tried repeatedly to make him fall.
His second inaugural address in a year to a Liverpool audience was a much more balanced and polished affair, and not only because he has learned how to use the teleprompter. Corbyn today is stronger, thanks to his incontrovertible mandate, and he is more polished and balanced. The bare minimum in the face of a possible move by Prime Minister Theresa May to convene a surprise early election next year to take advantage of the internal disruption of the main opposition party.
With this sweaty calmness, he has announced the soft socialism program (for the 21st century, according to his own definition) that Labour will present at the next general election, no matter when it will be held. This program contains massive public interventions that will be analyzed by the party as a whole before ratification.
In forming this platform, Corbyn delivered a slap in the face to the “pragmatism” of the moderates. All of them support the introduction of immigration controls, but Corbyn warned of making promises that cannot be kept, thus reaffirming the consistency of certain principles of the left that had been thrown overboard too easily. Instead of “sowing division,” he suggested intervention to rebalance compensation in Europe, so as to contain the dash for British wages and to allocate more money for public services such as health and education, which are under pressure from the migration influx.
He also focused on the need to end the trench warfare between leftists and moderates that paralyzes the party, reaffirming his determination to eradicate the risk of anti-Semitism among some ranks of activists. He also reiterated Tony Blair’s responsibilities on the Iraq catastrophe, (despite deputy leader Tom Watson’s warning to the audience not to criticize too much the legacy of the Blair-Brown duo), and announced the end of sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Other measures mentioned in the speech include more money for social housing, raising taxes to businesses to finance higher education costs — nobody actually talks anymore about solving the deficit, not even the right — the tough fight for the reintroduction of the elite grammar schools, announced by the May government, and the Trade Union Act, which tightens union rules.
But the hard lump to swallow for the pro-business centrists, who for some time were hegemonic in the party, was Corbyn’s clear anti-market instance. “a so-called free market system, that has produced grotesque inequality.” He added: “The global banking crash is an object lesson of out-of-control greed and speculation that crashed economies across the globe and required the biggest ever government intervention and public bailout in history.”
It was a clear signal to the representatives of the “extreme center,” who just a year ago were still the undisputed masters of the house and now suddenly find themselves a confused, resentful and hardly relevant minority. At most, they can stand by and watch, hoping for another failure of their own party, which they no longer recognize. Moreover, the hypothesis of a secession appears impractical at the time: As it is, the electoral system would condemn the defectors to an almost total obliteration.
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