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Jeremy Corbyn speech leaves conference ‘flat’

PUBLISHED: 20:06 26 September 2018

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (right) and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell after his speech at the Labour Party's annual conference at the Arena and Convention Centre (ACC), in Liverpool. Picture:  Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (right) and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell after his speech at the Labour Party's annual conference at the Arena and Convention Centre (ACC), in Liverpool. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has split his already divided party with a speech that “fell flat” at the annual conference.

Members, delegates and even his own MPs were left disappointed by an address that offered “little that was new” and lacked any “radical” policy proposals.

One senior Labour MP refused to comment saying only that he had little positive to say about the address.

And members were also disappointed by the keynote address with many at the conference suggesting the leader had offered little that was new.

One delegate said: “It fell a bit flat. I was hoping for something really radical, something that would grab the attention of people. But, although it was a perfectly decent speech, it didn’t really deliver.

“I think most people will go home just happy that we have got through conference without any major rows or disasters.”

And Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, the Conservative party chairman, attacked the speech saying: “All he offers are failed ideas that didn’t work in the past and would leave working families paying the price with higher taxes, more debt and more waste – just like last time.

“He confirmed Labour are opening the door to re-running the referendum, which would take us all back to square one.

“And he didn’t even apologise to Jewish people for his total failure to tackle the anti-Jewish racism that is rife in the Labour party.”

But Ipswich MP Sandy Martin was positive about Mr Corbyn’s speech.

He said: “I thought it addressed the issues that people have been talking about for the past year. I thought it was good.

“It outlined the fact that we offer a sensible way forward and that is something the Tories do not. If people are saying it was light on policy I think they are wrong. The announcement on offering free childcare for everyone is great news for parents of young children in the East. That will make a real difference.”

And speaking about the conference in general, Norwich South MP Clive Lewis was also encouraged. He said: “I think Labour is ready - confident in our ideas, clear in our plans, committed to rebuild Britain.

“We stand for a different kind of Britain that brings people together offers hope for the future, peace and social justice for the many - and our time has come.”

In his speech Mr Corbyn accused “the political and corporate establishment” of propping up the financial system which caused misery to millions following the crash of 2008. His words were a clear denouncement of former PM and Labour leader Gordon Brown’s role during the crash. He said that Labour is ready to deliver “the radical plan we need to rebuild and transform Britain” adding: “The old way of running things isn’t working anymore.”

“Ten years ago this month, the whole edifice of greed-is-good deregulated financial capitalism, lauded for a generation as the only way to run a modern economy, came crashing to earth with devastating consequences,” he said.

“But instead of making essential changes to a broken economic system, the political and corporate establishment strained every sinew to bail out and prop up the system that led to the crash in the first place.

“The price of that has not just been stagnation, wages falling for the longest period in recorded history, and almost a decade of deeply damaging cuts to public services. It’s also fuelled the growth of racism and xenophobia and has led to a crisis of democracy at home and abroad.

“People in this country know that the old way of running things isn’t working any more. And unless we offer radical solutions, others will fill the gap with the politics of blame and division.”

Conference has inevitably been dominated by Brexit and the question of a second vote. Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer received the biggest ovation of the gathering prior to Mr Corbyn’s speech when he spoke off script about Labour not ruling out a so-called People’s Vote.

And although the conference voted in favour of not taking a second referendum off the table, delegates remain split about what the party policy should be.

But in a major boost to those campaigners for a so-called People’s Vote Mr Corbyn announced no options would be taken off the table.

He said: “So let me say to the country. As it stands, Labour will vote against the Chequers plan or whatever is left of it and oppose leaving the EU with no deal.

“And it is inconceivable that we should crash out of Europe with no deal - that would be a national disaster.

“That is why if Parliament votes down a Tory deal or the government fails to reach any deal at all we would press for a General Election. Failing that, all options are on the table.

“So let me thank Keir Starmer, the man who would lead our Brexit negotiations in government. Keir, having got agreement yesterday in this conference hall, getting one in Brussels should be a piece of cake.”

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