OPINION Leader Corbyn delivered a radical message of hope
27 September, 2019 — By Stephen Moorby
GAZING down from the balcony of the Brighton Centre on Tuesday, I watched as Jeremy Corbyn brought this year’s Labour Party Conference to its feet with a powerful and passionate leader’s speech charting a new way forward for the whole country.
It was hard to remember that it was only in 2015 that he was catapulted as leader of the Labour Party onto the national stage, to the surprise of so many, not least himself.
I was one of the Labour members from Islington who this week joined the thousands of members and delegates from all over Britain who came together to make policy and celebrate common values and aspirations.
For over 30 years, Jeremy has been a popular local MP and tireless campaigner for often unfashionable causes. But this week we found ourselves listening to a national leader setting out Labour’s radical agenda for rebuilding and reuniting a Britain devastated and divided by nine years of Tory austerity and most recently a Prime Minister dedicated to widening those divisions.
For Labour Party members and activists, annual conference has always been an important event in the political calendar. But since the explosion in Labour Party membership under Jeremy’s leadership, making it the largest political party in Europe, it has become an even more lively and inspiring affair, especially given the large influx of younger members.
The leader’s speech is always the highlight of conference but this year it took place against a background of heightened drama. Normally, the speech is given on Wednesday, the last day of conference.
But after the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday by an 11-0 vote that Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament had been illegal, the leader’s speech was brought forward to Tuesday afternoon so that Jeremy and the Shadow Cabinet could travel back to London for the resumption of parliamentary business.
However, if the leader’s speech was the highlight of conference, it was merely the conclusion to three days of passionate debate and policy-making on Brexit, the economy, international relations, climate change, the housing crisis, schools and protecting the NHS and social care from backdoor privatisation.
We listened to leading members of the Shadow Cabinet champion policies designed to restore hope and dignity to the many citizens of our country struggling to simply get by in the face of years of hostile Tory Party policies – policies that have enriched a privileged minority at the expense of our country’s real wealth creators – the ordinary, hard-working, tax-paying workers.
We listened to the personal experiences of ordinary members struggling with poorly paid jobs, keeping a roof over their family’s head, paying their bills, accessing health and social care and navigating the treacherous rapids of the punitive Universal Credit system.
But the main conference was only part of the event, with a very large number of fringe meetings and The World Transformed, a sort of parallel conference, providing an informal setting for discussing and debating a wide variety of topics.
And given the large numbers of younger members (though the older contingent showed they could still give them a good run for their money), the scale of partying as the evenings wore on was impressive and a welcome opportunity to relax and share friendship and fun after the day’s serious politics.
For me, and for the many thousands of members and trade unionists who came to Brighton this year, the leader’s speech, with its message of hope and its promise of radical change, was an inspiring culmination to an amazing conference.
But, as the hall rang to “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn”, none of us was in any doubt as to the size of the task facing us – the task of dislodging this dishonest, destructive and divisive Tory government and replacing it with a Labour government committed to rebuilding a Britain in which it’s possible to look to the future with hope and confidence.
• Stephen Moorby is a member and officer of Islington North Labour Party.