Together, we can build a country
fit for the next generation
This is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in Northampton (10 Oct 2019) on how Labour will offer real change.
We might be just weeks away from the first Queen’s Speech of a Labour government. And in that Queen’s Speech, Labour will put forward the most radical, hopeful, people-focused programme in modern times: a once-in-a-generation chance to rebuild and transform our country.
· Let the people decide on Brexit
· Build an economy that works for all
· Change government so that it works for you
· Tackle the climate emergency
· Reset our global role to one based on peace and human rights.
So today I want to give you a preview of Labour’s plan for real change.
The first task of a Labour government will be to finally get Brexit sorted. After three years of Tory failure, it’s time to take the decision out of the hands of politicians and let the people have the final say. So a Labour government will immediately legislate for a referendum.
That referendum won’t be a re-run of 2016. No one knew what a deal with the EU would look like back then and the prospect of No Deal was dismissed out-of-hand by leading Leave campaigners, including Boris Johnson.
This time the choice will be between leaving with a sensible deal or remaining in the European Union. Two clear options, both agreed with the EU – no false promises, no bluster.
So within three months of coming to power, a Labour government will secure a sensible deal, based on the terms we have long advocated and discussed with the EU, trade unions and businesses, including a new customs union, a close single market relationship and guarantees of rights and protections.
Within six months of being elected we will put that deal to a public vote alongside remain. And as prime minister I will carry out whatever the people decide. There’s nothing complicated about that position. It’s really very simple: Labour trusts the people to decide.
Labour is the only party that can and will deliver a public vote. The Tories and the Lib Dems have taken increasingly extreme, and frankly undemocratic positions, sowing further division.
Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are pushing the country towards No Deal for which they have no mandate, which is opposed by most of the public and which would open the way to a race-to-the-bottom in our rights and protections, to get a one-sided trade deal with Donald Trump.
But Labour will get Brexit sorted and bring our country together because years of bickering over Brexit has become a barrier to delivering the real change this country needs. To do that, we need an economy that works for the many not just the few at the top.
Today’s GDP figures show our economy is contracting. We’re on the brink of recession, productivity is down and people’s living standards are lower today than 10 years ago. That’s the Tory record.
A Labour government will rebuild communities across Britain with investment on a scale our country has never known bringing new jobs and fresh growth to every town, city, region and nation.
We’ll upgrade our creaking infrastructure with £250 billion of public investment into energy, housing and transport through a National Transformation Fund and establish a National Investment Bank to make a further £250 billion available through loans to businesses and co-ops to get our economy moving.
Grotesque inequality isn’t inevitable. It’s the result of a deliberate effort to tip the balance of power away from workers towards the privileged elite that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives represent.
For too many people, work now means longer hours, more stress and greater insecurity. Pay is still lower than it was a decade ago.
The Chancellor Sajid Javid has said the minimum wage will not rise above £10 an hour until 2024, and only for those aged 21 and over. So a Labour government will immediately raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour for all workers from the age of 16.
And we’ll deliver the biggest extension of rights for workers our country has ever seen. We’ll create a new Ministry of Employment Rights to give workers a seat at the Cabinet table and strengthen the democratic voice of the workforce through collective bargaining.
Every worker will have full rights on day one of a new job; entitling them to sick pay, holiday pay, parental leave and protection against unfair dismissal. A new Workers’ Protection Agency will ensure all these rights are properly enforced. And we’ll create a Working Time Commission … to reduce the average full time working hours to 32 a week within ten years
But to truly rebalance power in people’s daily lives we need to go further. So Labour will give workers a say and a stake in their workplace … by ensuring a third of the seats on company boards are reserved for worker directors … elected by the workforce.
And we’ll require all large companies to create Inclusive Ownership Funds … giving workers a share of the fruits of their labour … by paying a dividend of up to £500 a year.
Too much talent in our country is squandered – not through any fault of the individual but because austerity has closed down opportunities for people.
I believe the point of government is to do the opposite, to open up opportunities and allow everyone to reach their full potential. That begins with education.
The Tories have starved our schools of cash and, along with the Liberal Democrats, saddled a generation of young people with a lifelong debt burden.
A Labour government will create a National Education Service providing free education for everyone throughout life, as a right not a privilege. We’ll scrap university tuition fees, give our schools the funding they need, end the academies and free schools programmes and bring all schools into a democratically accountable system.
We’ll free young children from the unnecessary stress of over-testing by scrapping SATs for 7 and 11 year olds. And because we know early years are the most important, we’ll rebuild Sure Start and introduce universal free childcare for all 2, 3 and 4 year olds.
For a decade our NHS has been run down, carved up, and prepared for privatisation. A Labour government will reverse this. We’ll repeal the Tory-Lib Dem privatisation Act of 2012. We’ll give our NHS the resources, equipment and staff it needs. That means more GPs and nurses and reduced waiting times. And under Labour prescriptions in England will be free.
And we’ll make life-saving medicines available to all by ensuring Big Pharma can no longer hold our NHS to ransom. The prices pharmaceutical companies demand don’t reflect the costs of the drugs they make. They simply charge as much as they can get away with.
We’ll use compulsory licensing to secure generic versions of patented medicines and create a publicly-owned generic drugs manufacturer to supply cheaper medicines to our NHS, saving our health service money and saving lives.
Only Labour can be trusted with the future of our NHS.
Nearly £8 billion has been taken from councils’ social care budgets since 2010. 87 people die every day while waiting for the care they need. It’s a disgrace, frankly, that we treat our older people in this way.
A Labour government will introduce free personal care providing help with daily tasks like bathing, washing, and preparing meals. This will be the first step to creating a National Care Service, easing the fear of getting older.
If I told you that our social security system has been “deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos” you might think, ‘Well, he would say that.’
But if I told you those aren’t my words but the damning verdict of the United Nations, no less, you get a sense of the damage wrought by nine years of Tory austerity.
Their policy of Universal Credit pushes people into the jaws of loan sharks forces proud men and women to depend on food banks and turfs families out of their homes.
The Tories promised it would make work pay. But more and more people who are falling into poverty have jobs.
A Labour government will change the whole culture of the DWP. It will become the Department for Social Security to give people dignity and respect.
Social security shouldn’t be about forcing women into the indignity of having to fill out a four-page form to prove their child was born as a result of rape as 500 women had to do last year.
Labour will scrap Universal Credit and introduce an emergency package to immediately end its worst aspects. Ending the benefit cap and the two child limit, which alone will stop up to 300,000 children being pushed into poverty.
And, yes, that means the end of the disgusting rape clause. We’ll end the five-week wait for the first payment, end the Tories’ vicious sanctions regime, end the bedroom tax and – because we’re committed to reducing poverty – we’ll end the benefit freeze.
We’ll control welfare spending by tackling low pay and insecure work and rip-off rents. Social security shouldn’t be subsidising bad employers and greedy landlords.
Labour sees a decent home as a right owed to all, not a privilege for the few. So we’ll build a million genuinely affordable homes over ten years, the majority for social rent, with the biggest council house-building programme in a generation.
And let me say this on World Homeless Day: in the fifth richest country in the world no one should be sleeping rough. We all know it’s wrong. It’s Labour that will end rough sleeping.
After the horror of Grenfell, it’s astonishing that the Tories are still failing to make tower blocks safe. Nine out of ten private blocks with Grenfell-style cladding haven’t had it replaced. Labour will ensure people aren’t living in death traps. And we will deliver justice for Grenfell.
Under the Tories, our communities have become less safe. Violent crime has doubled. Think about that next time you see the Prime Minister using police recruits as a backdrop for his latest election gimmick.
A Labour government will increase the number of uniformed officers, PCSOs and police staff. But we know that Tory police cuts are not the only reason violent crime doubled.
It’s also the wider impact of austerity – including the closure of youth services. 750 youth centres have closed their doors since 2012. Too many young people today are growing up with nowhere to go and no one to speak to about their lives.
This is not just about crime. The experiences of our youth can shape our entire lives. It should be a time to discover arts, enjoy sport and develop friendships. So a Labour government will guarantee every young person access to youth services in their community.
Women have borne the brunt of Tory austerity, turning back the clock on gender equality. Labour will put women right the heart of our programme for government, creating a standalone department for Women and Equalities, to ensure gender equality is prioritised.
Labour is the Party of equality. We’ll bear down on sexism, racism, homophobia and all forms of discrimination wherever they exist in our economy and society.
And we’ll deliver justice for the victims of the Windrush scandal.
The sickening antisemitic attack on a synagogue in Germany yesterday is a terrifying reminder of where hatred and racism leads.
Many of the measures I’m outlining today will be delivered at the local level by local councils. But local councils and local services have been gutted by the Tories. The ultimate symbol of that is right here in Northamptonshire where the Conservative-run council collapsed. A Labour government will properly fund councils and local services and restore that sense of place and pride that comes from having good local facilities and a thriving, lively high street.
The same goes for vital basic services we all rely on, which have been carved up and fleeced by their private owners. The privatisation of our utilities, which are natural monopolies, has been a failure. People are sick of paying through the nose for a poor service while billions are handed over to shareholders. So Labour will bring rail, mail, water and the energy grid into public ownership, run by and for the public, not for profit.
And a Labour government will take the railways back into public ownership too. We’ll invest in public transport including Crossrail for the North, from Liverpool to Hull and up to Newcastle. We’ll reinstate bus routes and establish municipal companies making free bus travel available to the under-25s while maintaining the pensioner bus pass. Our public transport network is falling apart just when the climate emergency means we need it most.
To have any hope of keeping global temperature rises to a manageable level we need immediate and radical action. I’d like to thank groups like the Climate Strikers and Extinction Rebellion for educating us and pushing the issue to the top of the agenda.
The government’s target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is too late and the Tories are doing little to meet it – in fact investment in clean energy has fallen for three years running. A Labour government is fully signed up to a Green New Deal. We are already working closely with trade unions and the scientific community to develop the most radical climate targets in the world.
In government, we will entrench this into law by updating the Climate Change Act with the most ambitious feasible net zero deadline consistent with a just transition for workers. The urgent need to reduce our emissions is the starting point for the Green Industrial Revolution that we will unleash in every part of the country, creating hundreds of thousands of good, skilled jobs across Britain and building the cleaner, healthier, more rewarding economy of the future.
Yesterday I visited a state-of-the-art wind turbine facility near Southampton to discuss our plan for a five-fold increase in the UK’s offshore wind capacity creating nearly 70,000 jobs. That’s the kind of ambition we need. Under our plan the public will take a 51 per cent stake in new offshore windfarms and we’ll reinvest the profits in coastal communities and other green measures.
And Labour will ban fracking, roll out a street-by-street insulation programme and fit solar panels on 1.75 million roofs, double large-scale solar, remove barriers to onshore wind and ensure every single new house built is a zero carbon home.
The climate emergency is an issue of global security. And like other global issues it demands cooperation and diplomacy. The invasion of Northern Syria by Turkey is completely unacceptable. More violence is never the solution. To end war you have to make peace, which is what all sides should do now.
The Syrian peace process must mean peace and security for the Kurdish people too, whose voice must be included and heard. Reckless military interventions have made Britain and the world a more dangerous place. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya were disastrous failures that devastated those countries and fuelled terrorism and insecurity, rather than fighting it.
Currently the prime minister has the power under the royal prerogative to launch military action without recourse to parliament. Boris Johnson – a prime minister without a majority – has talked about sending troops to Saudi Arabia to confront Iran: another disaster in the making.
I will be a very different kind of Prime Minister, one who is prepared to limit my own power in the public interest. So that’s why a Labour government will introduce a War Powers Bill to ensure no prime minister can bypass parliament to take the country to war.
The alternative Queen’s Speech I’ve set out today is the most transformative, radical and exciting programme ever put before the British electorate. This is Labour’s plan to change our country. It’s the real thing not the pale imitation offered by Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party.
It’s a path to a future where the economy is run for the people, not the privileged, and the government works for you not the vested interests. A future where we tackle the climate emergency and Britain is a force for peace and international justice in the world.
That future is within our grasp. Together we can build a country fit for the next generation. The future is ours to make. It’s time for real change.
Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.