Corbyn Leader’s Speech: Playing to the Hall, But Not the Country


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has delivered his first leader’s speech at the party’s annual conference in Brighton, calling for the scrapping of Trident nuclear weapons, nationalising the railways, and a massive council house building programme.

His speech was very well received by the audience of delegates in the Brighton Centre and doubtless it will have been equally welcomed by Corbyn cheerleaders in the country. It is less certain his big pitch to be a future leader of the United Kingdom, rather than just another Labour leader, will go down well with the wider public.

Although Corbyn hit the traditional old Labour feel-good areas hard – social justice, public ownership of industry, and nuclear weapons – he skirted or totally avoided the issues ordinary voters seem to care about most – economics, the deficit, and migration. Indeed, he reminded delegates that his first action as leader was to visit a refugees welcome rally – a position most Brits don’t support.

The speech felt like a Jezza’s Best Gold Hits, 1983-2015 – with no new tracks to complement the classics, and little substance or explanation of how the nation could afford to give up austerity, or effectively nationalise housebuilding.

UKIP may be quietly celebrating this afternoon.

As discussed at a fringe event at Labour’s conference this week, they take two voters from Labour for every one they poach from the Conservatives. Corbyn’s weakness is their strength. Speaking of the essential conflict and contradiction that stands at the heart of Corbyn’s New-New Labour, a UKIP Spokesman said:

“While Corbyn positions himself as Mr Nice, as the morally righteous liberal leftie, the sad fact is it’s all fantastical.

“In one sentence Corbyn talks about protecting workers but immediately went on to praise the very emission reduction programmes that are responsible for heavy industry like Tata and SSI steel, being mothballed, haemorrhaging thousands of jobs in Labour heartlands”.

“His words are like inspirational memes. Beguiling as they may be they all belong to a virtual world.”

After making a hash over not singing the national anthem days after his elevation to leader of the party, Corbyn had clearly been advised to make a stab at re-aligning himself as a patriot. Despite professing to love his country, Corbyn’s unique view of what it means to be British may not chime with many outside of the party.

Corbyn has four years to prepare for the next general election, but without significant investment of effort to appeal to a broader base than his own narrow circle of devotees, the fight may be a spectacularly hard one.