For people who say he's turning the clock back to the 80s, I'd say to them, better that than what the Tories are doing: turning the clock back 100 years, pre-NHS, pre-Welfare State, to a time when inequality was huge; taking us back to the harsh and bleak time of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (a few of my recent blogs have examined this). But actually I don't think he is turning the clock back. It's more a case of these things coming in cycles, of pendulums swinging and the time being ripe for change. This is a very different era than the early 80s.
We had 30 odd years of consensus politics and a social contract in the post-war decades based on Keynesian economics, and since then we've had 30 odd years of monetarism and market forces running rampant. It may just be that we're at the end of that 30 year period and Jeremy Corbyn's campaign is the catalyst we need in this country. I like to think so, although I know that all those in whose interest it is to keep the status quo will fight tooth and nail to undermine and denigrate his campaign.
And so to the speech he made on August 3rd 2015 which I have transcribed as best I can from YouTube and where I couldn't hear properly I've replaced it with an ellipsis. There was an overflow and people queuing around the block to hear him. A banner from the Fire Brigades Union beneath him read ‘Jeremy Corbyn Straight Talking, Honest Politics’.
“This is a campaign at one level about The Labour Party leadership but on another level it’s about a lot of other things…this is about an alternative …when we lost the election in May, many of us were pretty devastated by that defeat…there was some good stuff in that Labour manifesto….the banking crisis was not caused by firefighters, street cleaners, nurses, teachers, or anybody else in our valuable public services…it was caused by deregulation, it was caused by speculation, it was caused by sheer levels of greed…and whilst taking the banks into public ownership was absolutely the right thing to do the problem was they weren’t kept in public ownership…they were allowed to carry on in their own sweet way.
“So when we got to the 2010 election, we were offering more austerity, more cuts, more punishment of the poorest in this country. David Cameron claimed we were all in it together. I don’t think so, David Cameron, I don’t think we’re all in this together at all. I think you think everybody else is in it together except you and your party and the people around you.
“We’ve had five years of opposition, we’ve seen what the Coalition has done, the number of jobs that have been lost in the public sector, the wage freeze, the lower wages for those in the private sector, the zero hours contracts, the brutality of much of the benefits system and what it’s doing to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
“So when we came to the 2015 election, surely we should have been able to offer something more than austerity and say that we believe the function of government is to deal with the poorest in our society to ensure that poverty is eliminated and promote an economy that is expanding with jobs, opportunities and work for all…
“We recognise what an achievement it was for the Labour movement when we got the NHS in 1948 before I was born and also in the same year we got the welfare state. But somewhere along the line we’ve lost our way…Benefits Street…abuse of people who are justly, legally and correctly claiming that to which they’re entitled. Somewhere along the line we’ve allowed the cheapness of the media to take over and abuse people on disability benefit, abuse people and passed people as fit for work when they clearly are not. People have committed suicide as a result of that. Can we be bold enough and strong enough as a party and as a Labour movement to say we want to live in a society where we don’t pass by on the other side when somebody is going through a crisis, we don’t pass by on the other side when a family is forced to live on the street because they can no longer afford the flat or house that they’re living in. …we don’t pass by on the other side and let the poorest defend for themselves whilst the richest keep on getting richer and richer at our expense with their investments in property which they use as a cash cow for the future? Can we be proud of wanting to live in a civilised society where everybody cares for everybody else and everyone cares for each other. Surely that is something worth aspiring to.
“…it’s the twenty first century world where people have had enough of free market economies…we’ve had enough of being told austerity works, knowing full well that it does not. So let’s be practical about the things we want to do…to create an economy where we invest in high skills manufacturing industry…in sustainable development, in green energy jobs, green energy resources, real infrastructure, council housing, and giving people a decent place to live…where we don’t have a housing policy that deliberately drives people out of central London as a whole process of social cleansing, as a combination of high rents and insufficiency of benefits. This can be done. Our students leave university with massive debits – fifty thousand, sixty thousand, seventy thousand pounds worth of debts. What sort of a start in the world is that for young people who’ve studied hard, worked hard and achieved a great deal at university…my generation had free university education…I personally didn’t take it up…but I had that opportunity, it’s not mine to take away from the next or subsequent generations. By increasing corporation tax by 4.5 per cent we could achieve free university education for all – a price worth paying.
“I’m inspired by all these people who’ve come together who are put off by personality politics, by the politics of personal abuse, the politics of celebrity and want something stronger. So I’m not indulging in personal abuse of anybody. I don’t do it, I never have, never will. There isn’t time, it’s a waste of energy. It outs people off. I want on September the 12th whatever the result is to be together, to stay together, to keep on being together in order to develop the policies that will bring real social justice, that will help bring peace to the world, that will help being a just and environmentally sustainable world. We can together do it. Let’s be strong. Thank you very much.”
Jeremy Corbyn speech, Camden, 3rd August 2015