6th October 2019
Corbyn lays out Labour plans in Newcastle
In a pre election General Election rally in Newcastle upon Tyne last night, Jeremy Corbyn set out the vision for a Labour government which would transform the economy of the UK and change the lives of many working class people.
Nick Brown MP (Newcastle East) set the tone at the start of the rally by declaring that the key issue facing the country and the world is the climate change emergency. Ian Lavery MP (Ashington) agreed that compared to the climate emergency Brexit was merely a sideshow. Chi Onwurah MP (Newcastle Central) gave an informed and intelligent assessment, based upon her own experience as an engineer, of the practical steps which could be taken to deliver a green industrial revolution and meet the Labour commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2030.
Rising local star Laura Pidcock MP (North West Durham) gave a barnstorming performance with a blistering attack upon the employment legislation of successive Tory governments, the inequities of universal credit and the need to address poverty by creating well paid, unionised jobs for working people. A deserved standing ovation followed.
Corbyn synthesised and built upon the commitment which had been outlined by speakers before him. He stressed that Labour would take back into public ownership the railway system, the Royal Mail and the water industry for starters.
Corbyn outlined a social, economic and environmental programme which would address life issues for working people from the cradle to the grave including:-
- a National Education Service with the abolition of private schools and investment in local neighbourhood school provision;
- abolition of university tuition fees;
- continued support for and investment in the NHS;
- a programme of investment in Council house building and penalties for investors buying empty property for profit, while thousands go homeless;
- co-operation with and investment in local government;
- local transport and highway infrastructure investment outside the South East of England;
- the abolition of universal credit;
- a green deal which would prioritise investment in manufacturing and new technology to both create jobs and reduce climate emissions;
- a four day working week with no loss of pay;
- an end to fracking.
Brexit was, inevitably a feature for all speakers. Corbyn stressed the dangers of a no deal exit from the EU, suggesting that such a scenario would inevitably lead to a reliance on trade with the US, with the opening up of the NHS to market forces and the international pharmaceutical companies.
Such a scenario is already a danger. Whether a no deal exit from the EU would exacerbate that would depend on the political character of the government elected after the next election. While Ian Lavery’s declaration that,
“Labour is not a Remain party, it is not a Leave party it is a socialist party”
was greeted with stormy applause, little was added to clarify the position Labour would take in any referendum situation post election. Continuing to ride both horses may prove increasingly difficult, especially as the Tory position sharpens around Leave and the austerity loving Liberals pin all of their hopes on a Remain campaign.
It would be a tragedy if Brexit became Labour’s Achilles Heel when such a radical programme of change is on offer and there is a real chance that the orthodoxy which has prevailed since the 1980’s can be challenged. As things stand Labour will go into the General Election with a compromised position, offering a new deal with the EU which will be put to a referendum, with Remain also on the ballot paper.
It is a high risk strategy and not a simple one to sell. It is also an irony that departure from the EU would actually give Labour far greater freedom to implement the programme of measures which are shaping up as the next manifesto.
Any further reference to the international situation, regarding the migration crisis and participation in adventurist overseas wars was for Corbyn to clarify. The message was inclusive, supportive and directly opposed to the hostile environment created by the Tories. It was light touch but positive nonetheless.
There were gaps. No mention of the cost of the Trident nuclear submarine programme and the need to cancel it. No reference to withdrawal from NATO. No discussion about the overblown military budget. No mention of the Palestinian question. These are always controversial issues for Labour, easily avoided in front of a home crowd but ones to which Labour will need to have responses under the scrutiny of a General Election.
There is no doubt however that Corbyn was in his natural environment. As an intelligent and articulate speaker he sees the complex links across a range of issues and is able to transmit his enthusiasm and ideas to a crowd desperate for change. The mood at the Newcastle rally was buoyant, it will need to continue to be so in the North East and beyond, for the coming election and its wake, if Labour is to make good on its promises and begin to make the changes the people of the UK desperately need.
Corbyn concluded by emphasising the hope that was of offer to working class people in the UK from a Labour government, stressing the values of cooperation, community and commitment that would drive, and be reinforced by. such a programme.
The Labour Manifesto may not be a completely perfect package but there is much to play for and the alternative is infinitely worse. The sooner that Labour’s prospectus for change is put to the people of the UK, the better.