Jeremy Corbyn has set out a 10-point programme for Britain’s future, based on a huge public investment programme and a commitment to equality.
He has also dismissed the idea Labour could split if he is re-elected leader.
At a business park in Dagenham, east London, on Thursday, Corbyn pledged about £500bn in public spending, which would be used to build new homes, boost the NHS and education and reduce income divisions.
Answering media questions after the event, Corbyn said there was no chance of the party separating if he defeats Owen Smith in the party’s leadership election. Smith, who will enter his first head-to-head debate with Corbyn at a leadership hustings in Cardiff on Thursday evening, warned this week it was likely that the party would split or even “bust apart and disappear” if Corbyn won.
The Labour leader said on Thursday: “I’m sure no Labour MP would even dream of breaking away from the family of the Labour party, the family of the Labour party that helped to put them into parliament.” Cheers from supporters watching the speech drowned out the rest of the answer.
Asked about the mass resignations from his shadow cabinet that precipitated the leadership challenge, Corbyn again said he expected rebels to fall back into line if he was re-elected.
“It’s a very great responsibility to be elected as a Labour MP to represent our party, our movement and its values,” he said. “I will work with anybody in our party in order to ensure that we come together and win a general election for the good of the majority of this country.”
While Thursday’s speech, in front of about 60 supporters and members of the media, was officially part of the leadership battle, Corbyn used the chance to launch the 10-point list of his priorities to put to the country. At the centre is a previously-announced plan for £500bn in public spending via a new national investment bank, to help create a hi-tech and green-based economy. Corbyn said this would be financed by a resultant stronger economy and by cracking down on tax evasion.
Corbyn said a Labour government under him would pledge to build 1m new homes in its first term, half of them council properties. Other pledges covered more job security at work, a better-funded and wholly public NHS, more spending on education and environmental issues and action to combat inequality and income disparities.
On foreign policy, he said a Labour government would focus on conflict resolution and human rights, saying his party’s record over the Iraq war meant it must “work for a more peaceful world”.
Corbyn concluded: “As we build towards a general election we offer an alternative, a different way of doing things, where you ignore nobody, you forget nobody, you build a sense of inclusion, of decency, and moral respect within our society.”
Answering another question, Corbyn shrugged off polls showing his party 14 points behind the Conservatives. “Yes, we are having a leadership campaign and that has probably damaged, temporarily, Labour support,” he said.
“But I think the principles I’ve set out today are things [that] will actually appeal to a very wide range of people within our society. I’m very confident that not only is this leadership campaign going to end in a positive result, but our party is going to be stronger, and probably more united at the end of it.”
Earlier, John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that a huge programme of investment was needed, which is backed by business groups such as the CBI.
Rejecting the idea that the markets would take fright at more borrowing, he said: “It would barely spook the markets if virtually every single independent economic adviser has provided that advice to the government and other European capitals … When you reach some limits of monetary policy you reach for fiscal stimulus.”
On Smith’s warning of a Labour split, McDonnell accused him of attempting to blackmail Corbyn voters into supporting his campaign, and dismissed the claim as the “wrong tactic in a leadership election”. He described the message coming from some of Smith’s friends as a threat and said he did not think that was acceptable.
Asked why he did not want Smith as leader, McDonnell said: “Owen is a great guy, I like him a lot. He is one of the most ambitious career politicians I have met. I think we have moved on from that style of politics. The style of politics people want and that attracts them to Jeremy Corbyn is, ‘what you see is what you get – principled, honest, straightforward’.”
Meanwhile, the decision to bar Labour members who joined after 12 January from voting in the election is being challenged in the high court, in a crowdfunded case brought by some of the estimated 130,000 people who have been excluded.
Corbyn’s 10 pledges
- Full employment and an economy that works for all: based around a £500bn public investment via the planned national investment bank.
- A secure homes guarantee: building 1m new homes in five years, at least half of them council homes. Also rent controls and secure tenancies.
- Security at work: includes stronger employment rights, an end to zero hours contracts and mandatory collective bargaining for companies with 250 or more employees.
- Secure our NHS and social care: end health service privatisation and bring services into a “secure, publicly-provided NHS”.
- A national education service: includes universal public childcare, the “progressive restoration” of free education, and quality apprenticeships.
- Action to secure our environment: includes keeping to Paris climate agreement, and moving to a “low-carbon economy” and green industries, in part via national investment bank.
- Put the public back into our economy and services: includes renationalising railways and bringing private bus, leisure and sports facilities back into local government control.
- Cut income and wealth inequality: make a progressive tax system so highest earners are “fairly taxed”, shrink the gap between the highest and lowest paid.
- Action to secure an equal society: includes action to combat violence against women, as well as discrimination based on race, sexuality or disability, and defend the Human Rights Act.
- Peace and justice at the heart of foreign policy: aims to put conflict resolution and human rights “at the heart of foreign policy”.
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