Corbyn tells May to step aside, let Labour rule Britain

BRIGHTON (Britain) • Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn closed his party's conference in Brighton yesterday with a call to Prime Minister Theresa May to step aside, and an appeal to his followers to prepare to take over Britain's government.

After a four-day conference that has cemented his position as leader of a socialist revival in the UK, Mr Corbyn promised a radical left-wing agenda that would seize state control of railways, energy companies and water suppliers.

"We meet here this week as a united party advancing in every part of Britain," Mr Corbyn told cheering opposition activists in the southern seaside city, after an entrance to a hip-hop soundtrack and chants of "Oh Jeremy Corbyn", now a familiar beat.

"We've become the government-in-waiting," he said. "The Labour campaign machine is primed and ready to roll."

Labour's stronger-than-expected showing in the June election, in which the party erased Mrs May's majority, is the springboard to an election victory whenever the next vote comes, Mr Corbyn said.

Mrs May, beset by splits within her Conservative Party over Brexit and weakened by her failure to win a parliamentary majority, must call an election by 2022, but may not be able to hold her government together that long.

A YouGov poll for The Times published yesterday showed Labour on 43 per cent support among voters compared with 39 per cent for the Conservatives. But the poll of 1,716 people conducted last week showed trust in Mrs May as a leader was at 37 per cent compared with 29 per cent for Mr Corbyn.

"They're hanging on by their fingertips," Mr Corbyn said in his 77-minute address to delegates. "This is a weak and divided government with no purpose but clinging to power."

He described Mrs May's administration as a "coalition of chaos", borrowing the wording of her pre-election warning against a Labour-led government. "We are ready and the Tories are clearly not. They're clearly not strong and they're definitely not stable."

But Labour is also divided over Brexit, particularly over whether Britain should continue to have access to the European single market after it leaves the European Union and whether it should continue to accept free movement of people.

Mr Corbyn offered no details on Labour's position on Brexit in the speech and instead attacked Conservatives for "bungling" Brexit negotiations. "Respecting a democratic decision doesn't mean giving the green light to recklessness," he said.

Mr Corbyn reiterated Labour's pledges to stay in the single market during a transition period and guarantee the rights of EU citizens in Britain. Labour's Brexit approach would "guarantee unimpeded access to the single market" while giving state support to industry that is not permitted under EU rules, he said.

Mr Corbyn also promised to tackle inequality, invest in the state-run National Health Service, improve opportunities for young people and support for the elderly, as his speech was received with rapturous applause at the end of a conference marked by evangelical fervour.

He pledged to introduce rent controls, as well as tax unused housing land. In addition, he wanted the compulsory purchase of such lands.

In an address repeatedly broken by applause and standing ovations, Mr Corbyn attacked United States President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change accord and his speech to the United Nations, in which he threatened military action against North Korea.

Labour is in tune with the needs of voters after "politics finally caught up with the crash of 2008", Mr Corbyn said. "A new consensus is emerging from the great economic crash and the years of austerity, when people started to find political voice for their hopes for something different and better," he said.

"We are now the political mainstream."

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2017, with the headline 'Corbyn tells May to step aside, let Labour rule Britain'. Print Edition | Subscribe