“Much of the media and establishment are saying that this election is a foregone conclusion,” British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Thursday. “They do not want us to win. Because when we win it is the people, not the powerful, who win.”
Kicking off Labour’s 2017 election campaign two days after Prime Minister Theresa May, leader of the ruling Conservative Party, called for a snap election on June 8, Corbyn surprised critics with a powerful address in which he portrayed Labour as the people’s party and reminded his audience that while the polls show the odds are against him, they were also firmly against him during the Labour leadership contest he won in 2015.
Jeremy Corbyn has had a very good morning. Westminster received opinion - which is sometimes right, but often not - has it that he’s a total electoral liability, but today he sounded like an effective campaigner. He delivered a speech that was focused, coherent and passionate. ... He neatly inverted his perceived negatives - that he’s unconventional, and that he’s expected to lose - by saying that he had defied odds of 200/1 before and that it would take an outsider to shake things up. And he answered questions at length from journalists, without resorting to the brittle passive aggression he sometimes deploys in Q&As, with a candour that contrasted with Theresa May’s fairly dire record when it comes to media scrutiny.
Above all, he sounded decent and passionate. This came out especially in the Q&A, where he concluded with this rousing answer to a question about whether Labour was a tainted brand. He replied:
“The idea that Labour is somehow or other a tainted brand - well, there are people in the audience that are wearing badges of Keir Hardie. He was vilified, vilified beyond belief, when he was elected as the first ever Labour MP. They said how can a working man go to parliament and represent people. Anyone who stands up to create a better, fairer, more decent society gets vilified. Our party gets vilified. But I tell you what: we’re bigger than we have ever been, we are stronger than we have ever been and we are more determined than we have ever been.”
Maybe it wasn’t Martin Luther King, but it was easily the most stirring thing anyone has said in this election campaign so far.
That is not to say it will prove transformative. It is very hard to shift public opinion much during a short election campaign and Corbyn’s message will resonate more with Labour diehards than with floating voters. Framing the election as a contest between the establishment and the people obviously fits Corbyn’s politics, but it might have worked better in 1989; polling evidence suggests that, it is not just the establishment that is happy with Theresa May and her government, but the people too. May is popular with all demographics. There might just not be enough people out there who care as much as Corbyn about the system being rigged.
Still, it’s early days. Corbyn’s critics sometimes argued that his campaign would collapse on exposure to the electorate. Instead his first proper campaign outing was a success.
It’s interesting, to say the least, that The Guardian seems to think the “rigged system” argument is outdated, given that Bernie Sanders, who’s now the most popular politician in the United States, ran on a similar platform and had an unexpectedly high level of success.
The dividing lines in this election could not be clearer from the outset. It is the Conservatives, the party of privilege and the richest, versus the Labour Party, the party that is standing up for working people to improve the lives of all.
It is the establishment versus the people and it is our historic duty to make sure that the people prevail. A duty for all of us here today, the duty of every Labour MP, a duty for our half a million members - including the 2,500 who have joined in the last 24 hours.
Much of the media and establishment are saying that this election is a foregone conclusion.
They think there are rules in politics, which if you don’t follow by doffing your cap to powerful people, accepting that things can’t really change, then you can’t win.
But of course, they do not want us to win. Because when we win it is the people, not the powerful, who win.
The nurse, the teacher, the small trader, the carer, the builder, the office worker, the student, the carer win. We all win.
It is the establishment that complains I don’t play the rules: by which they mean their rules. We can’t win, they say, because we don’t play their game.
We don’t fit in their cosy club. We’re not obsessed with the tittle-tattle of Westminster or Brussels. We don’t accept that it is natural for Britain to be governed by a ruling elite, the City and the tax-dodgers, and we don’t accept that the British people just have to take what they’re given, that they don’t deserve better.
And in a sense, the establishment and their followers in the media are quite right. I don’t play by their rules. And if a Labour Government is elected on 8 June, then we won’t play by their rules either.
They are yesterday’s rules, set by failed political and corporate elites we should be consigning to the past.
It is these rules that have allowed a cosy cartel to rig the system in favour of a few powerful and wealthy individuals and corporations.
It is a rigged system set up by the wealth extractors, for the wealth extractors.
But things can, and they will, change.
Britain needs a Labour government that is prepared to fight for people in every part of the country, our towns, villages, as well as big cities.
A Labour government that isn’t scared to take on the cosy cartels that are hoarding this country’s wealth for themselves. It needs a government that will use that wealth to invest in people’s lives in every community to build a better future for every person who lives here.
Because the Conservatives, drunk on a failed ideology, are hell bent on cutting every public service they get their hands on, and they will use all of the divide-and-rule tricks of the Lynton Crosby trade to keep their rigged system intact.
Don’t be angry at the privatisers profiting from our public services, they whisper, be angry instead at the migrant worker just trying to make a better life.
Don’t be angry at the government ministers running down our schools and hospitals, they tell us, be angry instead at the disabled woman or the unemployed man.
It is the rigged economy the Tories are protecting that Labour is committed to challenging. We will not let the elite extract wealth from the pockets of ordinary working people any longer.
So many people in modern Britain do what seems like the right thing to do. They get jobs, they spend all day working hard, they save to buy their own home, they raise children, they look after elderly or sick relatives. And yet, at the end of it, they get almost nothing left over as a reward.
Compare their lives with the multinational corporations and the gilded elite who hide their money in the Cayman Islands because the Conservatives are too morally bankrupt to take them on.
Labour in power will end this racket and make sure that everybody pays their taxes which fund our public services.
We will overturn this rigged system. For all Theresa May’s warm words on the steps of Downing Street the Conservatives will never do any such thing.
Seven years of broken promises show us that on pay, the deficit, the NHS, our schools, our environment.
It was their wealthy friends in the City who crashed our economy. How dare they ruin the economy with their recklessness and greed and then punish those who had nothing to do with it? It was not pensioners, nurses, the low or averaged paid workers or carers who crashed the economy.
The Conservatives boast of record numbers of jobs. But what good is that if people in work are getting poorer and don’t share in the profits of that economy while the Conservatives look after the wealthy few? Our offer is to tackle elderly poverty and loneliness, invest in our economy, NHS and schools, to improve rights at work and the ten pound living wage.
Britain is the sixth richest economy in the world. The people of Britain must share in that wealth.
If I were Southern Rail or Philip Green, I’d be worried about a Labour Government.
If I were Mike Ashley or the CEO of a tax avoiding multinational corporation, I’d want to see a Tory victory.
Why? Because those are the people who are monopolising the wealth that should be shared by each and every one of us in this country. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a contribution to make and a life to lead. Poverty and homelessness are a disaster for the individual and a loss to all of us.
It is wealth that should belong to the majority and not a tiny minority.
Labour is the party that will put the interests of the majority first, while the Tories only really care about those who already have so much.
That is why we will prove the establishment experts wrong and change the direction of this election. Because the British people know that they are the true wealth creators, held back by a system rigged for the wealth extractors.
Theresa May will insist that this is an election about Brexit. She will try to downplay the issues that affect people’s lives every day and instead turn the election into an ego trip about her own failing leadership and the machinations of the coming negotiations in Brussels.
It is only Labour that will focus on what kind of country we want to have after Brexit.
In the coming weeks Labour will lay out our policies to unlock opportunities for every single person in this country.
We will focus on giving people real control over their own lives and make sure that everybody reaps a just reward for the work that they do.
We will no longer allow those at the top to leach off of those who bust their guts on zero hours contracts or those forced to make sacrifices to pay their mortgage or their rent.
Instead of the country’s wealth being hidden in tax havens we will put it in the hands of the people of Britain as they are the ones who earned it.
In this election Labour will lead the movement to make that change.
We will build a new economy, worthy of the 21st century and we will build a country for the many not the few.