Jeremy Corbyn set out the most radical left-wing agenda of any mainstream party in a generation, as he declared that Labour now represents “the new common sense” and is ready to govern.
To fervent applause from delegates at Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool, Corbyn called on prime minister Theresa May to call an early general election, which he said could see him in 10 Downing Street by this time next year.
The Labour leader said his party was “ready to take charge” and deliver “a real alternative to the people of Britain – a radical plan to rebuild and transform our country”.
At the conclusion of the four-day gathering, Mr Corbyn set out plans for:
– A “green jobs revolution” to create 400,000 skilled jobs in windfarms and home insulation;
– An extension of free childcare;
– Workers’ seats on company boards, and the creation of employee shareholding funds;
– An end to the “racket” of privatisation and outsourcing;
– Public services with “fairness and humanity” at their heart;
– A new tax on second homes to pay for house-building;
– A foreign policy driven by “progressive values and international solidarity”, with no more “reckless wars, like Iraq or Libya”.
“Change in our country is long overdue,” said Corbyn. “Every month this government remains in power, the worse things get
“We will rebuild the public realm and create a genuinely mixed economy for the 21st century. And after a decade of austerity, the next Labour government will confront the challenge of rebuilding our public services.”
At the end of a conference dominated by Brexit, Corbyn confirmed that Labour will vote against May’s Chequers plan and keep the option of a second referendum on EU withdrawal “on the table”.
But he left no doubt that a general election is his preferred outcome, sending a message to the prime minister: “Brexit is about the future of our country and our vital interests. It is not about leadership squabbles or parliamentary posturing.
“If you deliver a deal that includes a customs union and no hard border in Ireland, if you protect jobs, people’s rights at work and environmental and consumer standards – then we will support that sensible deal. A deal that would be backed by most of the business world and trade unions too.
“But if you can’t negotiate that deal then you need to make way for a party that can.”
Corbyn sought to draw a line under the anti-Semitism scandals which have dogged Labour over the summer, promising to “eradicate anti-Semitism, both from our party and wider society” and telling the Jewish community: “We are your ally.”
But he made clear that he would not back away from criticism of Israel, condemning illegal settlements and the detention of Palestinian children as an “outrage”.
And he announced – to sustained applause and the waving of Palestinian flags – that a Labour government would recognise a Palestinian state as soon as it took office.
He issued an appeal for unity to the feuding wings of his party and called for an end to abuse on social media.
In a riposte to critics who accuse him of narrowing Labour to a leftist cult, he insisted the party must remain a “broad church” and declared: “Our movement has achieved nothing when divided… we are on a journey together and can only complete it together.”
Corbyn denounced the “greed-is-good capitalism” which led to the financial crash of 2008 and the political and economic establishment which “strained every sinew” to shore up the system which created it.
“We can no longer tolerate a set-up where the real economy, in which millions work, is just a sort of sideshow for the City of London and for banks fixated on piling up profits around the world,” said the Labour leader.
“Inequality is not just a matter of incomes. It’s about having a real say too.
“That’s why we are not only determined to rebuild our economy, communities and public services, but also to democratise them, and change the way our economic system is run in the interests of the majority.”
He spelt out plans for all private companies with 250 or more staff to reserve one-third of seats on their boards for workers and to transfer 10% of their equity into shareholding funds delivering employees up to £500 a year and granting them a voice in corporate decisions.
But he assured businesses Labour would also deliver “what you need to succeed and to expand and modernise our economy – more investment in our transport, housing and digital infrastructure, more investment in education and skills, so workers are more productive”.
Warning of the rise of far-right politics around the world since the crash, Mr Corbyn said: “People in this country know that the old way of running things isn’t working any more. And unless we offer radical solutions, others will fill the gap with the politics of blame and division.”
He declared that Labour was winning the public debate and now represents “the new political mainstream” with “an alternative to the politics of austerity, of social division and of international conflict”.
And he won a standing ovation as he promised: “Where the Tories have divided and ruled, we will unite and govern.
“We represent the new common sense of our time. And we are ready to deliver on it.
“United and ready to win, ready to govern as we were in 1945, 1964 and 1997.
“So that when we meet this time next year let it be as a Labour government.”