Jeremy Corbyn has set out an ambitious leftwing agenda in a speech that has been received almost rapturously despite the Brexit divisions the party conference has exposed.
The Labour leader said that the “years of retreat and defeat are coming to an end” and confirmed that a Labour government would organise a second Brexit referendum.
He was greeted with chants of “oh, Jeremy Corbyn” as he started the speech, which had been hastily rearranged due to the reopening of parliament.
He called for Boris Johnson’s resignation in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that has found the prime minsiter has acted unlawfully in proroguing parliament.
And he attacked the increasing role of rightwing populism, slamming the “born-to-rule Tories claiming to be the voice of the people”.
“Johnson and his wealthy friends are not only on the side of the establishment, they are the establishment,” he said.
“They’ll blame people’s problems on the migrant worker trying to make a better life.
“They’ll blame it on the mum who’s struggling on Universal Credit.
“They’ll blame it on Muslims, on young people, on anyone but themselves and their backers, who benefit from a grossly unequal and rigged system.”
He set out a Brexit plan only recently finalised through a controversial conference vote the day before.
He said Labour will secure a “sensible deal” with the EU within three months of coming to power, and will put that deal to a public vote with an option to remain in the EU.
“And as a Labour prime minister I pledge to carry out whatever the people decide,” said Corbyn.
He also warned that a no-deal Brexit would allow the UK to fall prey to one-sided agreements with unscrupulous partners on the world stage, saying: “No deal Brexit is really a Trump deal Brexit.”
The Labour leader then laid out a wide-ranging leftwing agenda aimed directly at undoing what he called “the years and retreat and defeat” under Conservative austerity.
“We will rebuild and transform our country so that no one is held back and no community left behind,” he said, announcing a series of policies.
These included the establishment of free prescriptions; an abolition of zero-hours working contracts and university tuition fees; the return of Sure Start; an upgrade of transport services particularly in the north.
He also announced a raft of nationalisations – with railways, the postal service, water companies, and the national grid all coming into public ownership, as well as the establishment of a nationalised pharmaceutical company.
“Together, we can go beyond defending the gains made by previous generations,” he said. “It’s time we started building a country fit for the next generation.
“Where young people don’t fear the future but look forward with confidence and hope.
“The tide is turning. The years of retreat and defeat are coming to an end.
“Together, we’ll take on the privileged, and put the people in power.”
Corbyn’s speech was received with almost rapturous enthusiasm, projecting a much-needed sense of unity for a conference marred by seemingly insurmountable rifts.
The rearranged timing may well have proved convenient for the Labour leadership, as it pushed Tom Watson’s speech off the agenda at a moment where the deputy leader was fending off attacks on his position.
Following an attempted ouster on Watson at the start on the conference, the delegates were largely furious after a close show of hands on Labour’s Brexit position was not confirmed with a more accurate card vote.
The vote, which confirmed that the party will not officially back Remain in a future referendum, raised an image of a growing rift between the delegates – who are largely pro-EU – and the largest unions.