12 Days Remaining

Friday 22nd
posted by Morning Star in Features

Here the Morning Star prints Jeremy Corbyn’s full speech from the launch his official campaign for the Labour leadership at UCL Institute of Education yesterday

I’M proud of what we have achieved in the last 10 months.

Labour is stronger, we have won every parliamentary by-election we have faced, three of them with greatly increased majorities.

We overtook the Tories in the May elections. We won all four mayoral contests — in Liverpool and Salford, in London for the first time since 2004 and in Bristol for the first time ever. We also won Bristol Council for the first time since 2003.

Our party membership has gone from below 200,000 just over a year ago to over half a million today.

And we have welcomed back the Fire Brigades Union into our Labour family.

But we have also delivered concrete results for millions of people as the opposition in Parliament to a callous Tory government. Three million families are over £1,000 better off this year because Labour stood up and opposed cuts to tax credits.

That was Labour making a real difference for those at the sharp end, mobilising our supporters and those losing out to lobby Parliament, challenging the Prime Minister week after week in the House of Commons, and our Labour lords winning the votes and defeating the government in Parliament.

We won back billions of pounds for working-class families, directly improving the lives of working people and their families, which is of course exactly what the Labour Party was created to do.

Just over a year ago there were those in our party in Parliament who were unsure about whether to oppose a Bill that threatened to take £12 billion from welfare — cash support for the less well off, low-paid workers and the disabled.

Today we are clear: we are proud to defend the tax credits built up by Gordon Brown and proud to defend our greatest creation — that is social security for all.

And we did it again with personal independence payments for disabled people in the Budget. We shamed the government into abandoning their plans to take £4bn from disabled people that helps them live independent lives, at a time when the government was giving yet more tax cuts to big business and the wealthiest.

We have helped change the debate on welfare. No front-bench politician is now using disgraceful, divisive terms like “scrounger,” “shirker” or “skiver.” They have been shamed by the reality of life for millions of our people in left-behind Britain.

That is laying the ground for a kinder, gentler politics, that respects those unable to work, that treats disabled people with dignity.

And there is no better advocate for disabled people and those in need than our current shadow work and pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams.

I also want to pay tribute to our shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Someone said of him the other day: “He does the honest, straight-talking politics, but the kinder, gentler stuff is still work in progress.”

But what John has done more effectively than any other politician is demolish the case for austerity.

He said it: “Austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity.”

Every single plank of George Osborne’s failed and destructive economic programme is being torn up.

From a year ago, when Labour was too cautious in criticising cuts, now, you’re hard-pressed to find even a Tory to defend it, as one fiscal target after another has been ditched, first by Osborne and now by Theresa May.

The long-term economic plan is dead. Most people now believe that the government’s cuts are both unfair and bad for our economy.

In post-Brexit Britain, even Tories like Stephen Crabb and Sajid Javid are converts, making the case for tens of billions in investment.

But it is Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell who led the way, and who earlier this week made the case for a national investment bank and a network of regional investment banks to redistribute wealth and power.

As John said in Sunderland on Monday: “We should now work to build a transformed economy where no-one is left behind.”

I came into politics to stand up against injustice. The injustices that scar society today are not those of 1945: want, squalor, idleness, disease and ignorance. And they have changed since I first entered Parliament in 1983.

Today what is holding people back above all are inequality, neglect, insecurity, prejudice and discrimination.

In my campaign I want to confront all five of those ills head on, setting out not only how Labour will campaign against these injustices in opposition but also spelling out some of the measures the next Labour government will take to overcome them and move decisively towards a society in which opportunity and prosperity is truly shared, in which no individual is held back and no community left behind.

Today I want to set out one way in which the next Labour government will tackle one of those ills — that of discrimination.

My first job was working for the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers reclaiming unpaid wages mostly for low-paid women workers in the textile industry.

A few years before I started that role the Labour government of Harold Wilson had in its dying days passed the Equal Pay Act following an inspirational strike by women sewing machinists at Ford — a struggle immortalised in the excellent film Made in Dagenham.

Those women workers stood up for equal pay and after three weeks on strike they won a pay rise.

What’s less well known is that it took another strike 16 years later in 1984, and for six weeks this time, for equal pay to actually be achieved.

We all know that change can take time, but sometimes the delays cannot and will not be tolerated.

Today, we are more than 45 years on from the Equal Pay Act. Forty years on from when I was chasing down lost pay for women workers and still, still, women are paid 20 per cent less than men.

As far back as 1951, the Equal Remuneration Convention of the International Labour Organisation, a UN body, supported the principle of equal pay for men and women workers for work of equal value.

Sixty-five years on and women are over-represented in the lowest-paying sectors — cleaning, catering and caring — vital sectors of our economy, doing valuable work, but not work that is fairly rewarded or equally respected.

And we know too that many disabled workers are not being given the same opportunities to fulfil their potential.

Last year Britain was ranked 18th in the world for its gender pay gap — below Nicaragua, Namibia and New Zealand. We can and must do far better.

So Labour is calling time on the waiting game, and I am making the commitment today that the next Labour government will require all employers with more than 21 staff to publish equality pay audits detailing pay, grade and hours of every job, alongside data on recognised equality characteristics.

Because it is not only women who face workplace discrimination but also disabled workers, the youngest and oldest workers, black and ethnic minority workers.

Young workers are institutionally discriminated against, not entitled to the full minimum wage, not entitled to equal rates of housing benefit, and so many are now saddled with huge student debts.

I want to pay tribute to trade unions. They have won millions of pounds for workers who faced discrimination. They won them back-pay, but they also won them dignity and equality.

But not every workplace is unionised, and these are often complex cases that can take years.

We are calling time on discrimination and, as we know from the minimum wage, proper enforcement matters and makes the difference. So we are also committing to fund the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to monitor employers’ equality pay audits, to take action where required to eradicate discrimination and to fine employers that do not provide them.

Many employers wouldn’t want to discriminate against their staff: such discrimination holds back companies and our economy. If our economy is to thrive it needs to harness the talents of everyone.

So this is about making our economy stronger, the workplace fairer, reducing the discrimination that holds people back.

Our Labour movement is about improving people’s lives, about ending injustices, about giving power to the powerless and building a society in which opportunity and wealth is shared.

Over the next couple of months, our campaign will set out how we plan to defeat the Tories and elect a Labour government that will act to tame the forces holding people back: of inequality, neglect, insecurity, prejudice and discrimination. And to build a society in which no-one, and no community, is left behind.