Jeremy Corbyn just delivered a rousing speech to close the Labour Party conference in Liverpool.
Corbyn was re-elected the party’s leader on Saturday after receiving 61.8% of the vote, defeating challenger Owen Smith.
Speaking to a packed hall of MPs, members, and supporters on Wednesday, the Islington North MP claimed Labour had an “electoral mountain” to climb but said the party’s main focus was winning “power” at the next general election.
The speech was probably the Labour leader’s most impressive to date. The rough and tumble of the three-month leadership campaign looks to have improved his confidence.
In a relaxed performance, he reaffirmed his commitment to policies like opposing grammar schools, bringing the railways back into public ownership, and cutting down on tax avoidance.
He revealed a handful of new policies, too. The Labour leader vowed to lift borrowing restrictions on councils meaning they can build more homes, and said, as prime minister, he would put an end to of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
He said misogyny, racism, and anti-Semitism had no place in Labour and vowed to take “firm action” against anybody who resorts to it.
The 45-minute speech was pretty light on some important issues, though. The Labour leader failed to really say anything of substance on the following issues.
- Brexit — Corbyn attacked the Tories for dithering over Brexit but did not exactly clarify what Labour’s official approach to handling the referendum result would be. You would have expected Brexit to feature heavily in the opposition leader’s speech — in reality, it was touched upon via a few passing references.
- Women — The Labour leader spoke strongly about the need to eradicate misogyny but said nothing about how he would improve opportunities for women in the party. Labour is one of just two UK political parties to never appoint a female leader overall. Kezia Dugdale is the leader of the Scottish Labour Party but that is below the rank of Corbyn. A female Labour MP told Business Insider that the party has a “problem with women” when we spoke to them at the conference.
- Defence — Corbyn, a lifelong opponent of nuclear weapons, briefly mentioned the Trident nuclear deterrent system but nowhere near as much compared to past speeches. This could be a first sign of the Labour leader trying to reach out to more moderate party members. However, he did not put forward a defence policy of any form.
- How will he afford to pay for his plans? — Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell have vowed to put £500 billion towards a national investment bank which will spend the money on Britain’s waning infrastructure. How will Corbyn afford this? He spoke in vague terms about closing tax loopholes and investing in the economy but we are still waiting on a thorough economic policy.
Nevertheless, the speech will go down as a success for Corbyn. MPs like Chuka Ummuna and John Woodcock, who have been vocal critics of the Labour leader, were quick to praise the speech for being “well-delivered” and “firm” in direction.
Now, Corbyn faces too huge challenges: uniting the party after months of internal warfare, and making Labour a viable government in waiting. Whether he can achieves these goals remain to be seen.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.