- Philip Hammond challenges Jeremy Corbyn over his criticism of capitalism, telling him to “bring it on.”
- In his key note conference speech, the chancellor said Conservatives “must not be afraid to defend” the free market.
- Hammond labels Labour’s policies a “resolutely-negative agenda of failed ideas.”
- He also says the government must remove the “uncertainty” around Brexit.
LONDON — Philip Hammond has challenged Jeremy Corbyn over his criticism of capitalism, telling him to “bring it on.”
The chancellor said Conservatives “must not be afraid to defend” the free market from its critics after the Labour leader told his party’s conference last week that capitalism was facing a “crisis of legitimacy” and that it was “time we developed a new model to replace the failed dogmas of neo-liberalism.”
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Hammond said Labour’s proposals were a “resolutely-negative agenda of failed ideas, dredged up from a bygone era.”
In his speech to Labour conference in Brighton last week, Corbyn set out proposals that he claimed were the “new mainstream” in British politics, which included rent controls and widespread nationalisation.
He also claimed that the Grenfell Tower disaster was a symbol “for a failed and broken system, which Labour must and will replace.”
The chancellor told the Tory conference: “We will defeat them by the power of argument; by our logic; by the experience of history.
“We will not resort to the politics of the mob, to the threats, the intimidation, the undertones of lawlessness that were so menacingly present last week.”
Hammond called Corbyn “a clear and present danger to our prosperity” and compared Labour to a “back-to-the future socialist fantasy.”
He insisted that the Conservatives “are the party of progress” and that a market economy “is the best system yet for making people steadily better off over time and underpinning strong and sustainable public services for everyone.”
In a clear rebuke to Corbyn and Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Hammond said: “Our economy is not broke: it is fundamentally strong.”
The chancellor mocked McDonnell, his opposite number, saying: “I wouldn’t trust him with a Monopoly set! Not even to give him the boot,” and compared Corbyn and McDonnell to a “political version of Jurassic Park.”
Hammond on Brexit
The chancellor said that the government must remove the “uncertainty” created by Brexit in order to have a strong economy.
He said: “The process of negotiating our exit from the EU has created uncertainty so investment has slowed as businesses wait for clarity. So before we can reap the benefits of our strong economic fundamentals and the investment we are making in the future we must remove this uncertainty.”
Hammond said the way to remove “uncertainty” is “by accelerating the talks and delivering a time-limited interim period of around two years for our businesses to adjust.”
This appears to be a challenge to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has demanded that a transition period be as short as possible.
It was also reported on Monday that Prime Minister Theresa May and Hammond favour a soft Brexit where the UK continues to use EU regulations.
Hammond insisted the British people “didn’t vote to get poorer or to reduce trade with our closest neighbours and biggest trading partners. The British people have chosen independence, over integration.”
He said: “The future prize is great. If we get this right — Britain will have a bright future beyond Brexit. But to get to it, we must be clear-eyed about the challenges along our way.”
Northern Powerhouse and Help to Buy
During the speech Hammond announced that the government would invest £300 million in transport infrastructure in the north of England in order to “future-proof the railway network.”
He said: “We are committed to the Northern Powerhouse project to join the great cities of the North into a single connected market with a population to rival London’s.”
The chancellor also said the government would give an extra £10 billion to the Help to Buy scheme, in order to help people with the deposit to buy a house.
He said this would help “an estimated 130,000 more homebuyers over the next few years,” and would renew “our Conservative commitment to Britain’s property owning democracy for the next generation.”
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