An Out vote in the EU referendum would put the NHS at risk, but a Labour Government would be prepared to extend workers’ rights, Jeremy Corbyn told trade unionists today.
The Labour leader received a standing ovation as he addressed the conference of Unison, the large public sector union.
After yesterday saying that Labour is “very ready” for the possibility of a snap election, he appeared more cautious this morning, telling delegates in Brighton that “we need to be mobilised as a movement as never before” to get into power.
Unison represents thousands of workers in the health service, and Corbyn warned the room that “a vote to leave would put our NHS in jeopardy”.
But he also focussed on what he wanted to do as leader after the referendum: “We want to make sure that we develop policies that are about redistribution of wealth but also about unlocking the talent of everyone in society,” he said.
And he said that victories over the Government since he became leader last September, on areas such as tax credits and academy schools, should be used as a platform to winning elections
“The message that comes from that is whenever we do things together, we achieve victories. And we can achieve much more. We can defeat austerity and build a better society.
“To win a general election we need to be mobilised as a movement as never before, with one agenda that’s different on the economy, and is about bringing equality to our society.”
In his first Unison conference address as Labour leader, Corbyn also said a government led by him would not only protect but “strengthen trade union and employment rights”.
“We would be a government that says that trade unions are a force for good and a force for equality in our society,” he added.
His speech came a day after Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis attacked the Leave campaigns in the EU referendum, branding “Nigel Farage and his ilk … [as] a disgrace.”
He accused the UKIP leader and his supporters of “a noxious brew of anti-foreigner, anti-immigrant sentiment staining our communities. Once limited to the sewer of the far right fringe, now unleashed into the mainstream – dark and ugly politics.”
Prentis said that “people who come to this country for a better life, to work hard, to bring up families in the right way, are being attacked every single day as part of this referendum.”
He said that he wanted to send Farage a message from the conference: “If you pour poison into our communities, if you set worker against worker, divide neighbours and even families, I promise you: we will take you on.”