Jeremy Corbyn: This is not North versus South – it is the people versus the establishment

Jeremy Corbyn

This is the full speech delivered by Jeremy Corbyn at Labour’s regional economic conference in Liverpool today.

Thank you for that introduction and thanks to everyone for coming today.

Thank you to John and your team and all the Labour Party staff for organising this conference.

We as a Labour Party have to work together to change this rigged system.

An economy in which housing is an investment opportunity for a few, while homelessness is rising.

An economy in which the richest chief executives now get in just 2 days what it takes the average worker all year to earn, and an economy in which the North is neglected while London and the South East get all the investment.

An economy in which working lifts you out of poverty instead of six million people earning less than the living wage

An economy in which women earn the same as men not nearly 20 percent less.

An economy in which investment in the NHS and social care is valued more than yet another tax break to the already wealthy.

To create the society we want, we need to rebuild the economy so that no one and no community is left behind.

It’s an economy based on fairness for all, strategic investment and a government working for the many not just the few.

For too long our economy has been based on property inflation and personal debt; wages have fallen in real terms and the government has failed in actual terms.

It has failed to invest in our infrastructure, our railways, our energy system, in the housing we need and in our digital infrastructure.

And their failure has left our country unprepared for Brexit.

As Liverpool fans I know John and Steve don’t like not being in Europe, though it seems Jurgen Klopp might be solving that for you.

But on the political front, frankly, I have a lot less faith in Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

This week has been a tough one for Labour. We campaigned for Remain, this Labour city voted to remain but the North West overall and the country as a whole voted to Leave.

We have to respect the result of the referendum but we must unite together to stop a reckless Tory Brexit turning this country into a bargain basement tax haven.

With low wages, fewer rights at work, underinvestment in public services and even more tax breaks for big business.

We see the route the Tories want to take us; a trade deal with Trump’s America at any cost.

She refuses to rule out the NHS, this country’s greatest achievement, being offered up as a bargaining chip for private US healthcare companies.

She told me at PMQs our NHS is not for sale but since 2010 her government has done exactly the opposite, outsourcing nearly £9 billion of NHS work to private companies while in the US, Trump has already started dismantling the progress made under President Obama.

Our Prime Minister wants to rush a trade deal and rushed to offer a state visit to a man who has torn up international agreements on refugees, threatened to scrap international agreements on climate change, praised the use of torture, directly attacked women’s rights and he chose World Holocaust Memorial Day to ban Muslims from seven countries.

So thank you Liverpool, thank you Manchester, London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and towns and cities across the UK who came together last week to stand up to Trump.

Labour helped to defeat apartheid and we will do the same to Trump’s doctrine of hate.


It is local communities coming together, that will change minds, change our society and change our economy.

Liverpool is a city with a history steeped in resistance and resilience, still trying to protect its people and deliver prosperity.

The Merseyside economy is growing faster than London and any other major British city.

Liverpool is home to a bigger proportion of fast-growing firms than anywhere else in the UK, with reputation as a cutting edge computer game development community.

And your new deep-water Liverpool-2 container terminal can service 95 percent of the world’s largest container ships, opening up faster supply chain transit for at least 60 percent of the existing UK container market.

That’s testimony to the hard work of your Labour councils, Mayors and MPs.

And this is great work that my friend Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham can build on as our Metro Mayors.

We also need to invest a balanced energy mix to keep the lights on and to meet our climate change targets.

I visited Copeland and I know how important the nuclear industry and the skilled jobs it brings are to the Cumbrian economy.

The Tories are putting that all at risk and ignoring the workers by pulling out of Euratom, the European nuclear research agency, which will create instability at a time when assurances are needed.

So Labour has tabled an amendment to the Bill to ensure that we safeguard jobs, scientific research and internationally agreed inspection standards.

And while they’re at it, this Government should end their attacks on the pensions of Sellafield workers who are cleaning up the legacy waste safely.


As we face Brexit, it’s even more vital that this region and this country remains outward looking and innovative.

Brexit creates enormous challenges for all of us.

It throws open questions about our own society. Will we continue to welcome the contribution made by those who come to our country?

Will we hold to our shared values of social justice and human rights and act as a safe haven for those who are fleeing war and persecution elsewhere in the world?

Brexit throws open questions that have been closed for decades.

How will this country conduct its business with the rest of the world?

How will we learn to trade and relate to others when we must make our own rules and forge our own deals?

We know what the Prime Minister’s answer is.

It is to threaten all our neighbours with becoming a tax haven.

And it is, with a nod and a wink, to offer up our NHS to the highest bidders.

Once I became Labour leader, we opposed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which was suspended due to opposition across Europe but the Tories would have signed Britain up.

Labour must offer the alternative.

The future does not have to be backroom deals between giant corporations conniving to tear up our public services and slash wages. We can do much better than this.

Labour has long known the importance of an open trading system for creating shared prosperity and decent jobs.

In these uncertain times Labour must offer the hope shared by the vast majority who want to see closer ties between the peoples of the world.

Labour will build trade bridges not protectionist walls.

That is why we have introduced our “Just Trading” strategy, a new model for 21st century; open trade agreements that prioritise workers’ rights, human rights and the highest standards of environmental protection.

And it’s why we have laid down those protections as an amendment to the Article 50 Bill.

Theresa May has threatened our trading partners with a bonfire of regulations to turn the UK into a bargain basement tax haven.

A Labour Government will work in full cooperation with our trading partners to raise social and environmental standards across the board.

As a society we face a fork in the road. Two different directions that this country could travel in.

Do we retreat, as the Tories and UKIP offer behind walls and secret dodgy deals that only benefit an elite few?

Or do we advance together, open to the world, redistributing wealth and power across our country so that no one and no community is left behind.


You can’t take back control from Brussels only to leave real power in Westminster and the City of London.

If we leave it to the Tories power, wealth and opportunity will still lie in the hands of the privileged few not the many.

It is because too many decisions are made by a tiny closed circle of people at the top.

This isn’t North versus South. It’s the people versus the establishment

Labour pioneered devolution in Government.

We devolved power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We set up Regional Development Agencies across England that for each pound of investment, delivered £4.50 of economic activity.

The Conservatives scrapped the RDAs and have devastated local councils and their budgets.

Since 2010 the Tories will have cut funding to Liverpool by £340 million and they’ve pencilled in another £90m by 2020. That’s a budget cut of 67%.

But the Tories are expecting councils to sort out their Government’s problems.

Their answer to their £4.6 billion cuts to social care is to tell councils to raise the council tax!

They didn’t devolve power, they’ve devolved austerity.

The North-South divide in income, jobs and pay is increasing faster than ever.

Last year, when 277,000 jobs were created in London only 1,000 extra materialised in the North West and the number fell by 40,000 in the North East.

And spending on transport is grotesquely weighted towards London. Last year this Government spent less than £300 per person on transport spending here in the North West.

In London, it’s nearly £2000 per person – six times more!

It’s vital we have a Crossrail for the North, an East-West link from Liverpool to Hull and on to Newcastle, a £10 billion commitment that John McDonnell as the next Labour chancellor has today committed to.

The corridor of northern cities stretching from Liverpool and Preston in the west to York and Hull in the east has an economic and skills catchment big enough to match or even exceed London, and there’s no reason why not with the right investment.

This Government IS prioritising its own East-West link but it’s between Oxford and Cambridge. The Government should sort out its priorities and commit to build Crossrail for the North now.

To unleash the economic potential across the North we must rebalance our economy to share power and resources.

That’s why Labour’s proposal for a National Investment Bank will be supported by a network of regional banks, publicly accountable and locally managed, with specialist knowledge of their areas.

These regional banks will help break the logjam in the British financial system.

By being closer to a locality and by making decisions based on local needs, they will be able to deliver the capital that our current financial system cannot.

Labour won’t devolve austerity we’ll devolve investment.

Unbalanced Britain is only becoming more unfair and unbalanced under the Tories; between the rich and poor, between Westminster and our Nations and Regions.

Labour will challenge that failure and we will redress that by fixing a rigged system that is failing the majority of people.

Labour’s mission in the 20th Century was to redistribute wealth and reduce inequality.

Our mission in the 21st century must be to build on by redistributing power, wealth and opportunity to every part of our nations and regions.

Labour will develop a genuine industrial and regional strategy, essential to invest in our economy, so that no community is left behind.

In a post-Brexit Britain it is vital that Government gives the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, Metro Mayors and local authorities, the powers and resources to not only innovate and generate prosperity but reduce inequality.

Brexit means we have to develop a long-term plan to build a fairer, more just Britain.

So in two weeks’ time I will be holding a summit with European socialist leaders to see how best we can work together to build economic and trading relationships for the benefit of the many.

It may surprise you to know that joining us at that summit will be the CBI, the Confederation of British Industry.

We have common ground with business. As well as wanting tariff free access to the Single Market, we both want rebalanced growth and investment across the UK; from fast-tracking infrastructure spending to building the essential transport and digital links to realise our potential.

And we need to invest in skills not cut skills budgets as the Tories have done. Last year, I told the CBI that this would mean increasing corporation tax to pay for university grants and a new education maintenance allowance so that no talent is left behind due to inability to pay or fear of debt.


Many workers in Britain have not had a pay raise for years.

It’s appalling that the average pay of a FTSE 100 chief executive has rocketed to £5 million, more than 130 times the average UK worker in their company.

That’s why we’d introduce a minimum wage of at least £10 per hour by 2020 and are looking at the idea of pay ratios.

Britain also needs a transport system that works.

When the last Labour Government took the East Coast train line into public ownership, over six years it developed a better service, improved passenger satisfaction and delivered £1 billion in profit back to the taxpayer!

What did the Tories do? They re-privatised it.

So if elected when each rail franchise lapses we WILL take them back into public ownership.

And we need to make housing about homes for the many. Under the Conservatives homelessness has doubled, housebuilding has fallen to the lowest level since the 1920s and when we proposed that homes for rent should be fit for human habitation, the Tories voted it down.

The next Labour Government will put decent, affordable homes at the heart of our programme.

We will build more genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy, give renters a new charter of rights, put an end to rough sleeping and help young people on ordinary incomes to buy a home of their own.

Only Labour has an economic plan that will stimulate the economy and create employment.

And finally, we will provide a long-term funding solution to Labour’s greatest achievement – the NHS.

And a Labour Government would give social care the funding it needs too.

A Labour Government will hand back wealth and control to people and communities across all our Nations and Regions.

Our economic aims are our social aims too.

A Labour Government will shrink the gap in income and wealth and properly fund the NHS and social care to ensure the elderly and sick get the help they need.

A Labour government will ensure the corporations and the richest pay their fair share of taxes. We will end the race to the bottom in the jobs market and guarantee education and employment rights for all.

It’s time for us to restore hope to Britain.

To show how we can overturn a rigged system and hand power, wealth and opportunity to all people and communities.

To set out a radial and credible plan to create a fairer, more equal society.

We have built a party and movement of more than half a million members, with millions of affiliated trade unionists and supporters.

Now more than ever, this country needs a Labour Government and Labour Metro Mayors in our great cities.

So let’s go out on the doorstep together and make that case from now until election day.

Let’s build the economy we need to get the better society our people deserve.

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