NEWS

Jeremy Corbyn: Labour Will End 'Social Cleansing' In UK

The Labour leader said the Grenfell tragedy showed a change was needed.

27/09/2017 14:45 SAST | Updated 27/09/2017 17:23 SAST

Jeremy Corbyn declared war on “social cleansing” today as he set out plans to reform housing developments in the wake of the Grenfell tower tragedy.

The Labour leader used his keynote speech at the party’s annual conference in Brighton to demand an end to “forced gentrification” of council estates across the UK.

Corbyn revealed Labour would only allow the regeneration of estates if residents backed the changes in a ballot.

Those living on the estates would be also be guaranteed a new home once the development has finished.

Labour would also introduce rent controls in attempt to get the spiralling cost of living under control.

Corbyn said the country “must think again” about regeneration schemes after the blaze at Grenfell tower which left at least 80 people dead.

He described the tragedy as “an indictment, not just of decades of failed housing policies and privatisation and the yawning inequality in one of the wealthiest boroughs and cities in the world, it is also a damning indictment of a whole outlook which values council tax refunds for the wealthy above decent provision for all  and which has contempt for working class communities.”

Turning to future developments, Corbyn said: “Regeneration is a much abused word.

“Too often what it really means is forced gentrification and social cleansing, as private developers move in and tenants and leaseholders are moved out.

“We are very clear: we will stop the cuts to social security.

“But we need to go further, as conference decided yesterday.

“So when councils come forward with proposals for regeneration, we will put down two markers based on one simple principle:

“First, people who live on an estate that’s redeveloped must get a home on the same site and the same terms as before.

“No social cleansing, no jacking up rents, no exorbitant ground rents.

“And second councils will have to win a ballot of existing tenants and leaseholders before any redevelopment scheme can take place.

“Real regeneration, yes, but for the many not the few.”

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS via Getty Images

Corbyn’s entrance to the conference hall was marked by more than two minutes of applause from MPs, delegates and party activists - and included the now-infamous chant of ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ to the tune of The White Stripes tune Seven Nation Army.

The 68-year-old used his third conference speech as Labour leader to reflect on the June election - throwing many of Theresa May’s attacks on him back in her face.

“They’re certainly not strong and they’re definitely not stable. They’re not remotely united. And they’re hanging on by their fingertips.

“But this Tory Government does have one thing that we lack. They have tracked down the Magic Money Tree when it was needed to keep Theresa May in Downing Street.

“It was given a good old shake - and lo and behold – now we know the price of power – it’s about £100m for each Democratic Unionist MP.

“During the election campaign, Theresa May told voters they faced the threat of a ‘coalition of chaos’.

“Remember that? Well, now they’re showing us exactly how that works. And I don’t just mean the Prime Minister’s desperate deal with the DUP.

“She’s got a ‘coalition of chaos’ around her own cabinet table  - Phillip Hammond and Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and David Davis.”

Corbyn praised his Shadow Cabinet team for their work over the past 12 months, but singled out Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott for special comment.

He said: “The campaign by the Tories and their loyal media was nasty and personal.

“It fuelled abuse online and no one was the target of that more than Diane Abbott. 

“She has a decades-long record of campaigning for social justice and has suffered intolerable misogynistic and racist abuse.”

As Abbott took to her feet to receive a standing ovation, Corbyn joined in a rendition of Happy Birthday To You to mark the Hackney North MP turning 64.

Corbyn did not just attack the Tories in his speech, and made repeated digs at journalists and commentators who talked down the party’s electoral chances in the run up to the June vote.

“Of course, there were some who didn’t come out of the election too well,” he told a packed conference hall.

“I’m thinking of some of our more traditional media friends. They ran the campaign they always do under orders from their tax exile owners to trash Labour at every turn.”

His most direct attack was on Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, as he said: “The day before the election one paper devoted fourteen pages to attacking the Labour Party. And our vote went up nearly 10%.

“Never have so many trees died in vain. The British people saw right through it. 

“So this is a message to the Daily Mail’s editor-  next time, please could you make it 28 pages?”

After housing, education was the other policy area to have a large focus in the 73-minute speech to the party faithful.

Corbyn vowed to build “an education and training system from the cradle to the grave that empowers people - not one that shackles them with debt.”

He pledged to create a National Education Service which “will include at its core free tuition for all college courses, technical and vocational training so that no one is held back by costs and everyone has the chance to learn.” 

Key Quotes

On the election... 

“Yes, we didn’t do quite well enough  and we remain in opposition for now, but we have become a Government-in-waiting.  Our outstanding shadow cabinet team here today. And our message to the country could not be clearer - Labour is ready.”

On Brexit...

“A cliff-edge Brexit is at risk of becoming a reality. That is why Labour has made clear that Britain should stay within the basic terms of the single market  and a customs union for a limited transition period. It is welcome at least that Theresa May has belatedly accepted that. But beyond that transition, our task is a different one. It is to unite everyone in our country around a progressive vision of what Britain could be, but with a government that stands for the many not the few.”

On renationalising the water industry...

“Of the nine water companies in England  six are now owned by private equity  or foreign sovereign wealth funds. Their profits are handed out in dividends to shareholders  while the infrastructure crumbles  the companies pay little or nothing in tax  and executive pay has soared as the service deteriorates.

That is why we are committed  to take back our utilities into public ownership  to put them at the service of our people and our economy and stop the public being ripped off.”

On organ donation...

“There are more than 5,000 people on organ transplant waiting lists, but a shortage of donors means that in recent years only 3,500 of them get the life-saving treatments they need. So that everybody whose life could be saved by an organ transplant can have the gift of life - from one human being to another.

“The law has already been changed in Wales under Carwyn Jones’s leadership, and today I make the commitment a Labour government will do the same for England.”

On the violence in Myanmar... 

“And I say this today to Aung San Suu Kyi - a champion of democracy and human rights - : end the violence now against the Rohingya in Myanmar and allow the UN and international aid agencies in to Rakhine state. The Rohingya have suffered for too long!”

 

BEN STANSALL via Getty Images

 

Reaction

Labour MP Chris Bryant MP, supporter of anti-Brexit group Open Britain: 

“For jobs, for the rights of working people, and for living standards, it is essential that the Labour put clear red water between the Party and the Government, and commit to Single Market and Customs Union membership going forward.

“A failure to do so risks making the Labour Party passive spectators in a Brexit catastrophe organised by the Conservative Government.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General:

“Labour says that it sees business as the backbone of the UK’s economy, but there were few warm words from the Labour leader today.

“Repeated rhetoric on the sins of a handful of businesses does little to reassure anxious entrepreneurs and investors about the UK’s future as a great place to do business. The vast majority of UK firms are dedicated to creating great jobs, and products and services that improve people’s lives. This must be recognised.”

Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce:

“Jeremy Corbyn’s speech will have done little to reassure companies already worried about widespread state intervention, nationalisation, and the radical increases in taxes and costs they could face under a future Labour government. Investors, both here at home and across the world, are also taking note.

“While Jeremy Corbyn is right to say that government must play an active role in shaping the economy, and in encouraging long-term wealth creation in every nation and region of the UK, this needs to happen in partnership with business, not by demonising it.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis:

“Today we heard a defining speech from Jeremy Corbyn, full of hope. Labour is a government in waiting - and the next election can’t come soon enough.”

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary:

“Jeremy’s speech laid out a vision for our country that people are crying out for. Tinkering around the edges with a broken economy won’t deliver the change people so desperately need.

“Today, Labour showed they are in touch with the real lives and frustrations of people who shouldn’t have to work so hard for so little. Jeremy showed he’s not messing about - he wants to fundamentally change how our economy and society works.”