A lot has been said about his great victory in the Leadership campaign, but it must not be forgotten that one third of party members didn’t vote for him as their first choice. If that split were to be replicated at a general election, with one third of Labour voters abstaining (they wouldn’t have to actually vote Tory) then Labour would lose a sizable number of seats. So he must first convince his own party that his policies are the right ones. This speech offered him that opportunity. The delegates at party conferences tend to be the dedicated, the activists and therefore the ones most likely to be Corbyn supporters, so were they representative?
To win a general election Corbyn must not only win the complete support of his own party, he must also convince people like me, in the middle ground of the country who don’t owe allegiance to any party. We the 'undecided' decide who wins and who loses on Election Day. As I said, I didn’t hear the speech, but could he convince me? To find out I read the transcript of the speech and watched it on YouTube.
Well, out of 35 paragraphs and 2,730 words (as it is displayed) we can discount the first 19 paragraphs (1,394 words). They are almost exclusively ‘thank yous’ and references to the support he received during the Labour leadership campaign. So, half the speech gone and barely a single significant reference to future policy. Not much inspiration to be had there, I think.
Paragraphs 20 to 22 were a welcome to the party for new members and a welcome back for past members who had re-joined and para 23 was a swipe at the media (he ad libbed others). That’s never a good idea, as Corbyn will rely heavily on the media in future and it’s not a good idea to alienate them so early on, but he knows his own business best. Paras 24 to 26 are congratulations to Kezia Dugdale (Leader, Scottish Labour), Mervin Reece (Labour candidate for Mayor of Bristol) and Sadiq Khan (Labour candidate for Mayor of London). Two thirds of the way through and still nothing to inspire.
Para 27, at last, something concrete. A swipe at the Tories on their new Bill to make unions more democratically accountable. Hardly big news from a party financed by the Trades Unions. Then a swipe about welfare reform; again, hardly radical from Labour.
Paras 28 and 29 focus on social injustice and inequality with a special mention for refugees and migrants. OK, these are important issues and I agree with the sentiment expressed, but not a single word was said about what he would actually do to change things. The whole 352 word section can be summed up as “poverty bad; inequality bad; injustice bad; war bad”.
Para 30 and at last, something we can get our teeth into – austerity. But what is he going to do about it? He didn’t say. This is the whole substance of what he said: “We need to develop an economic policy that deals with those issues.” That is a direct quote from the speech, not me summarising it. Yes, folks, that’s how inspirational Jeremy was; he's going to have a policy.
Para 31 and we’re on the homeward run. Para 31 itself was a repeat of the “justice and democracy” message. Para 32 can be summed up as “we must go forward”. Well, it beats going backwards I suppose. Para 33: party democracy and inclusivity. Para 34, The big finish – things have got to change - as if we didn't already know that. Para 35 "Thank you very much" - literally just those 4 words.
Did it inspire me? Well, let me put it this way: No.
Did it persuade me that Jeremy Corbyn was the right person to be the Prime Minister of our country? No. Why not? He didn’t tell us what he was going to do. It was a policy-free speech, full of meaningless motherhood and apple pie statements. OK, there was nothing I could actively disagree with, but there was also absolutely nothing I could get behind and support.
Two important elements were missing from Jeremy Corbyn's speech. The first isn't unusual for Labour; there was no reference to the fiscal defect and how a Corbyn government would deal with it if it still exists in 2020, which according to the Tories it won't. Don't get your hopes up! The other one, for me, was the more significant omission, however, and that was any reference to Corbyn's stance on the EU.
Why is this important? Well, because one of his stated aims is to get more tax out of the big multi-national corporations. Well, he'll get no argument from me on that one. But the thing is these corporations are acting legally under EU law. So to tackle the problem you have to have some idea of how you are going to manage the EU. First thing in that equation is whether to stay in the EU or come out. This is going to be THE political issue for the next year or so, but from Corbyn not a word. Zilch, Nada, Nothing. So how can I know whether to trust Corbyn on the issue of taxing multi-nationals if I don't know where, as Labour Leader, he stands on the EU?
Was it a radical speech? Only if you think that helping poor people and refugees is radical. It wasn’t even contentious. No person with an ounce of humanity could disagree with anything Jeremy said. Even David Cameron would have to agree with most of what was said and if that is the case then it could have been said by anyone and probably has been. The only thing that David Cameron could have disagreed with was the notion that Labour, under Corbyn, was the only hope of putting anything right - and it's Cameron's job to disagree with that!
Did it persuade me that Labour under Corbyn was going to change things in Britain? No. If Jeremy Corbyn wants to persuade undecided voters to vote for Labour he has to tell us what it is they’re actually going to do, not make vague promises about their good intentions.
So why were the Labour delegates in Brighton so ecstatic? Is it just me, or does it remind anyone of a Hans Christian Andersen tale? And I don’t mean The Ugly Duckling.
The purpose of a debate such as that is to decide if a free vote is the right course of action rather than a three line whip to vote for a specific party line.
We know that nuclear disarmament is a subject close to Jeremy Corbyn’s heart. Surely this would be a flagship debate to allow him to explain his beliefs to the party he now leads. So why the change of heart?
Could it be that on the same day as the debate was scheduled, news came through about the closure of the SSI steel works in Redcar? Nuclear submarines are made of steel, so it would be rather heartless to those, now jobless, steel workers to remove hope of future employment by announcing that you won’t be building something that would need quite a lot of steel. But that’s not all.
The General, Municipal and Boilermakers Union (GMB) supports the replacement of Trident. Why? Well, their members work in the shipyards that build submarines and also in Faslane Naval Dockyard where they are housed and maintained. Not replacing Trident would cost thousands of workers, and union members, their jobs. The GMB, along with the other unions, funds Labour. In addition many Labour MPs support the replacement of Trident. Lesson 1 for Corbyn – you can’t upset your own supporters, so a compromise deal was not to have the debate. Now there's a demonstration of firm leadership if you need one!
Instead Jeremy told us that we might spend £100 billion replacing Trident, but he wouldn’t use it; sub text “If I become Prime Minister you’ll be wasting the money, so you may as well not bother voting to replace Trident”. During a TV interview on Wednesday he stated categorically that as Prime Minister he would never push the Nuclear Button. “Good for him” many people opposed to Trident will say. “He’s a man of principle and will stand by those principles come what may.”
Let me put it another way. He isn’t a fit person to be Prime Minister.
Why not? Because it is the primary duty of a Prime Minister to do what is right for their country, regardless of personal beliefs. To put personal beliefs before national interest is to show oneself to be an ideologue. Ideologues always put their own beliefs before anything else, even when they have been shown to be wrong.
Now, I'm not talking about wars on the scale of Iraq or the Falklands here, I'm talking full on “enemy at the gates” warfare where the country and its European allies, faces total destruction. Jeremy Corbyn has said publicly that he would not do what might be necessary to defend our country or our allies under those circumstances. He says that he loves Britain and the British people, but he will put his own beliefs ahead of protecting those people.
In my view that makes him unfit for government.
He has even short circuited his own party's review of Defence policy, because he has said that if it includes nuclear weapons he won't be bound by it; he won't push the metaphorical button. It is right that would be Prime Ministers should have troubled consciences about such a prospect, but you don't tell potential enemies what you intend, or don't intend, doing.
On Tuesday he mades a speech which included a promise to run his party democratically and to be more inclusive, then on Wednesday he says not just to his party, but to the whole world, "my personal beliefs take precedence over yours". Is that demcratic? Is that inclusive?!
There is an argument that we don't need Trident because Russia is no longer a threat. Really? Ask the Syrians currently being bombed by Putin's Air Force if Russia is a threat, or maybe the Ukrainians being killed by Russian Special Forces, missiles and artillery. Similar arguments were posed, and listened to, about Germany in the 1930s at a time when German aircraft were bombing Spanish towns; look where that got us. It is a very brave person, or a very foolish one, who attempts to predict what the world will look like in 10 years time.
Corbyn has effectively told every would be dictator and despot that they have nothing to fear from Britain if he is our Prime Minister. They can do what they like and Britain will do nothing to defend the people of the world from injustice and persecution; those same people who are being persecuted and whom Corbyn, in paragraph 29 of his Party Conference speech, vowed to help.
It was Aneurin Bevan, that great hero of the Labour Party, who said at the 1957 Labour Party Conference that unilateral nuclear disarmament “would send a British Foreign Secretary naked into the conference-chamber”, but that is precisely what Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn would do. Would Nye Bevan be a Corbyn supporter? Not on this evidence.
Next week it's the turn of the Tories. Come on Dave - Inspire me.