Jeremy Corbyn – 2019 Speech at NEU Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, at the National Education Union (NEU) conference held on 16 April 2019.

Thank you for that introduction.

Thank you to all teachers for what you do!

I am very honoured to be invited here to speak to you today at the first ever conference of the National Education Union and can I start by congratulating you on the merger of the NUT and the ATL.

You’ve come together to speak with one collective voice. The old trade union slogan ‘Unity is Strength’ is as true today as it ever was.

And I want to congratulate and thank your General Secretaries Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted for overseeing the merger.

Kevin and Mary: thank you for bringing your unions together, standing up for your members and standing up for the principle of education as a right.

And let me mention in particular the international solidarity work of the NEU.

I’m thinking of your campaign against private fee-paying schools in the Global South – particularly in Kenya and Uganda – and your support for Palestinian teachers working in such difficult circumstances, especially since the US chose to pull its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

But I have to thank the NEU for another reason too. I want to thank you for inviting me to give a speech that isn’t about Brexit.

I think we’ve reached a stage where even political journalists are getting sick of it.

What happens with Brexit is, of course, vitally important and the Labour Party is currently in talks with the government which are serious and constructive.

But I know people are fed up with all the other critical issues that affect their daily lives being ignored because of it and education comes towards the top of that list.

Education is the pathway to liberation – not just for the individual but for society as a whole.

But that pathway is becoming ever narrower.

For years the idea that education has value in and of itself has been in retreat, replaced by the more limited notion that the only point of education is to meet the needs of the economy or business.

That thinking has increasingly been reflected in the way education is delivered in the proliferation of testing and competition and in the culture of educational institutions.

And since 2010 this retreat has been hastened by the devastating effects of austerity on our education system, which has seen schools stripped back to the bone and university students loaded with debt.

The result has been a narrowing of what education offers to people.

Of course a central task of the education system should always be to prepare young people for the world of work.

But we believe that it must do more than that. That it must be broader, that education is a public good and that encouraging creativity, critical thinking and an understanding of the world is important too.

The language and methods of the market have invaded our schools and universities and encroached on young people’s learning.

Academies and free schools have brought the private sector into the heart of our children’s education.

But have they improved results? Have they empowered parents? You know the answer to those questions.

What they have done is introduce the concept of Multi-Academy Trusts with chief executives on salaries of as much as £420,000.

So I’m proud that at the Labour Party conference last September, Angela Rayner our Shadow Education Secretary announced that the next Labour government will immediately end the academy and free schools programmes.

I want to thank Angela and her team for the work they’re doing on this and for setting out a new agenda for education after nine years of Conservative failure.

And at the centre of that agenda is the creation of a National Education Service which will be the great legacy of the next Labour government.

It will remove the corporations from the classroom and the campus.

Because we believe that education is a right not a commodity to be bought and sold.

The National Education Service will make education freely available to everyone whatever their age from cradle to grave – just like the NHS.

My great friend Tony Benn used to say that education should be like an escalator running alongside you throughout life, that you can get on and off whenever you want.

What a wonderful way of putting it.

And so we will make free lifelong learning a reality.

And we will abolish tuition fees.

And at the other end of the scale but just as important we will provide 30 hours of free early years provision for EVERY two, three and four year old.

A recent report from the House of Commons Education Select Committee found huge inequalities in early years provision in England.

And that has knock-on effects.

A disadvantaged pupil in England is almost two years behind their peers by the time they take their GCSEs at age 16.

Children who get a good start in life at pre-school do so much better in schools and beyond.

I want all children in every part of the country to get that good start.

School should be about supporting every child in our society to reach their full potential to explore where their talents lie and to discover their passions.

A healthy society needs the full breadth of talents and skills that are developed in those vital years.

At primary school in particular children need the space and freedom to let their imaginations roam.

Instead at the ages of just 7 and 11 we put them through the unnecessary pressure of national exams.

I think that’s wrong.

And I think parents agree.

They don’t want their children stressed out at a young age.

SATs and the regime of extreme pressure testing are giving young children nightmares and leaving them in floods of tears.

Teachers are reporting instances of sleeplessness, anxiety and depression in primary school children during exam periods.

And it’s even worse for children with special educational needs and disabilities. One teacher said the exams “reinforce everything they can’t do instead of what they’re good at.”

Why are we doing this to our children?

These excessive exams are not driving up standards but they are driving up stress both for children and for teachers.

I meet teachers of all ages and backgrounds who are totally overworked and overstressed.

These are dedicated public servants. It’s just wrong.

They get into the profession because they want to inspire children not pass them along an assembly line.

It’s no wonder we have a crisis of teacher retention and recruitment.

Forty percent of teachers leave the profession within five years of starting their training often because of the unmanageable workload.

And when the system forces teachers to ‘teach to the test’ narrowing down the range of learning to core parts of core subjects to get through exams that’s not actually helping pupils.

We need to prepare children for life not just for exams.

These tests are bad for children, bad for parents and bad for teachers.

We need a different approach.

So today I can give you this commitment: the next Labour government will scrap primary school SATs for seven and eleven year olds.

And we’ll scrap the government’s planned new baseline assessments for reception classes too because they can’t give accurate comparisons between schools when pupils have such different backgrounds.

Instead we will raise standards by freeing up teachers to teach.

Labour trusts teachers. You are professionals. You know your job. You know your students.

We will consult with teaching unions, parents and experts and bring forward proposals for a new system that separates the assessment of schools from the assessment of children.

It will be based on clear principles.

First to understand the learning needs of each child because every child is unique.

And second to encourage a broad curriculum aimed at a rounded education.

When children have a rich and varied curriculum when they are encouraged to be creative to develop their imagination then there’s evidence that they do better at the core elements of literacy and numeracy too.

So I’m proud of Labour’s Arts Pupil Premium that will ensure children can learn musical instruments drama and dance and visit theatres, galleries and museums.

Those things are part of what make us human and what bring us joy. Children should be allowed to be part of that.

The pressure heaped on primary children and teachers by SATs comes on top of the devastating impact of austerity on our schools.

More than 90% of schools have had their per pupil funding cut the first cuts to school funding in a generation.

Classrooms are overcrowded.

Support staff have been cut.

Children are losing out.

This is an attack on a whole generation who are being denied the start in life they deserve.

The shocking stories we hear speak for themselves:

Head teachers sending out begging letters to parents asking for money to buy basics like gluesticks and paper.

Teachers staying behind after hours to clean classrooms.

Schools closing on a Friday, as they simply don’t have the money to pay staff or pay the bills to keep the school open all week.

In the fifth richest country on earth.

This is the reality of nine years of Conservative government.

And although there isn’t a single area of the country left unscathed, the cuts are hitting the most hard up areas and the most disadvantaged children hardest.

Children with special educational needs and disabilities – some of our most vulnerable young people – are suffering particularly badly.

According to this union, special needs provision in England has lost out on more than a billion pounds since 2015 because of shortfalls in central government funding to local authorities.

I commend the work of the NEU in exposing this scandal.

And I’m very worried that children with special educational needs are being permanently excluded from school at a rate six times higher than that of other pupils.

We must not brush under the carpet the issue of school exclusions.

Yes, some children can be difficult. Yes, these problems are often complex.

But the increase in exclusions is being driven in part by austerity, as schools can’t provide the support and they can’t fall back on other services that are being cut too.

Look further down the line at what happens to children that are excluded, the harm it can do to their life chances, and the greater cost to society later on. We have a responsibility to ensure they have a fair chance.

We shouldn’t think that the issues affecting education can be separated from the rest of society.

Children living in poverty – children going hungry – are not going to be able to concentrate in class, as the NEU survey released over the weekend shows.

And when other services are cut, it’s left to schools to pick up the pieces.

Over a thousand Sure Start centres have closed. 4,500 jobs in youth work have gone.

And at the same time some schools are having to organise food banks for families who can’t afford to feed their children because of the Tories’ cruel Universal Credit.

We hear of teachers having to source mattresses for students whose families can’t afford them and staff supplying children with school uniforms which parents are unable to pay for.

The circumstances children are living in have the biggest impact on their achievement at school. But it’s easier for the government to blame the teachers.

So I want to say thank you to all those teachers – and I know you do this all the time – who dip into your own wallets and purses to make sure your children get something to eat.

Every single teacher in this room goes above and beyond what is expected of them.

I mentioned the crisis of teacher retention and recruitment earlier, and it is a crisis a crisis which stems from the government’s obvious contempt for the entire teaching profession.

You are undervalued and underpaid.

Because while you’ve taken a real terms pay cut of over £4,000 since 2010 the very richest in society have received tax breaks and giveaways.

Under a Labour government, the whole approach to teachers and teaching staff would change.

Not only would we repeal the Trade Union Act and introduce sectoral collective bargaining to improve your pay and rights at work, but we would genuinely listen to teachers and teaching unions about what you think is right for education.

We value teachers and we value the genius of teachers.

When we campaign against cuts to schools together, when we campaign for a different way of looking at education, we’re doing it for the next generation.

We’re doing it to ensure that there’s a cascade of improvement from one generation to another.

And we’re doing it because we want to broaden what education offers to the next generation, not narrow it down.

Because education is a public good, not a private commodity.

When all of us are allowed to flourish, when our talents aren’t inhibited by circumstance or squandered through neglect, then the achievements of each will enrich the lives of others, and the whole of society will benefit. So can I say to every teacher: thank you for what you do.

To the support staff: thank you for what you do. And to your union: thank you for the help and advice you give us. When we work together there is so much that we can achieve. And if we stick together we will win.

Thank you.

Jeremy Corbyn – 2019 Statement After Meeting Theresa May

Below is the text of the statement made by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, on 3 April 2019.

There hasn’t been as much change as I expected but we will have further discussions tomorrow to explore technical issues.

I put forward the view from the Labour Party that we want to achieve a customs union with the EU, access to the Single Market and dynamic regulatory alignment, that is a guarantee of European regulations as a minimum on the environment, consumer and workers’ rights. I also raised the option of a public vote to prevent crashing out or leaving on a bad deal.

Jeremy Corbyn – 2019 Speech to Make UK

Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, to Make UK on 19 February 2019.

It’s a pleasure to be speaking again to the artists formerly known as the EEF, or Make UK as you have now become.

Hailing from a family of engineers, I always look forward to coming here and meeting many of you.

I take a very close interest in manufacturing. It’s the beating heart of our economy.

For those employed in the sector, manufacturing doesn’t just offer a good job that pays well, it offers creative and satisfying work.

But manufacturing needs the right environment to flourish: high quality infrastructure, a skilled workforce, and open and stable trading relationships.

I’m going to talk about each of these in turn because it’s clear that something is going badly wrong.

Last week’s GDP figures confirmed that our manufacturing sector is mired in recession.

Output has fallen for six consecutive months – the worst run since the depths of the financial crisis in 2008-9.

No doubt the uncertainty generated by the government’s shambolic handling of Brexit has had an impact, as has weaker global demand.

But it’s too convenient for the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, to brandish these as excuses for the Tories’ woeful economic record.

The truth is, the prolonged slump in manufacturing is part of a broader story: a weak economy limping through the most feeble and protracted recovery in British history.

And the blame for that lies squarely with the government.

Nine years of unnecessary austerity have caused untold damage to our economy and strangled investment, leaving us with crumbling infrastructure, a productivity crisis, and anaemic growth.

This is all the more painful because there is another way.

A government prepared to invest in our economy and pursue an active industrial strategy could bring about a renaissance in manufacturing.

And that is what the next Labour government will do.

It starts with infrastructure. Our dilapidated transport, communications, and energy infrastructure is desperately in need of an upgrade.

Labour will unleash a massive programme of investment with a National Transformation Fund delivering £250 billion of direct capital expenditure on infrastructure and R&D.

We will ensure this investment benefits every region and nation of our country, not just London and the South East.

And we will establish a National Investment Bank to make available a further £250 billion over 10 years in the form of patient capital lent to small and medium-sized enterprises in line with the priorities of our industrial strategy, providing funding for green industries and the technologies of the future.

The current government’s failure to invest has left us poorly equipped to deal with the profound changes that are already upon us.

Where is the industrial strategy to prepare our economy for life outside the EU?

What’s being done to harness the benefits of automation without threatening the livelihoods of millions?

How can we mobilise industry to help avert the destruction of our climate?

The government has no answers to any of these questions.

Let me give you an example of the change we need.

To avoid climate catastrophe we have to reduce our net emissions to zero by 2050 at the latest.

That’s not going to happen by itself.

It requires large-scale public investment into renewable energy and home insulation, which will in turn create new opportunities for private enterprise.

This is not a burden. It’s an opportunity to kick-start a Green Jobs Revolution.

Labour’s plans will create at least 400,000 skilled, unionised jobs and bring about a seven-fold increase in offshore wind, double onshore wind, and triple solar power.

And these new manufacturing and engineering jobs will bring skills and opportunity to parts of the country that have been held back by decades of neglect.

As our Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has said, this is about the jobs at the end of your road, from the Clyde to the Humber to the Mersey.

Technology and manufacturing don’t have to be a threat to the environment. Our responsibility is to develop the next generation of technology that will help us preserve our natural world.

Labour is committed to investing on a scale that will transform our economy. Those policies won huge public support at the general election 18 months ago. I’m disappointed that a small number of MPs yesterday decided to take a different path.

But this is an agenda which unites half a million Labour party members inside and outside parliament, along with millions of people across the country.

And we’ve been up front in saying that in return for that investment we will ask the largest businesses that can afford it to pay a bit more towards the common good.

Because the government’s corporation tax cuts haven’t increased investment and growth.

Indeed, the Conservatives have had nine years to fix the fundamentals of our economy, but have left it weak and unprepared for the future.

And just as they have failed to invest in infrastructure, so too have they failed to invest in skills.

I travel around the country all the time and I visit many manufacturers and other employers.

I’ve been struck by how often they tell me about the difficulty of recruiting skilled labour.

Of course, there are organisations and companies doing good work. Make UK’s own training and apprenticeship programmes are excellent.

I’ve visited Make UK’s training centre in Aston twice and I’ve been extremely impressed at the way young people are helped to get the best start to their working lives.

But as a country we are moving in the wrong direction. University fees, the scrapping of grants, and cuts to training have made education less accessible just when we need a highly skilled workforce more than ever.

So a great legacy of the next Labour government will be to reverse this trend with the creation of a National Education Service that makes education freely available to everyone whatever their age, from cradle to grave, just like the NHS is there for all of us.

I pay tribute to our Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, for the work she’s doing to drive this forward.

My great friend Tony Benn used to say that education should be like an escalator going alongside you throughout life that you can get on and off whenever you want.

What a wonderful way of putting it.

So today I am proud to announce the appointment of our Commission on Lifelong Learning to help make the principle of lifelong learning a reality.

The Commission will bring together 14 experts from across education – top names in their fields – including Make UK’s very own Chief Economist Seamus Nevin.

It is co-chaired by the former Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, and the General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, Dave Ward.

And I want to thank Gordon Marsden, Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Further Education and Skills, whose passion for lifelong learning has been crucial to bringing this together.

The Commission’s task is to devise an inclusive system of adult education to be implemented by the next Labour government that will transform the lives of millions and reskill our economy.

Lifelong learning will be available to everyone no matter their background, employment status, or previous education.

The Commission will make detailed proposals on how to integrate qualifications, introduce a credits system to make qualifications transferable, and make it as easy as possible for people to pick up or pause their studies at times that work for them.

It will break down barriers between different types of education.

The opportunity to retrain at any point in life will help close the gap between the skills people have and the skills our economy needs.

We know that new industries evolve and old industries collapse, technological advance can create great anxiety for people.

So for me, the National Education Service and its commitment to lifelong learning is a form of social security.

Under a Labour government workers will never again be left feeling discarded because there will be an industrial strategy creating good, well-paid jobs and training to help workers learn new skills.

It makes no sense for people to only be educated for the first quarter of their life and then work for the rest of their days with outdated or insufficient qualifications.

It’s a waste of talent and a waste of potential. Let’s give people the skills to flourish.

And I strongly believe there should be genuine parity between vocational education and academic education. We have to end the outdated grammar school mentality of looking down on someone who does a vocational course and looking up to someone who does an academic course. I see the skills of electrical work of computer work of design work learned through vocational courses as just as valuable as academic courses taken at university.

We need all of those skills in our society.

I remember from my own school days, being told by my art teacher who didn’t appreciate some of my more abstract painting “You’re no good at art, you can do woodwork instead”, as if woodwork was inferior. In Germany, where they really value engineering, they say: “You’re a clever kid – get down the metal workshop.’’ So education must be designed to get the best out of everybody and available to all, delivered through colleges, universities, trade unions and directly via employers.

If a Labour government is going to make this big investment in skills that will have benefits for business, then we do ask something in return: that as employers you step up to invest in your workforce too.

Last week I visited the gear manufacturer Beard and Fitch in Harlow, and met Carol, a supervisor who is partially sighted. She was doing the final checking and polishing of the gears, and she had been provided with big screens to help her do her work. That’s a sensible employer who has made an investment in someone who was very good at her job. And it was paying off.

I said earlier that as well as a skilled workforce and high-quality infrastructure, manufacturing needs a stable trading relationship to thrive.

Which brings us on to Brexit.

Earlier this month I wrote to the Prime Minister laying out Labour’s alternative plan based around a permanent customs union with a British say in future trade deals, a strong relationship with the single market and full guarantees on workers’ rights, consumer standards and environmental protections.

Later this week I will travel to Brussels to discuss it with Michel Barnier and others.

It’s a plan we are convinced could win the support of parliament, be negotiated with the EU and help bring the country together. It has been widely welcomed as a way of breaking the impasse. So I call on the government and MPs across parliament to end the Brexit uncertainty and back Labour’s credible alternative plan.

It’s regrettable that so far the Prime Minister has instead chosen to stick with an approach that has already been rejected, refusing to move from her divisive and damaging red lines. Business investment is falling and confidence is evaporating due to the uncertainty she has created.

And let’s have no pretence that if the Prime Minister could only get her deal through parliament then certainty would be restored. The Political Declaration she negotiated talks of, and I quote, “a spectrum of different outcomes for administrative processes as well as checks and controls.”

“A spectrum of different outcomes.” What use is that when making investment decisions?

If the Prime Minister is unable to adopt a sensible deal because it would split the Tories, then there needs to be a general election. Without it we will keep all options on the table, including the option of a public vote.

The country cannot be taken over the cliff edge for the sake of Tory party unity. The government is running down the clock in an attempt to blackmail MPs with the threat of crashing out without a deal. This is extraordinarily reckless. It puts our manufacturing sector your industries at risk.

Labour has consistently advocated a comprehensive UK-EU customs union to deliver frictionless trade and protect supply chains that stretch across the continent. Disrupting those supply chains would threaten good businesses and skilled jobs that we can’t afford to lose.

Just take the car industry.

The decision by Nissan to pull investment from its Sunderland plant was just the thin end of the wedge. Jaguar Land-Rover is said to be stockpiling parts in preparation for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, but can only prepare for days, not weeks of disruption because the company uses 25 million separate parts a day. Ford has reportedly warned the Prime Minister that it could cease production in the UK, entirely threatening 13,000 jobs, and has said that ‘no deal’ would be, quote, “catastrophic for the UK’s auto industry.”

And although not directly linked to Brexit today we learn that Honda is planning to close its plant in Swindon at the cost of 3,500 jobs. That is devastating news for those workers, their families and for the local economy. It’s bad news too for all the small and medium sized businesses in the supply chain. And while the Government is boasting it has secured a trade deal with the Faroe Islands, it is doing nothing to protect skilled jobs and industry here in Britain.

Of course concerns about a ‘no deal’ crash go well beyond the car industry. Take food and drink, which is actually the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. It needs frictionless trade for perishable goods, where time is of the essence. Or steel. Half the steel we produce is exported most of it to the EU. A disastrous ‘no deal’ Brexit would mean trade restrictions on virtually all steel companies’ export markets.

And while the big household names get all the media attention, it’s the small and medium-sized manufacturers who will find it most burdensome to adjust to new customs arrangements.

Brexit has crystallised a choice about the kind of economy we want. On the one hand, the harsh economic environment fostered by the Conservatives: low investment, low productivity, low growth and a damaging trade deal with Donald Trump. On the other, Labour’s investment-led approach, underpinned by a close relationship with our European neighbours, in a rebalanced economy that no longer privileges those who lend and speculate over those who make things.

These are anxious times for manufacturers. But the future doesn’t have to be one of decline. With a government that believes in and supports industry, manufacturing will be the engine of innovation in the green economy of the future.

Infrastructure skills certainty. That’s what manufacturing needs. That’s what only Labour will deliver.

Jeremy Corbyn – 2019 Comments on Brexit

Below is the text of the comments made by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 21 January 2019.

I thank the Prime Minister for giving me an advance copy of her statement. I join her in condemning the car bomb attack we have seen in Londonderry at the weekend, and I commend the emergency services and local community for their response. The huge achievement of the Good Friday agreement in reducing violence in Northern Ireland must never be taken for granted. It was an historic step forward, and we cannot take it for granted.

The Government still appear not to have come to terms with the scale of the defeat in this House last week. The Prime Minister seems to be going through ​the motions of accepting the result, but in reality she is in deep denial. The logic of that decisive defeat is that the Prime Minister must change her red lines, because her current deal is undeliverable, so can she be clear and explicit with the House—which of her red lines is she prepared to move on?

The Prime Minister’s invitation to talks has been exposed as a PR sham. Every Opposition party politician came out of those meetings with the same response. Contrary to what the Prime Minister has just said, there was no flexibility and there were no negotiations—nothing has changed. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister was heard and, when there was noise, I called for it stop. The same must apply to the Leader of the Opposition. No one in this Chamber will shout the right hon. Gentleman down. They need not bother trying, because they are wasting their breath.

Jeremy Corbyn

Thank you, Mr Speaker. However, I do welcome the commitment that the fee for EU citizens to apply for settled status will be waived.

The Prime Minister was fond of saying that this is the best possible deal on the table and that it is the only possible deal. However, our EU negotiating partners have been clear, saying that

“unanimously, the European Council have always said that if the United Kingdom chooses to shift its red lines in the future… to go beyond a simple free trade agreement… then the European Union will be immediately ready… to give a favourable response.”

The House voted to hold the referendum and to trigger article 50. There is a clear majority in this House to support a deal in principle and to respect the referendum result, but that requires the Prime Minister to face reality and accept that her deal has been comprehensively defeated. Instead, we now understand that the Prime Minister is going back to Europe to seek concessions on the backstop. What is the difference between legal assurances and concessions? What makes her think that what she tried to renegotiate in December will succeed in January? This really does feel like groundhog day.

The first thing the Prime Minister must do is recognise the clear majority in this House against leaving without a deal. She must rule out no deal and stop the colossal waste of public money planning for that outcome. Questions must also be asked of the Chancellor. He reassured businesses that no deal would be ruled out by the Commons, yet he sanctioned £4.2 billion to be spent on an option that he believes will be ruled out. Last week, the Foreign Secretary said that it was “very unrealistic” to believe that the House of Commons would not find a way to block no deal. Will the Prime Minister meet with her Chancellor and Foreign Secretary to see whether they can convince her to do what is in her power and rule out no deal? If she will not do that now, will she confirm to the House that, if an amendment passes that rules out no deal, she will implement that instruction? The Prime Minister agreed the backstop because of her pledge to the people of Northern Ireland to avoid a hard border, but no deal would mean a hard border in Ireland and would break the Prime Minister’s commitment. Is she seriously willing to accept a hard border?

Today heralds the start of a democratic process whereby this House will debate the amendments that will determine how we navigate Brexit. Of course, the Government ​tried to block us ever getting to this stage. They wanted no democratic scrutiny whatsoever. Labour has set out a proposal—I believe there may be a majority in this House for this—for a new comprehensive customs union with the EU that would include a say and a strong single market deal that would deliver frictionless trade and ensure no race to the bottom on workers’ rights or any other of the important regulations and protections that we currently have. As we have said consistently from the beginning, we will back amendments that seek to rule out the disaster of no deal and, as we have said, we will not rule out the option of a public vote. No more phoney talks. Parliament will debate and decide, and this time I hope and expect the Government to listen to this House.

Jeremy Corbyn – 2019 Speech During No Confidence Motion

Below is the text of the speech made in the House of Commons by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, on 16 January 2019.

I beg to move,

That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.

Last night, the Government were defeated by 230 votes—the largest defeat in the history of our democracy. They are the first Government to be defeated by more than 200 votes. Indeed, the Government themselves could barely muster more than 200 votes. Last week, they lost a vote on the Finance Bill—that is what is called supply. Yesterday, they lost a vote by the biggest margin ever—that is what is regarded as confidence. By any convention of this House—by any precedent—loss of confidence and supply should mean that they do the right thing and resign.

The Prime Minister has consistently claimed that her deal, which has now been decisively rejected, was good for Britain, workers and businesses. If she is so confident of that—if she genuinely believes it—she should have nothing to fear from going to the people and letting them decide.

In this week in 1910, the British electorate went to the polls. They did so because Herbert Asquith’s Liberal Government had been unable to get Lloyd George’s “People’s Budget” through the House of Lords. They were confident in their arguments, and they went to the people and were returned to office. That is still how our democracy works. When we have a Government that cannot govern, it is those conventions that guide us in the absence of a written constitution. If a Government cannot get their legislation through Parliament, they must go to the country for a new mandate, and that must apply when that situation relates to the key issue of the day.

Chris Philp (Croydon South) (Con)

Is not the Leader of the Opposition engaging in a piece of shameless political opportunism, putting party interests ahead of national interests? Is he not simply trying to disguise the fact that he has no policy on this great issue?

Jeremy Corbyn

In 2017, the Prime Minister and her party thought that they could call an election and win it. They thought that they would return with an overall majority, but there was an enormous increase in the Labour vote—the biggest since 1945—during that campaign when people saw what our policies actually were.

When the Prime Minister asked to be given a mandate, she bypassed the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), the shadow Foreign Secretary, pointed out, was designed to give some stability to the Tory-Lib Dem coalition Government to ensure that the Lib Dems could not hold the Conservatives to ransom by constantly threatening to collapse the coalition. The 2011 Act was never intended to prop up a zombie Government, and there can be no doubt that this is a zombie Government.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP)

If the right hon. Gentleman’s motion is successful this evening, there may be a general election in a few short weeks. Would the Labour party manifesto state whether it will be a party of Brexit or a party against Brexit? It is a simple question; what is the answer?

Jeremy Corbyn

We are a democratic party, and our party will decide what policy we fight the election on. In the meantime, however, we are clear that there has to be a customs union, access to European trade and markets, and the protection of rights, and there must be a rejection of a no-deal Brexit.

As I was saying, last week this Government became the first for more than 40 years to lose a vote on a Finance Bill. In a shocking first for this Government—a shocking first—they forced a heavily pregnant Member of this House, my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq), to delay a scheduled caesarean to come to vote, all because of their cynical breaking of trusted pairing arrangements. We need to examine our procedures to ensure that such a thing can never happen again.

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you please assist the House, because this is an important matter? I say this as a woman. We need to establish once and for all whether the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) was offered a pair. I think all of us and the public need to know.

Mr Speaker

The Clerk reminds me that that is not a point of order. My understanding is that there was a pairing opportunity, but the issue was aired in the chamber on Monday and again yesterday. The Leader of the Opposition is absolutely entitled to highlight his concern about the matter, which I know is widely shared, but it should not now be the subject of further points of order. I hope that that satisfies the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry).

Jeremy Corbyn

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Nothing demonstrates the sheer incompetence of this Government quite like the Brexit negotiations. Yesterday’s historic and humiliating defeat was the result of two years of chaos and failure. It is clear that this Government are not capable of winning support for their core plan on the most vital issue facing this country. The Prime Minister has lost control and the Government have lost the ability to govern. Within two years, they have managed to turn a deal from what was supposed to be—I remember this very well—

“one of the easiest in human history”

into a national embarrassment. In that time, we have seen the Prime Minister’s demands quickly turn into one humiliating climbdown after another. Brexit Ministers have come, and Brexit ministers have gone, but the shambles has remained unchanged, culminating in an agreement that was described by one former Cabinet Minister as

“the worst of all worlds.”

Let me be clear that the deal that the Prime Minister wanted this Parliament to support would have left the UK in a helpless position, facing a choice between seeking and paying for an extended transition period or being trapped in the backstop. The Prime Minister may claim the backstop would never come into force—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker

Order. There are courtesies in this place. A Member can seek to intervene, but he or she should not do so out of frustration by shrieking an observation across the Floor.

Mr Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) (Con)

I was not shrieking.

Mr Speaker

Well, whether we say shriek or yell or bellow or shout, it was very noisy, and it was disorderly. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I hold him in the highest regard and have great affection for him, but he must behave better.

Mr Francois

Isn’t the Leader of the Opposition supposed to—

Mr Speaker

Whether an intervention is taken or not—

Mr Francois

All right.

Mr Speaker

No, there is no “all right” about it. The person who has the Floor decides whether to take an intervention. That is life. That is the reality. That is the way it has always been.

Jeremy Corbyn

Who has confidence in this Government’s ability to negotiate a future trade deal with the EU by December 2020 after the shambles that we have all witnessed over the past two years? This Frankenstein deal is now officially dead, and the Prime Minister is trying to blame absolutely everybody else.

Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)

In modern British history, when faced with a defeat even a fraction of the size of the titanic and calamitous margin that the Prime Minister faced yesterday, Prime Ministers have done the right and honourable thing and have resigned and called a general election. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Prime Minister, in the pursuit of power and the trappings of office, has now forgotten what is right and honourable?

Jeremy Corbyn

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. As I made clear, all the precedents are that when a Government experiences a defeat like last night’s, it is time to resign and allow the people to elect a new Parliament to deal with the issues facing the country.

Let me be clear that the blame for this mess lies firmly at the feet of the Prime Minister and her Government, who have time after time made hollow demands and given what turned out to be false promises. They say that they want this Parliament to be sovereign. Yet when their plans have come up against scrutiny, they have done all they can to obstruct and evade. The Prime Minister’s original plan was to push through a deal without the appropriate approval of this Parliament, only to be forced into holding a meaningful vote by the courts and by Members of this House, to whom I pay tribute for ensuring that we actually had the meaningful vote last night.

Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)

As I understand it, the Leader of the Opposition will allow his party to decide whether he will deliver Brexit should he become Prime Minister. His party has already decided that if he is not successful in getting a general election, he should support a people’s vote. If he does not win the vote tonight, will he then support moves in this House to give us a people’s vote?

Jeremy Corbyn

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is fully aware of the decision made at my party’s conference that all options are on the table for the next phase, including the option to which he has referred.

Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)

In this national crisis, will my right hon. Friend confirm whether the Prime Minister has telephoned the Leader of the Opposition to ask for a meeting to discuss the way forward for our country?

Jeremy Corbyn

I have not had such a call as yet. I have my phone on. [Interruption.]

I think we should proceed with this debate. The Prime Minister’s original plan was to push through a deal without approval, as I pointed out, and she was forced into seeking approval by the courts. Since losing their majority in the 2017 general election, the Government have had numerous opportunities to engage with others and listen to their views, not just here in Westminster, but across the country. Their whole framing of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill was about giving excessive power to the Secretary of State for Brexit at the expense of Parliament. It was a Bill of which Henry VIII would have been very proud.

Yesterday’s decisive defeat is the result of the Prime Minister not listening and ignoring businesses, unions and Members of this House. She has wasted two years recklessly ploughing on with her doomed strategy. Even when it was clear that her botched and damaging deal could not remotely command support here or across the country, she decided to waste even more time by pulling the meaningful vote on 11 December on the empty promise, and it was an absolutely empty promise, of obtaining legal assurances on the backstop—another month wasted before the House could come to its decision last night.

Some on the Government Benches have tried to portray the Prime Minister’s approach as stoical. What we have seen over the past few months is not stoical; what we have witnessed is the Prime Minister acting in her narrow party interest, rather than in the public interest. Her party is fundamentally split on this issue, and fewer than 200 of her own MPs were prepared to support her last night. This constrains the Prime Minister so much that she simply cannot command a majority in this House on the most important issue facing this country without rupturing her party. It is for that reason that the Government can no longer govern.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister shook her head when I said that she had treated Brexit as a matter only for the Conservative party, yet within half an hour of the vote being announced the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) commented:

“She has conducted the argument as if this was a party political matter rather than a question of profound national importance”.

How right he was, and how wrong the Prime Minister was to threaten him before the vote took place.

I know that many people across the country will be frustrated and deeply worried about the insecurity around Brexit, but if this divided Government continue in office, the uncertainty and risks can only grow.

George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con)

When those cross-party talks start, which of the Scarlet Pimpernels will come? Will it be the Leader of the Opposition who campaigns for remain in London and the south-east, or will it be the Leader of the Opposition who campaigns for Brexit up north? We need to know.

Jeremy Corbyn

There has been no offer or communication on all-party talks. All the Prime Minister said was that she might talk to some Members of the House. That is not reaching out. That is not discussing it. That is not recognising the scale of the defeat they suffered last night.

It is not just over Brexit that the Government are failing dismally, letting down the people of this country. There has been the Windrush scandal, with the shameful denial of rights and the detention, and even the deportation, of our own citizens. The Government’s flagship welfare policy, universal credit, is causing real and worsening poverty across this country. And just yesterday, under the cover of the Brexit vote, they sneaked out changes that will make some pensioner households thousands of pounds worse off. Those changes build on the scourge of poverty and the measures inflicted on the people of this country, including the bedroom tax, the two-child limit, the abominable rape clause, the outsourced and deeply flawed work capability assessment, the punitive sanctions regime and the deeply repugnant benefits freeze.

People across this country, whether they voted leave or remain, know full well that the system is not working for them. If they are up against it and they voted remain, or if they are up against it and they voted leave, this Government do not speak for them, do not represent them and cannot represent them. Food bank use has increased almost exponentially. More people are sleeping on our streets, and the numbers have shamefully swelled every year. The Conservative party used to call itself the party of home ownership; it is now called the party of homelessness in this country.

Care is being denied to our elderly, with Age UK estimating that 1.2 million older people are not receiving the care they need. Some £7 billion has been cut from adult social care budgets in the past nine years. Our NHS is in crisis, waiting time targets at accident and emergency—[Interruption.] I am talking about waiting times at accident and emergency departments and for cancer patients that have not been met since 2015, and that have never been met under the Government of this Prime Minister.

The NHS has endured the longest funding squeeze in its history, leaving it short-staffed to the tune of 100,000 and leaving NHS trusts and providers over £1 billion in deficit. The human consequences are clear. Life expectancy is now going backwards in the poorest parts of our country and is stagnating overall, which is unprecedented—another shameful first for this Government and another reason why this Government should no longer remain in office. That is why this motion of no confidence is so important.

Anna Soubry

The Leader of the Opposition is making some powerful arguments—not very well, but he is making them—but could he help us with this? I saw an opinion poll at the weekend. If there is any merit in his arguments, can he explain why the Conservative party is six points ahead in the polls? Could it be because he is the most hopeless Leader of the Opposition we have ever had?

Jeremy Corbyn

I thank the right hon. Lady for her intervention, and I look forward to testing opinion at the ballot box in a general election, when we will be able to elect a Labour Government in this country.

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab)

My right hon. Friend is right to put on record the concerns about uncertainty in the country, and he is absolutely right to talk about poverty. Can he confirm that it is the position of the British Labour party to rule out a no-deal Brexit? Can he understand why the party that claims to be the traditional party of business will not do the same?

Jeremy Corbyn

I can absolutely confirm that. We have voted against a no-deal Brexit, and apparently the Business Secretary thinks that vote is a good idea. The Prime Minister was unable to answer my question on this during Prime Minister’s Question Time. A no-deal Brexit would be very dangerous and very damaging for jobs and industries all across this country.

Imran Hussain

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Jeremy Corbyn

I will give way one more time.

Imran Hussain

I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. He is absolutely right that, under this Government, we see our NHS in crisis and education underfunded. Our communities have been devastated by their austerity agenda. More people are homeless, more people are living in poverty and more people are using food banks. If the Government disagree, why do they not call a general election? We are ready.

Jeremy Corbyn

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and for his work representing his constituency. On this side of the House, we are determined to force this Government to accept the reality of the defeat last night and to go to the people so that they can decide whether they want a party in office that promotes inequality, poverty and injustice in Britain, or the Labour alternative, which is bringing people together, however they voted in the referendum.

I know that some Members of this House are sceptical, and members of the public could also be described as sceptical, but I truly believe that a general election would be the best outcome for this country. As the Prime Minister pointed out in her speech yesterday, both the Labour party and the Conservative party stood on manifestos that accepted the result of the referendum . Surely any Government would be strengthened in trying to renegotiate Brexit by being given a fresh mandate from the people to follow their chosen course. I know many people at home will say, “Well, we’ve had two general elections and a referendum in the last four years.” For the people of Scotland, it is two UK-wide elections, one Scottish parliamentary election and two referendums in five years So although Brenda from Bristol may gasp “Not another one”, spare a thought for Bernie from Bute. However, the scale of the crisis means we need a Government with a fresh mandate. A general election can bring people together, focusing on all the issues that unite us—the need to solve the crises in our NHS, our children’s schools and the care of our elderly.

We all have a responsibility to call out abuse, which has become too common, whether it is the abuse that Members of this House receive or the abuse that is—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker

Order. No, Mr David Morris, do not yell from a sedentary position like that. If you seek to intervene, you seek to do so in the usual way—that is the only way to do it. Just because you are angry, it does not justify your behaving in that way. Stop it.

Jeremy Corbyn

Thank you. Mr Speaker.

Mr Francois

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Jeremy Corbyn

No. I am sure we can all unite in condemning racist abuse in any form whatsoever within our society. Too many of our constituents have faced that since the toxic debate in the last referendum and, if I may say so, the Government’s hostile environment policies on the Windrush generation.

Many media pundits and Members of this House say there is currently no majority in the House for a general election—let the Members of this House decide. However, it is clear there is no majority for the Government’s Brexit deal and there is no majority either for no deal. I pay tribute to all Members of this House who, like the Labour Front-Bench team, are committed both to opposing the Prime Minister’s bad deal, which we voted down last night, and to ruling out the catastrophe of no deal. But I do believe that following the defeat of the Government’s plan, a general election is the best outcome for the country, as the Labour party conference agreed last September.

A general election would give new impetus to negotiations, with a new Prime Minister, with a new mandate, and not just to break the deadlock on Brexit, but to bring fresh ideas to the many problems facing our constituents, such as very low pay, insecure work and in-work poverty, which is increasing. They face the problems of trying to survive on universal credit and living in deep poverty; and the scandal of inadequate social care, which might not concern the right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) but does concern millions of people around this country.

Then we have the crisis facing local authorities, health services and schools, which are starved of resources; and the housing and homelessness crisis, whereby so many of our fellow citizens have no roof over their head night after night.

Mr Francois

On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Jeremy Corbyn

They are looking to Parliament to deliver for them a better and fairer society—

Mr Speaker

Is the right hon. Gentleman just pausing?

Jeremy Corbyn

I am pausing because you stood up.

Mr Speaker

Quite right, absolutely. That is very reasonable and sensible. Thank you. I call Mark Francois, on a point of order.

Mr Francois

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it not—[Interruption.] Well, give me a go! Is it not often the practice in this House that when someone speaking from the Dispatch Box refers to another Member and challenges them, they then normally take an intervention?

Mr Speaker

It is commonplace, but it is not, in any sense, obligatory.

Jeremy Corbyn

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

If the House backs this motion today, I will welcome the wide-ranging debates we will have about the future of our country and the future of our relationship with the European Union, with all the options on the table. As I said before, a Prime Minister confident of what she describes as “a good deal” and committed, as she claims, to tackling burning injustices should have nothing to fear from such an election. If the House does not back this motion today, it is surely incumbent on all of us to keep all the options on the table, to rule out the disastrous no deal and offer a better solution than the Prime Minister’s deal, which was so roundly defeated yesterday.

This Government cannot govern and cannot command the support of Parliament on the most important issue facing our country. Every previous Prime Minister in this situation would have resigned and called an election. It is the duty of this House to show the lead where the Government have failed, and to pass a motion of no confidence so that the people of this country can decide who their MPs are, who their Government are and who will deal with the crucial issues facing the people of this country. I commend my motion to the House.

Jeremy Corbyn – 2019 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, in Wakefield on 10 January 2019.

It’s a pleasure to be here in Wakefield and thank you to OE Electrics for kindly hosting us.

We are now two and a half years on from the EU referendum and we are finally reaching the moment when the House of Commons will have its say on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

In those two and a half years many of the most pressing problems facing people in their daily lives, here in Yorkshire and across the country, have been ignored or relegated to the back of the queue by a Conservative Party consumed by its own internal battles over Brexit.

Years of Tory failure have left our society more divided than ever:

Poverty is growing, homelessness is up, personal debt is rising and crime is up too.

The truth is, the real divide in our country is not between those who voted to Remain in the EU and those who voted to Leave. It is between the many – who do the work, who create the wealth and pay their taxes, and the few – who set the rules, who reap the rewards and so often dodge taxes.

The Conservative Party’s main concern, as ever is to protect the interests of the few and is prepared to set everybody else against each other divide and rule style to stay in power.

That’s why at every turn during the Brexit negotiations the Prime Minister has acted in ways that have exacerbated division.

In fact her only success in bringing people together has been to unite both people who voted leave and those who voted remain against her botched and damaging deal.

Now she is facing the inevitable consequence of that failure, defeat in the House of Commons.

Let there be no doubt. Theresa May’s deal is a bad deal for our country and Labour will vote against it next week in Parliament.

And remember, the only reason Parliament is having what has become known as the meaningful vote is because Labour secured that concession from the government.

I would like to pay tribute to Keir Starmer and his team for all their hard work throughout this process.

If the government cannot pass its most important legislation then there must be a general election at the earliest opportunity.

A government that cannot get its business through the House of Commons is no government at all.

It has lost its mandate so must go to the country to seek another.

And the government defeat on Tuesday, after the amendment put down by Yvette Cooper was passed, is the first time a government has been defeated on a Finance Bill since 1978.

So I say to Theresa May: if you are so confident in your deal then call that election and let the people decide.

If not, Labour will table a motion of no confidence in the government at the moment we judge it to have the best chance of success.

Clearly, Labour does not have enough MPs in parliament to win a confidence vote on its own.

So members across the House should vote with us to break the deadlock.

This paralysis cannot continue. Uncertainty is putting people’s jobs and livelihoods at risk.

And if a general election cannot be secured then we will keep all options on the table, including the option of campaigning for a public vote.

But an election must be the priority. It is not only the most practical option, it is also the most democratic option.

It could give the winning party a renewed mandate to negotiate a better deal for Britain and secure support for it in Parliament and across the country.

Defeat for the government’s central policy on Tuesday would be historic.

It would not only signal the failure of Theresa May’s premiership but the failure of the Conservative Party as a party of government.

This is after all a party that for decades claimed to be the natural party of government. A safe bet for the country.

Now we see the reality.

They don’t know what they’re doing. They have led us from chaos to crisis. And they have no answers or legislation to fix the many crises of their own making whether it’s the cost of living, housing, personal debt, escalating inequality, rising crime or collapsing public services.

But there are solutions to these crises and Theresa May’s botched Brexit deal is not “the only deal possible.”

It is a deal that reflects the kind of country that the Tories want to create.

It should be no surprise that this Tory deal allows workers’ rights and environmental protections to fall behind minimum European basic standards.

The government boasts that this will give the UK “flexibility.”

But flexibility for whom?

Flexibility for employers to exploit workers. Flexibility for big corporations to pollute our environment.

Flexibility for multinational giants to undercut our neighbours and drive down standards everywhere.

Meanwhile Theresa May’s refusal to countenance negotiating a new customs union is based on the Tory dream of a sweetheart trade deal with Donald Trump which could deliver chlorinated chicken to our dinner tables and open up our NHS to giant profit-seeking American healthcare corporations.

Labour has very different priorities because we represent the interests of the many, not the few.

We have given voice to policies that command majority public support but which the political class has long refused to endorse such as fair taxation and new forms of public ownership.

When Labour goes into government we will support new high tech industries that will provide high wage secure jobs. And we will bring real investment and prosperity to areas such as Yorkshire and the Midlands, to Scotland and Wales which for too long have been held back by successive governments.

And so the alternative plan that Labour has set out for a sensible Brexit deal that could win broad support is designed to enable us to fulfil those ambitions while respecting the democratic result of the referendum.

Any political leader who wants to bring the country together cannot wish away the votes of 17 million people who wanted to leave, any more than they can ignore the concerns of the 16 million who voted to remain.

I know people are genuinely scared by the prospect of no deal. I meet people who are frightened and going through real stress.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the EU nationals who have enriched our society and made such a fantastic contribution to our industries and services. With Labour your future here is secure.

And I know many people were appalled at the bigotry and racism that some politicians stoked during the referendum campaign and are still trying to exploit out of the small number of desperate refugees risking their lives to cross the English Channel.

Let’s never forget that whatever circumstances people are living in whether in tents camps or trying to survive on dangerous dinghies, everyone is a human being and we must reach out the hand of humanity in all circumstances.

And that is exactly what Labour’s Home team does, led so well by Diane Abbott.

People want to live in a country that’s tolerant, that’s diverse, that’s open. We won’t let that openness, that generosity be crushed. Let’s not lower our horizons, let’s raise them up.

I also know that in many places like Wakefield, people feel they’ve been ignored. They lost industries and no one seemed to care. They’ve been robbed of their future by a lack of investment.

These are proud, generous communities that pull together and support each other. Communities that have real pride in their towns, in their cities, in their regions, but they know they could be so much more. I understand that many of them wanted to send the politicians a message in the referendum and I hear them. Labour is the party of the working class and we’ll stand up for you.

That’s why our alternative plan prioritises jobs growth and rights.

That is why we have called for a new customs union with a British say in future trade deals; a strong single market relationship; and a guarantee to keep pace with EU rights and standards.

Combined with the election of a radical Labour government our alternative plan will allow us to make the fundamental changes that are so badly needed in our country, while respecting those who voted both leave and remain.

Why is a customs union necessary?

It’s because a new customs union and a radical Labour government with an active industrial strategy will allow a renaissance in our manufacturing sector, which will create good, secure jobs and help restore pride and prosperity to parts of our country that have been ignored for too long.

Why do we need a strong relationship with the single market?

It’s because frictionless trade and a radical Labour government with a plan to invest in every region and nation of our country, will give us the chance to kick-start real growth in our economy, allowing the wealth created by this country’s workforce to be shared more fairly.

Finally, why are we absolutely insistent on at least keeping pace with EU rights at work environmental standards and consumer protections?

It’s because with those guarantees and a radical Labour government that stands up for people against powerful vested interests, we can give workers and consumers more control over their lives.

The alternative deal Labour has proposed is practical and achievable, and clearly has the potential to command majority support in parliament.

But it is not an end in itself. The task of the Labour party and the Labour movement is the long-overdue transformation of our country.

We will bring people together by addressing the deep-seated and common problems across our country and fulfilling the aspirations that led people to vote both leave or remain.

I would put it like this: if you’re living in Tottenham you may well have voted to Remain.

You’ve got high bills rising debts. You’re in insecure work. You struggle to make your wages stretch and you may be on universal credit, and forced to access food banks.

You’re up against it.

If you’re living in Mansfield, you are more likely to have voted to Leave.

You’ve got high bills, rising debts, you’re in insecure work, you struggle to make your wages stretch and you may be on universal credit and forced to access food banks.

You’re up against it.

But you’re not against each other.

People across the country, whether they voted Leave or Remain know that the system isn’t working for them.

Some see the EU as a defence against insecurity and hostility. Others see the EU as part of an establishment that plunged them into insecurity and hostility in the first place.

But it’s the failed system rigged against the many to protect the interests of the few that is the real cause of inequality and insecurity whether it’s in Tottenham or Mansfield.

And, the real solution is to transform Britain to work in the interests of the vast majority by challenging the entrenched power of a privileged elite.

That is how we can help to overcome our country’s divisions.

Because for both sides the EU referendum was about much more than our relationship with our biggest trading partner and its rules.

It was about what has happened to our people over decades and how to build a better future.

The Conservatives are never going to tackle the burning injustices in our country or act to overcome the deep and growing inequalities.

They are incapable of leading us out of a crisis they created.

Britain deserves a government that can govern.

The need for a government with a clear purpose and direction for the country could not be more urgent.

A general election is the right answer and the best way to break the deadlock.

Labour is ready to bring Leave and Remain voters together to rebuild Britain for the many not the few.

Jeremy Corbyn – 2019 Comments on Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the comments made by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement on 7 January 2019.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. With less than three months until we reach the article 50 deadline, there can be no more hiding and no more running away. This issue will define Britain’s future and should not be decided by the internal machinations of the Conservative party. This House and this country deserve much better.

A month ago, the Prime Minister shamefully pulled the meaningful vote, promising to do everything possible to secure assurances from the EU on the temporary nature of the backstop. Now the time has come for the Prime Minister to tell the House exactly what legal assurances she has been given by EU leaders. She achieved nothing at the December summit, but now surely she has plenty to update us on. Although I am delighted to see the Brexit Secretary here today, it is the Prime Minister who should be here to answer these questions. She suggested that a breakthrough had been secured last week. She is not here because she is busy promoting “Project Fear.” It is all hot air.

There also seems to be confusion about exactly what the Prime Minister is demanding from EU leaders. The Leader of the House promised “legal reassurances”, but yesterday the Prime Minister told the BBC:

“We’re not asking for anything new”.

Can the Secretary of State clear this up and tell the House exactly what is being requested, because this morning Ministers in his own Department did not seem to have a clue? When asked what the PM was demanding, the Brexit Minister had to concede that he did not know, but he reassured the whole world by saying that he was “an important person”, so that is all right.

I fear that the reason so many members of the Cabinet are in the dark is that there is nothing to know. If that is the case, what guarantees do we have from the Secretary of State that, faced with yet another humiliating defeat, the Prime Minister will not just run away? Can he do what the Prime Minister should be doing here today by confirming the timetable for the meaningful vote and providing what we have not received so far: a cast-iron promise that it will not be reneged on yet again?

The Government are trying to run down the clock in an attempt to blackmail this House and the country into supporting a botched deal. The Prime Minister has refused to work with the majority over the past few months, in a desperate attempt to spark life into what is actually a Frankenstein’s monster of a deal. Now we are told that, if we do not support the deal, the Government are prepared to push our whole economy off the cliff edge. To prove this, preparations for no deal are now under way.

The Transport Secretary, who has a PhD in incompetence in running Ministries, has awarded a shipping contract to a company that does not have any ships. Even today, we see the farce of lorries being lined up to stage a fake traffic jam in Kent to pretend to the EU that the Government are ready for a no deal—a stunt that the Road Haulage Association describes as “window dressing” and that one of the drivers describes as a “complete waste of time.” The Government are fooling nobody. These shambolic preparations are too little, too late.

The reality is that there is no majority in this House to support no deal. Why will the Government not face up to this truth and stop wasting our time and our money? The Prime Minister should be here updating MPs on what progress she has achieved, if any. Instead, she is continuing her approach, as before Christmas, of ducking scrutiny and dodging accountability. We will hold this Government to account for their incompetence.

Jeremy Corbyn – New Year Message for 2019

Below is the text of the new year message issued by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, on 31 December 2018.

I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year.

There’s so much talent across Britain but we’re being held back by a system that for far too long has only served a privileged few.

And now the Conservatives have plunged the country into crisis over the complete mess they’ve made of Brexit, trying to drive through a bad deal and letting people down all across the country whether they voted leave or remain.

Eight years of damaging Tory failure has left us with a divided country where millions are struggling to make ends meet, where so many can’t afford a home to call their own, where older people are deprived of the dignity they deserve and far too many are working in low paid and insecure jobs.

We cannot go on like this.

Labour is ready to deliver a radical alternative to rebuild and transform our country.

We’ll stand up to the powerful few so that the wealth you create is shared fairly not hoarded by a privileged elite.

We’ll work to create a society where the talent of everyone is unleashed. That’s how we’ll unite our country.

In 2019, let’s rebuild Britain for the many, not the few.

Jeremy Corbyn – 2018 Commons Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 10 December 2018.

I thank the Prime Minister for providing a copy of the statement before we met here this afternoon. We are in an extremely serious and unprecedented situation. The Government have lost control of events and are in complete disarray. It has been evident for weeks that the Prime Minister’s deal does not have the confidence of this House, yet she ploughed on regardless, reiterating “This is the only deal available.” Can she be clear with the House: is she seeking changes to the deal, or mere reassurances? Does she therefore accept the statement from the European Commission at lunchtime, saying that it was the

“only deal possible. We will not renegotiate—our position has…not changed”?

Ireland’s Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has said it is “not possible” to renegotiate the Irish border backstop, stating that it was the Prime Minister’s own red lines that made the backstop necessary. So can the Prime Minister be clear: is she now ready to drop further red lines in order to make progress? Can the Prime Minister confirm that the deal presented to this House is not off the table, but will be re-presented with a few assurances? Bringing back the same botched deal, either next week or in January—and can she be clear on the timing?—will not change its fundamental flaws or the deeply held objections right across this House, which go far wider than the backstop alone.

This a bad deal for Britain, a bad deal for our economy and a bad deal for our democracy. Our country deserves better than this. The deal damages our economy, and it is not just the Opposition saying that; the Government’s own analysis shows that this deal would make us worse off. If the Prime Minister cannot be clear that she can and will renegotiate the deal, she must make way. If she is going back to Brussels, she needs to build a consensus in this House. Since it appears that business has changed for the next two days, it seems not only possible but necessary that this House debates the negotiating mandate that the Prime Minister takes to Brussels. There is no point at all in this Prime Minister bringing back the same deal again, which is clearly not supported by this House.

We have endured two years of shambolic negotiations. Red lines have been boldly announced and then cast aside. We are now on our third Brexit Secretary, and it appears that each one of them has been excluded from these vital negotiations. We were promised a precise and substantive document, and we got a vague 26-page wishlist. This Government have become the first Government in British history to be held in contempt of Parliament.

The Government are in disarray. Uncertainty is building for business. People are in despair at the state of these failed negotiations, and concerned about what it means for their jobs, their livelihoods and their communities. The fault for that lies solely at the door of this shambolic Government. The Prime Minister is trying to buy herself one last chance to save this deal. If she does not take on board the fundamental changes required, she must make way for those who can.

Jeremy Corbyn – 2018 Letter to Prime Minister on Poverty

Below is the text of the letter sent by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, to the Prime Minister on 28 November 2018.

Dear Prime Minister,

While Brexit is understandably dominating the political agenda, I am writing to express my disappointment at the Government’s response to the report into poverty in the UK by the UN Special Rapporteur, Professor Philip Alston.

Professor Alston deserves our immense thanks for his work and for highlighting the shocking reality of modern Britain – the fifth largest economy in the world.

However, despite receiving the report more than one week ago, the only formal response from the Government has been supplied by the Work and Pensions Secretary, who expressed disappointment at the language used in the report. Is the Government’s position that it is more disappointed by the language used to describe the poverty in Britain than the alarming facts of poverty in Britain?

It is no surprise that the rapporteur concluded that, “there is a striking and almost complete disconnect between what I heard from the Government and what I consistently heard from many people directly, across the country”. His conclusion comes just two years after another UN rapporteur found the Government’s welfare reforms and austerity policies had led to “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights.

Child poverty has increased by half a million since 2010. We now have over 4.1 million children living in poverty. Professor Alston concluded that levels of child poverty were “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster”.

It is imperative that the Government ends the two-child policy in Universal Credit (and the accompanying and shameful ‘rape clause’). In government, Labour would also invest once again in the Sure Start programme and in providing free school meals to all primary school children.

Rough sleeping has more than doubled and the scale of rough sleepers dying on our streets shames any nation that claims to be civilised. This Christmas, over 120,000 children will be languishing in temporary accommodation, without a home to call their own. We have set out how this crisis can be tackled: we will make 8,000 homes available for those with a history of rough sleeping, we will build council housing on a scale not seen for more than three decades, and we will regulate the private rented sector to control rents – which have risen more than £1800 a year compared to 2010.

With over one-fifth of the population (14 million people) living in poverty and 1.5 million destitute, this crisis cannot be ignored and neither can the Government delay taking action. Yesterday, a report by the Trussell Trust found that more people than ever will be reliant on food banks this Christmas, including nearly 600,000 children. Poverty has a debilitating effect on people’s life chances – it is shameful that life expectancy has stagnated and is now actually falling in some of Britain’s poorest communities.

Most children living in poverty live in a working household. In-work poverty is at record levels due to low pay and insecure contracts. Labour believes we must tackle the scourge of low pay by increasing the minimum wage to the level of the real living wage (at least £10 per hour by 2020) and eliminating discriminatory youth rates. The only way to secure and sustain decent pay levels is through strong trade union and employment rights, which is why we would repeal the Trade Union Act and ban zero-hour contracts.

The UN report should be a wake-up call about the rising levels of poverty and destitution that exist in Britain today – this is a national emergency.

Austerity was a political choice and the UN Special Rapporteur has laid out the consequences of your Government’s policies. These policies have hit disabled people, women and BAME communities particularly hard.

Many councils – the democratic local institutions there to support their communities – have seen their budgets slashed by 49% on average since 2010. These cuts have seen libraries, youth centres, and Sure Start centres close in their hundreds. Social services have been slashed and our dedicated public servants, from social workers to youth workers and police, are having to tackle more acute social problems with fewer resources.

The Labour Party stands committed to tackling injustice and to reversing the shocking trends of rising poverty, rising homelessness and rising destitution. If the Government brings forward any or all of the following measures in legislation, we will expedite these through the House of Commons:

• Ending the benefit freeze
• Scrapping the bedroom tax
• Stopping the roll-out of Universal Credit
• Ending the five-week wait for a first benefit payment
• Ending the two child cap and scrapping the rape clause
• Ending the punitive sanctions regime

We cannot stand by while our nation – the fifth richest in the world – is condemned by the United Nations for failing the most vulnerable in our society. The Government is failing to tackle the burning injustices faced by the poorest people in our country, but you can change that – and we are willing to help.

I would also be grateful if you could give the commitment of a date by which the Government will be responding in full to the recommendations in the report.

Given the public interest in this issue, I will be making this letter public. While this Government shames our nation by being condemned for its neglect of its poorest citizens, the next Labour government will be judged by how we reduce poverty, inequality and homelessness – as any government should be.

Yours sincerely,

Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Opposition