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Corbyn ready for battle... but the first fight is with his own MPs over Trident

By Andrew Woodcock

Published 30/09/2015

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn’s wife Laura Alvarez
Ben Corbyn (left) and Thomas Corbyn (right), the sons of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, along with his wife Laura Alvarez, applaud during his first keynote speech

Jeremy Corbyn pledged to deliver "a kinder politics, a more caring society" as he used his first conference speech as leader to urge the Labour Party to unite behind him to oppose "the misery on offer from the Conservatives".

But he set the stage for confrontation with his own shadow cabinet by declaring that his landslide victory in the summer's leadership election gave him a "mandate" to oppose the renewal of Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent.

His comment put him at odds with shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle, who backs Trident and is conducting a review of Labour's defence policy.

"There is one thing I want to make my own position on absolutely clear, and I believe I have a mandate from my election on it," Mr Corbyn told Labour's annual conference in Brighton.

"I don't believe that £100bn spent on a new generation of nuclear weapons taking up a quarter of our defence budget is the right way forward. I believe Britain should honour our obligations under the non-proliferation treaty and lead in making progress on international nuclear disarmament."

His reference to the mandate provided by his 60% support in the leadership ballot was a late addition to the 59-minute speech, and did not feature in copies of the text circulated shortly before he took to the stage.

And his position was immediately challenged by backbencher John Mann, who said Mr Corbyn was "entitled to take a different point of view" but added: "I'm sure as leader he will feel obliged to follow the party policy."

In a speech which made no direct reference either to the deficit or immigration, Mr Corbyn focused on challenging the Conservative case for austerity and setting out his promise to create "a society for the majority".

He sent out a message to voters: "You don't have to take what you are given ... our Labour Party says No." Under his leadership, Labour would "challenge austerity" and be "unapologetic about reforming our economy to challenge inequality and protect workers better", he said.

Labour would fight child tax credit cuts "every inch of the way" and expose Chancellor George Osborne's announcement of a £7.20-an-hour National Living Wage as an "absurd lie" which fell far short of a true living wage.

Calling Mr Osborne's austerity programme "the outdated and failed approach of the past", he said it had delivered "an economy that works for the few, not for the many" and had left Britain "ill-prepared...to face another crisis".

Rather than the Tories' "unbalanced, unstable" recovery built on house price inflation and private debt, Labour's economic policy would put "investment for the future" at its heart, with a new National Investment Bank making money available for infrastructure projects.

The Conservative Government existed "to protect the few and tell all the rest of us to accept what we're given", offering tax breaks to the hedge funds which have lavished donations on the Tories since David Cameron became leader, while "cutting jobs ...slashing public services...vandalising the NHS...putting half a million more people into poverty", said the veteran left-winger.

"They expect millions of people to work harder and longer for a lower quality of life.

"Our Labour Party says No."

In a bid to counter claims that he would fail to support the armed forces as prime minister, he said Britain needed "strong, modern military and security forces to keep us safe", but added that: "The best way to protect the British people against the threats we face to our safety at home and abroad is to work to resolve conflict."

Speaking for the Conservatives, Justice Secretary Michael Gove said: "Labour have confirmed that they are a threat to our national security, our economic security and to the security of every family in Britain.

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