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Jeremy Corbyn signals 'democratic revolution' in Labour Party

Published 21/11/2015

Jeremy Corbyn said 'after Paris, there must be no more cuts to the police front line'
Jeremy Corbyn said 'after Paris, there must be no more cuts to the police front line'

Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to give Labour Party members and supporters a greater say over policy-making in what he hailed as a "democratic revolution".

The Opposition leader insisted it was "not about fighting sectarian battles or settling political scores" as he wrestles with a parliamentary party opposed to many of his key positions.

But he said it could prevent MPs getting things "badly wrong" - such as the decision under the interim leadership of Harriet Harman not to vote against the Government's welfare cuts package.

And he warned MPs that he had been "elected to lead" and that they would have to "live with the outcomes" of the new policy-making processes.

"Too often in the past, the democratic decisions of our conference have been ignored by the party leadership," he told activists in a wide-ranging speech to the party's South West conference in Bristol.

"To many, it's felt like a small cabal in Westminster decides, while you're expected to be loyal foot soldiers pounding the streets for Labour.

"Over the summer, the parliamentary party got a decision badly wrong. We abstained on the welfare Bill. Would we have made that mistake if we had asked you, our members, what we should have done?

"Why not give members the chance to take part in indicative online ballots on policy in between annual conferences - and give our grassroots members and supporters a real say?

"We want to see this democratic revolution extend into our party, opening up decision-making to the hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters that have joined us since May.

"That's not about fighting sectarian battles or settling political scores.

"It's about being open to the people we seek to represent ... giving them a voice through our organisation and policy-making ... and drawing members into political action."

Mr Corbyn faces bitter battles within the parliamentary party over issues such as his determination to oppose the renewal of the UK's Trident nuclear deterrent.

He said: "Of course the new politics is also about open and respectful debate. All my political life I have stood for tolerance, debate and the democratic determination of policy.

"But I have also been elected to lead, to express the aspirations and concerns of millions of people - hundreds of thousands of whom gave me my mandate.

"We owe it to them to unite and conduct our debates in a comradely and constructive way ... and all of us to live with the outcomes. It's about respecting democracy - and also those who depend on us."

He conceded that he had faced "a bumpy couple of months" since winning a shock landslide victory aided by the votes of tens of thousands of new registered supporters.

But he insisted that despite very public dissent to his leadership among MPs fearful of a dramatic shift to the left, the party was beginning to score notable victories and could win back power in 2020.

"The sort of change represented by an election like we went through was always going to be a difficult transition.

"But amid all the sound and fury - and some stuff that has been truly off-the-wall - that change is already making itself felt.

"Since we formed our new leadership team and shadow cabinet, Labour is now an unequivocally anti-austerity party.

"We have already defeated George Osborne in Parliament over the Tories' swingeing attacks on working families' tax credits.

"Labour is now at last committed to bringing the railways back into public ownership ... supported by the large majority of British people.

"We've dragged the Government behind us on the threat to our steel industry.

"And we have shamed David Cameron into pulling the plug on his tawdry prison deal with Saudi Arabia."

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