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Jeremy Corbyn urges Labour's Blairites to back anti-austerity drive

Published 14/05/2016

London mayor Sadiq Khan has said Labour must reach out beyond its core voters if it is to return to the
London mayor Sadiq Khan has said Labour must reach out beyond its core voters if it is to return to the "habit of winning" elections

Jeremy Corbyn has urged Labour Party moderates to unite behind his drive to fight Conservative "austerity" cuts.

Addressing the Blairite Progress think tank, Mr Corbyn insisted that he wanted to build an "inclusive politics" that brought in more people.

However at the same time he appeared to reject much of Tony Blair's legacy, challenging the economic orthodoxy which has prevailed in the West for the past four decades.

Despite criticism that his left-wing agenda lacks appeal beyond the party's core supporters, he insisted that he was committed to winning a majority at the next general election.

"However many campaigning victories we win, the reality is we don't have a majority in Parliament, we don't have a Labour government, I want to have that and to win that in 2020," he said.

However, in a speech that was received with polite applause from activists, he also made clear that he had no intention of changing direction in the face of criticism of his leadership.

"I want to see our party even bigger even stronger but above all united in the fundamental determination to challenge the economic strategy of this Government, to challenge the idea that austerity is somehow something that is necessary," he said.

"We achieve winning by an inclusive politics that involves more people. We challenge the economic narrative that has been in operation in the West for quite a long time, going back to Reaganomics in the 1970s when all that mattered was rolling back the state, privatising services, cutting provision and making the next generation worse off than the present generation and the generation after that even worse off."

Mr Corbyn also appeared deliberately to distance himself from arch Labour moderniser Peter Mandelson's famous assertion that he was "intensely relaxed" about people becoming "filthy rich" as long as they paid their taxes.

"We have been sold a narrative that all that matters is the individual getting much richer, and the richest individuals becoming super rich and living in tax havens and all the rest see a roll back of the role of public services," he said.

"These are huge questions that the left as a whole has to face."

Challenged by one activist that Labour appeared "hostile" to entrepreneurship and how he planned to re-connect with the private sector, his response was to say they were looking at wage rates, rights at work and health and safety, particularly in small businesses "which are often the worst".

Mr Corbyn acknowledged the party was being damaged by complaints of online abuse among members - often said to be aimed at critics of his leadership.

"If we as a movement appear that we are not capable of having a political debate, only about being abusive to each other, it is not very attractive, it doesn't bring people in, it doesn't make us stronger, it doesn't make our ideas more credible. It has absolutely the opposite effect," he said.

Asked by one Jewish activist about the "real poison" of anti-Semitism in the party - which has seen the suspension of Ken Livingstone and a number of other individuals - he said: "Anti-Semitism is wrong and has to be totally opposed. Period."

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