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Corbyn sets out stall to be ‘different kind of Prime Minister’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn brought forward his keynote conference speech after the Supreme Court ruled the suspension of Parliament was unlawful.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the party’s Annual Conference (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the party’s Annual Conference (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By David Hughes, PA Political Editor

Jeremy Corbyn pledged to take on “the financial speculators, tax dodgers and big polluters” and lead a government on the side of working people as he set out his stall for the expected election.

The Labour leader, who was forced to bring forward his Labour conference speech after the Supreme Court declared the suspension of Parliament was unlawful, insisted he would be a “different kind of prime minister” as he tore into Boris Johnson.

In a hastily-rewritten keynote speech, Mr Corbyn condemned the “harsh and uncaring” Tories and accused Mr Johnson of being part of an “elite that disdains democracy”.

Mr Corbyn had been due to close the Brighton conference on Wednesday but will instead be in the House of Commons following the Supreme Court decision.

In his speech Mr Corbyn:

– Announced Labour would create a publicly-owned generic drugs manufacturer to supply cheaper medicines to the NHS

– Accused Mr Johnson of playing on people’s fears by comparing veiled Muslim women to “letterboxes or bank robbers”

– Promised a green industrial revolution with three new battery plants in South Wales, Stoke-on-Trent and Swindon

– Insisted Labour’s Brexit policy, the subject of a major row at conference, was “not complicated”

– Warned against sending troops to Saudi Arabia, claiming British actions in the Middle East had resulted in “spreading conflicts rather than settling them”.

Mr Corbyn’s speech came at a conference which has been overshadowed by rows over deputy leader Tom Watson’s role and a split over whether the party should back staying in the European Union.

The Labour leader defended the Brexit policy, which will see the party go into a general election promising a referendum but not saying how it would campaign in that public vote.

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Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on stage during the Labour Party Conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton (Gareth Fuller/PA)

He said: “Labour will end the Brexit crisis by taking the decision back to the people with the choice of a credible leave deal alongside remain.

“That’s not complicated – Labour is a democratic party that trusts the people.”

Announcing his plan to create a state-owned pharmaceutical firm, Mr Corbyn said he had been inspired by a meeting with nine-year-old Luis Walker, who has cystic fibrosis.

“Luis’s life could be very different with the aid of a medicine called Orkambi,” Mr Corbyn said.

“But Luis is denied the medicine he needs because its manufacturer refuses to sell the drug to the NHS for an affordable price.”

He hit out at a system “that puts profits for shareholders before people’s lives”.

Mr Corbyn said Labour would use compulsory licensing to secure generic versions of patented medicines and create a new publicly-owned generic drugs manufacturer “to supply cheaper medicines to our NHS saving our health service money and saving lives”.

The Labour leader targeted the Prime Minister over his controversial Daily Telegraph column, telling the conference: “When Boris Johnson compared Muslim women to letterboxes or bank robbers, it wasn’t a flippant comment, it was calculated to play on people’s fears.

“Displays of racism, Islamophobia or anti-Semitism are not signs of strength, but of weakness.”

Mr Corbyn’s party is being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission after a series of anti-Semitism scandals.

In a pre-election pitch to voters, Mr Corbyn said his party would “bring people together”, healing Brexit divides and tackling inequality.

“We stand not just for the 52% or the 48% but for the 99%,” he said.

“The Labour government I lead will take on those who really run our country – the financial speculators, tax dodgers and big polluters – so the real wealth creators, the people of this county, can have the jobs, services and futures they deserve.”

Labour will use “every mechanism” it can to bring about an early election, Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said following the speech, but with the “condition being that we need to ensure that they can’t use that to force a crash-out of the European Union without a deal”.

Mr Corbyn is said to be in touch with opposition parties and will return to London on Tuesday evening.

Labour is not expected to support a recess next week for the Tory Party conference unless Boris Johnson requests an extension to Britain’s EU membership from Brussels.

“Every step going forward now has to be conditional on them carrying out the legislation that was passed in Parliament and making it impossible to leave the European Union without a deal on 31st October,” the spokesman said.

In an indication of the Brexit battle lines that will be drawn in the expected election, Tory chairman James Cleverly said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s offer is clear: more pointless delay and a wrecked economy, leaving the country with higher taxes and fewer jobs. He can’t even lead his own party, let alone the country.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “Labour supporters will once again be disappointed that Jeremy Corbyn has failed to show leadership and commit a Labour Government to opposing Brexit.”

PA

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