Jeremy Corbyn announced what he called “the most ambitious and radical campaign our country has ever seen” in a speech on Thursday morning.
Speaking at the Labour Party’s campaign launch he said the coming general election is “a once in a generation chance to transform our country”. He called it an opportunity “to take on the vested interests that are holding people back”.
The speech marked a return to the tone of Labour’s general election campaign of 2017, pitched as a challenge to the rich and the elite.
“The big question in this election is whose side are you on?” Corbyn said. “Are you on the side of the tax dodgers who are taking us all for a ride?
“The dodgy landlords like the Duke of Westminster” and “the big polluters like Jim Ratcliffe?
“Or are you on the side of the children with special educational needs who aren’t getting the support they need because of Tory and Lib Dem cuts? Are you on the side of working people who create the wealth that’s then squirrelled away?”
It was also framed as an opportunity to transform society—Labour’s new election slogan is, “It’s time for real change.”
This was partly expressed in the language of a supposedly progressive form of patriotism. A Labour government would channel “The British people’s spirit and commitment to community.
“It’s your country.”
But mostly it was about reversing the cuts that have impoverished people and the towns they live in. Corbyn’s promises included a minimum wage of £10 an hour for all workers, renationalising rail companies, Royal Mail and the water industry, and more funding for the NHS.
He also said a green industrial revolution would create new green jobs “where they’re most desperately needed”. This would be “absolutely at the centre and the heart of Labour’s plan to transform Britain”.
Corbyn said the election is “our last chance to tackle the climate emergency”. “We have to radically change course now to avoid living on a hostile and dying planet,” he said.
The speech was also a sign that Labour doesn’t want the election campaign to be about Brexit. Corbyn said Labour would “get Brexit sorted within six months”.
There would be a referendum “on whether to leave on a sensible deal or remain” in the European Union. And then Labour would “get on with delivering the real change that Britain needs after years of Conservative cuts to vital services and tax handouts to the richest”.
Corbyn said the campaign would be “the biggest and most confident campaign that our country has ever seen”. He said it would rely on Labour’s mass base of activists to challenge the Tories’ campaign funded by tax dodging millionaires.
Outside the election launch one Labour activist told Socialist Worker, “I don’t want to focus on Brexit.
“I want to focus on housing and the NHS.”
Another said Labour can win if they “emphasise the Green New Deal, the renationalisation of public services and how we’ll properly fund the NHS”.
A mass phone conference on Wednesday evening, hosted by the left group Momentum, outlined plans to get activists organising mass canvassing sessions in marginal seats.
Combined with loud and vibrant campaigning in every constituency—and the mass public rallies that are Corbyn’s trademark—they could give Labour’s campaign the insurgent feel it needs.
The central task is to create a class feeling around the election that can infuse the whole campaign with confidence and energy. That means campaigning everywhere—and encouraging strikes and other struggles during the election period.