By Dave Sewell in Brighton
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Jeremy Corbyn receives a hero’s welcome at Unite union conference

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Issue 2512
Unite delegates applaud Jeremy Corbyn
Unite delegates applaud Jeremy Corbyn (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn received a hero’s welcome at the Unite union’s conference in Brighton today, Wednesday.

He praised trade unionists as “a force for good” and “the backbone of our movement” and pledged that a future Labour government would repeal the “draconian” Trade Union Act.

He slammed the racism of both former Ukip leader Nigel Farage and new Tory prime minister Theresa May, “who as home secretary sent that disgraceful van around our communities telling migrants to go home”.

Much of Corbyn’s speech focused on the economy, calling for a reversal of Tory cuts and public investment in industry. “The austerity we have all suffered is a political choice, not an economic necessity,” he said.

The closest he came to addressing the coming Labour leadership election was making calls for unity. He said, “United as a movement we stand, divided we fall”. He concluded, “Together we are very very strong – we can make a better, fairer society.”

Corbyn’s landslide election as Labour leader last year was followed by hundreds of thousands of people joining Labour. Corbyn said, “It isn’t about an individual- it’s about the way we do politics. It’s about finding people who haven’t been involved in politics before and showing them some hope.”

Labour members among the conference delegates were furious at the manoeuvres by MPs against him.

Cleaner and Labour Party member Benson Akpoedafi told Socialist Worker, “The important thing is that they’ve let Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper. They say they want to challenge him, but you’re not challenging someone if you don’t even let them stand.”

The Labour Party NEC decided last night to put the party under an unprecedented lockdown to stem the pro-Corbyn backlash.


Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the conference (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Constituency meetings are suspended, the fee for registered supporters is hiked from £3 to £25, and the over 100,000 members who joined since February have been banned from voting.

Benson said, “As far as you’re a member you should be able to vote – no matter when you joined.

“We are gaining members because Jeremy Corbyn has energised people at the grassroots. And they want to take that away.”

The NEC held a secret vote amid hype about the “intimidation” MPs face from Corbyn supporters. But for Labour Party member Jo Westerman that was just an “excuse”. “They wanted to do it in secret from the start because they are cowards,” she told Socialist Worker.

Housing worker and Labour memberJoe Bailey told Socialist Worker such measures were necessary. “The way they are trying to manipulate democracy is disgusting and we need to sort it out,” he said.

Corbyn’s rivals are organising under the name “Saving Labour” but many fear they could destroy it instead. Joe said, “What we don’t want to see is a split in the Labour Party, and unfortunately that is the route they are taking us down.”

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