Jeremy Corbyn has promised to deliver “power for the people” as he declared that Labour was ready for government and called on Theresa May’s Conservatives to “make way”.
In his keynote address to a celebratory annual conference in Brighton, the Labour leader said that his manifesto promises to end the public sector pay cap, renationalise utilities, and invest in the economy represented a “new common sense” which put the party firmly in the mainstream of public opinion.
He set out new plans to protect council tenants from “forced gentrification and social cleansing” by offering them ballots on proposed regeneration and a guaranteed home in the same area after redevelopment work.
He also floated proposals to impose rent controls in individual cities, following the example of metropolises like Berlin and New York.
And he promised to impose gender pay audits on larger companies, with fines for those which fail to meet equality requirements.
Buoyed by success in the June 8 snap election, Mr Corbyn told delegates that the centre of gravity in British politics has shifted away from the neo-liberal consensus which has held sway since the time of Margaret Thatcher.
The disaster of the Grenfell Tower fire was a symbol of this “degraded” system based on “rampant inequality, the hollowing-out of our public services and disdain for the powerless and the poor”, which Labour was ready to sweep away.
Egged on by loud chants of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” which delayed the start of his address, the Labour leader said that a “new consensus” had emerged a decade after the financial crash of 2008, with voters ready for “something different and better”.
But he warned that the volatile political situation had also thrown up an authoritarian, intolerant and belligerent nationalism that represented a threat to democracy.
And he took aim at US President Donald Trump for his “deeply disturbing” rhetoric towards North Korea and his “alarming” threat to pull America out of the Paris accord on climate change.
After a four-day conference characterised by optimism and largely free of the infighting of his first two years as leader, Mr Corbyn said it was clear that Labour had achieved unity and “left our own divisions behind”.
But he ducked the issue of anti-Semitic abuse which has simmered on at the conference, saying only that there can “never ever be any excuse for any abuse of anybody by anybody”.
In a possible olive branch to Europhile MPs who have called on him to commit Labour to permanent membership of the EU single market, he promised that Labour would “guarantee unimpeded access” to the market after Brexit.
Denouncing Government “bungling” of Brexit negotiations, Mr Corbyn claimed Theresa May and her ministers were “hanging on by their fingertips”, and mocked the Prime Minister’s “strong and stable” election slogan.
“This is a deeply divided Government with no purpose beyond clinging to power,” he said. “It’s Labour that’s now setting the agenda.”
Recalling Mrs May’s decision to call a snap election during a hiking trip in Snowdonia, he challenged the Prime Minister: “Take another walking holiday and make another impetuous decision. The Labour campaign machine is primed and ready to roll.”
Under a screen reading: “Hope for our country”, Mr Corbyn told activists that Labour is “campaign-ready”, but now needs to show it is also “government-ready” by demonstrating it had the “credible and effective” plans and the competence needed to deliver “socialism for the 21st century, for the many, not the few”.
He suggested that 2017 was the year when “politics finally caught up with the crash of 2008 – because we offered people a clear choice”.
“Today’s centre ground is certainly not where it was 20 or 30 years ago,” said Mr Corbyn.
“A new consensus is emerging from the great economic crash and the years of austerity, when people started to find political voice for their hopes for something different and better…
“This is the real centre of gravity of British politics. We are now the political mainstream.
“Our manifesto and our policies are popular because that is what most people in our country actually want, not what they’re told they should want.”
In a message to those who backed Labour on June 8, he said: “We offered an antidote to apathy and despair. Let everyone understand – we will not let you down.
“Because we listen to you, because we believe in you. Labour can and will deliver a Britain for the many, not just the few.”
For the Conservatives, First Secretary of State Damian Green said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s speech summed up the problem with Labour: lots of big promises, but no explanation of how they would deliver them.
“Labour say they are ready for power, but everything we’ve seen this week suggests they’re not fit to govern – and it’s ordinary working people who would end up footing the bill.”
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss said Labour had racked up spending promises totalling more than £300 million since their manifesto launch, adding: “No wonder they’re planning for financial collapse if they get into power.”
But Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey said Mr Corbyn’s speech was a “profound and welcome contrast to the years of despair and weariness that have accompanied the Tories’ never-ending and worn-out austerity”.