Corbyn calls for higher taxes on business
After the UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a greater state role in the economy in a speech to his party, the FT's George Parker and Sebastian Payne discuss his address and Labour's prospects at the next election.
Produced and filmed by Petros Gioumpasis.
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Hello from the Labour Party conference in Brighton. I'm Sebastian Payne, the FTs political leader writer. I'm joined by George Parker to talk about Jeremy Corbyn's keynote speech to the Labour Conference.
So George, Jeremy Corbyn stood up on the stage behind us and gave a very long speech that was rapturously received by all of the party faithful. What did he say in it?
Well, the first thing to say it was quite a long speech. Say it's about 75 minutes long, almost Castroesque in length. And there's an air of a revivalist meeting here, a sort of real sense of optimism. And what Jeremy Corbyn was saying to a very receptive audience was he basically wants to stop at the short of nothing else than restructuring the economy, restructuring society, with a much more active state at the heart of it.
And we've heard the business reaction to that earlier in the week, people saying that investors may start to run to the hills. John McDonald, who had a chance to even talk about the possibility of a run on the Pound if Labour were to win the election. So a very red-blooded speech by Jeremy Corbyn to this Party, but they absolutely loved it.
In terms of policy, there's not a huge amount new there. It was almost a greatest hits of what was said during the general election here, renationalisation, fairer foreign policy, all that sort of thing. But there were few nuggets.
Yeah. I think during the week we've heard a bit about, we've heard the suggestion that the government's going to renationalise some of those PF, private finance initiative contracts. Jeremy Corbyn today was giving a bit more detail about the kind of rent controls he'd like to see imposed in some of our bigger cities.
But as you say, I think there's a view in the top the Labour Party, that the manifesto was quite left wing enough.
And thorough. And was quite sort of, in a way, bomb proof. Although the Tories didn't really attack the Labour Party as much as they should of on the economy. But I think there's a feeling they've got to really flesh out the manifesto. Make sure it really stacks up before the next election, which they think could come sooner rather than later.
But at the same time, there's another sort of faction in the Labour Party. They think we're on a roll here. We should push even further in a more left wing direction. I think that's the thing that business and the city will be worried about.
And that's the real question. If the election comes this year, next year, what have you, they will run as they did in June. But if it comes in five years time, they've got to keep up that momentum, and one assumes just keep getting more and more radical.
I think so. Yeah. I mean, you had the briefings around this speech was suggesting that the Labour Party really wanted to go much further. And there's stuff knocking around on the fringe of this, fringes of this conference about the idea of a universal basic income. The government giving everybody, not just the poor, but everyone in work a basic level of income. Redistributing the money from capitalism, the owners of the machines, to workers so they can have a better work life balance. That's a very radical idea. It's out there and being discussed on the fringes of the Labour Conference. It's not policy yet.
But the same time, you know, the nationalising the commanding heights of the economy, that's all in there. And the idea of the business paying higher taxes, that's part of it as well.
But you're right. Keeping this, bottling this energy and somehow keeping it going for another three or four years is the real challenge.
And one the most interesting parts of Jeremy Corbyn's speech for me is when he talks about where the centre ground is. Because he's essentially saying establishment, journalists-- dare I say like you and I-- see the centre ground is somewhere around where New Labour was. He's saying it's not actually there anymore and we have shifted at this, the so-called Overton window of acceptable ideas in political politics, and that has gone leftwards.
And I thought his diagnosis, that this is the financial crash actually translating into politics taking almost 10 years, but it's finally there. And if he's right on that, then Labour are heading into government.
Well, there's a real self-confidence in the Labour Party, that that is the case, that the centre of gravity has shifted to the left. And we were speaking to various moderate MPs this week. And we asked them, would you join the Labour Party now if you were going into politics for the first time. And the answer was no.
Now the question is, has the centre really shifted? And I think there's a danger here that hubris is setting in in the Labour Party, and you always get it when you're talking to your own people. But think about the opinion polls in that. They're still saying the Conservatives and the Labour Party are more or less neck and neck. Theresa May still regarded as a better prime minister than Jeremy Corbyn. And this is with the Conservative Party doing all it can to destroy confidence in itself.
So the idea that they've got the next election in the bag, the centre ground has shifted I think is yet to be fully tested. And I think they should go away from Brighton happy with the way things have gone here, but also thinking that actually they need to do a lot more work to convince older people, white working class people, that they are the answer to their problems.
And very briefly, finally, George. They obviously think they're on their way into government. Do you?
I think there's, I think there's a long way to go. I think the truth is that the people voted Labour Party for lots of different reasons at the last election. I think people were dissatisfied with Theresa May. They really liked the enthusiasm, the authenticity, of Jeremy Corbyn. But I think there was also elements at the back of people's minds that Jeremy Corbyn was not going to become prime minister. At the next election, if he looks like a prospective prime minister, he'll be subject to an entirely different level of scrutiny.
George Parker, thank you very much.