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In a barnstorming speech at The University of Nottingham’s Business School, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tore apart the Conservative Party’s domestic agenda piece by piece, flanked by The University of Nottingham’s Student Union and a five hundred strong audience of Labour supporters.
Focusing the start of his speech on the government’s economic strategy of mindless austerity, Corbyn slammed Tory cuts in local government which he described as a “political choice, not an economic necessity”, the government’s refusal to back Britain’s steel industry and the redistribution of wealth towards the top 1% seen in recent years. Accusing David Cameron and his government of “disempowering the rest of society”, Corbyn addressed the draconian Trade Union Bill which threatens the basic right to strike won by trade unionists many years ago.
Corbyn went on the offensive against the housing crisis exacerbated by the non-existent regulation of the private rented sector. Recently, the Conservative government voted down a Labour amendment which would ensure all rented properties are ‘fit for human habitation’. Interestingly, seventy two of the Members of Parliament who voted against these measures were landlords themselves. “It doesn’t sound very complicated, does it?” Corbyn quipped, “But the Tories voted it down saying the market must decide”.
What has letting the market decide done for rent in this country? For starters, it has made it “alarmingly unaffordable” according to a report released today by the Association of Letting Agents, who claim the lifetime cost of rent has risen to £64,000. Whilst we are in the midst of a housing crisis which will disproportionately impact younger generations, it is essential that Corbyn continues this line of attack against the ‘market solutions’ the current government are offering by committing to an Attlee-esque, fully-fledged affordable house building program.
Corbyn then took aim at the Conservative’s incompetence on the mental health crisis currently gripping the country whilst taking credit for putting mental health stigma back on the agenda through the unprecedented appointment of a Shadow Minister for Mental Health in the form of Luciana Berger, who according to Corbyn, is “working very hard on giving parity of esteem and parity of funding” towards mental health in comparison to physical health.
There was a startling increase in prescriptions for anti-depressants after the economic crash in 2008 and these figures continue to rise today. As many mental health services face having their budgets slashed whilst eight out of ten students are reported to have suffered a mental health issue during the last academic year, Corbyn’s commitment to improved mental health care will be well received by not only the student population, but by anybody who knows someone who has gone through a mental health crisis.
Predictably, the next target for Corbyn’s incandescent disgust at the Conservative’s domestic agenda was Jeremy Hunt and his appalling treatment of junior doctors. The last few days descended into a complete farce thanks to a Health Secretary who imposed a contract which will put patient’s lives at risk by piling too much pressure on an already overstretched workforce. In addition to this, Hunt has been accused of doctoring a letter which insinuates he has the support of twenty NHS CEOs. However, since the release of this so-called letter of support, it appears up to fourteen of these NHS bosses deny that they ever endorsed the forceful imposition of this damaging contract.
Attacking Hunt’s commitment to reduce the so-called ‘weekend effect’, Corbyn jovially reminds the audience that we already have a seven day NHS. “If you break your leg on Saturday afternoon, the A&E doesn’t wait until Monday morning to have a look at it”, he says, before praising the “great dedication” of NHS staff and slamming the government’s “failed negotiations” and Jeremy Hunt’s lacklustre attempts at “persuading anybody of the value of his arguments”. In a last ditch attempt to force a U-turn on the imposition of the contract, he urges Jeremy Hunt not to “go to war against the people we all need to protect us”.
Moving on to the systematic undermining of his leadership by the media, Corbyn asserted that we are seeing a darker side to the British press because Labour is “opening up” under his leadership and is “unleashing that democratic instinct, that mobilisation of people to achieve their aspirations”. Referring to the rise of self-proclaimed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders in the United States and the rise of populist left-wing movements in Europe as a “democratic revolution”, he adds that people are fed up with the unaccountable corporate world which dictates what national governments can and cannot do.
Receiving a rapturous standing ovation, it is clear from Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in Nottingham that he has a significantly better chance of connecting with the electorate on the domestic issues that people face every day. Whether it be the housing crisis, the damage being done to our NHS, or the austerity driven economic policy being implemented, these are the issues which will allow Corbyn to create a coherent narrative of his own.