Commentary labour party conference: not for opportunism

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks of "socialism" at the party conference and does not hang his flag in the wind in any other way. That’s good!

Combative: Jeremy Corbyn Photo: ap

It was the best speech he has ever given. British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn confidently laid out his strategy to bring Labour to power at the party’s conference in Liverpool on Wednesday. Bolstered after his recent confirmation in office by party members, he made it clear that he would not budge from his position on immigration – not even for the sake of party peace.

That’s bold, because there are few politicians in the U.K. right now who aren’t calling for restrictions on immigration. It is not migrants who depress wages, but exploitative employers, Corbyn stressed. While most Labour MPs agree with him on the substance, they predict electoral defeat if the Labour leader does not hang his flag to the public wind.

Corbyn is not in favor of opportunism, however. In his nearly hour-long speech, he used the words "socialism" or "socialist" five times, words that have not been used at a party conference in a long time, because they are a red rag to the party’s right wing. To win the elections, of course, Corbyn will have to convince not only his supporters but also skeptical Labour voters and, above all, enough Tories of his program, and that is a long way off.

However, the man whom many considered too radical and thus not capable of winning a majority has already achieved other things: When Corbyn announced his candidacy for the Labour leadership last year, he initially earned laughter. But since then, he has made Labour the largest political party in Western Europe.

Labour is not as unelectable as its opponents claim: It eventually won the mayoral elections in London and Bristol.

The potential for social movement support that Corbyn has received from the young organization Momentum is far from exhausted. And Corbyn’s Labour Party is not at all as unelectable as his opponents claim: The mayoral elections in London and Bristol were finally won.

The Labour leader has apologized on behalf of the party for the Iraq war, which Tony Blair helped instigate. Corbyn received a standing ovation for this, but a handful of delegates left the hall in protest. It would do Labour good if they left the party as well. Corbyn made it clear in his speech: No one will be persuaded by the vision of a divided party.

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