Jeremy Corbyn’s 2016 conference address – 8: democracy
I want to start with a fundamental issue about democratic rights for Britain. Just before Parliament rose for the summer the Tories sneaked out a plan to strike millions of people off the electoral register this December, a year earlier than the advice of the independent Electoral Commission.
It means two million or more people could lose their right to vote – that’s 400,000 people in London. It’s 70,000 people in Glasgow and thousands in every town and city, village and hamlet all across the country – overwhelmingly students, people in insecure accommodation, and short stay private lets.
The Tories are doing it to gerrymander next year’s Mayoral election in London by denying hundreds of thousands of Londoners their right to vote. They want to do the same for the Assembly elections in Wales.
Gerrymandering electoral boundaries across the country
And they want to gerrymander electoral boundaries across the country, by ensuring new constituencies are decided on the basis of the missing registers when the Boundary Commission starts its work in April 2016.
Conference we are going to do our best to stop them. We will highlight this issue in Parliament and outside. We will work with Labour councils across the country to get people back on the registers.
So what are our first big campaigns?
From today our Labour Party starts a nationwide campaign for all our members to work in every town and city, in every university as students start the new term, to stop the Tory gerrymander. To get people on the electoral register. It’s hard work – as I know from 10 years as the election agent for a marginal London constituency. But now we have new resources: the power of social media and the power of our huge new membership.
Conference, let’s get to it. Get those people on the register to give us those victories but also to get fairness within our society. No-one – not me as Leader, not the Shadow Cabinet, not the Parliamentary Labour Party – is going to impose policy or have a veto.
Maya Angelou said: “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
The media commentariat don’t get it. They’ve been keen to report disagreements as splits: agreement and compromise as concessions and capitulation. No. This is grown up politics, where people put forward different views. We debate issues. We take a decision and we go forward together. We look to persuade each other. On occasions we might agree to disagree. But whatever the outcome we stand together, united as Labour, to put forward a better way to the misery on offer from the Conservatives.
There’s another important thing about how we are going to do this. It’s a vital part of our new politics. I want to repeat what I said at the start of the leadership election. I do not believe in personal abuse of any sort. Treat people with respect. Treat people as you wish to be treated yourself. Listen to their views, agree or disagree but have that debate. There is going to be no rudeness from me.
I want a kinder politics, a more caring society. Don’t let them reduce you to believing in anything less. So I say to all activists, whether Labour or not, cut out the personal attacks, the cyberbullying and especially the misogynistic abuse online. Let’s get on with bringing values back into politics.