Jeremy Corbyn speaking at eve-of-Conference rally at Liverpool pier. Photo: Penny Hicks Jeremy Corbyn speaking at eve-of-Conference rally at Liverpool pier. Photo: Penny Hicks

At a Labour rally at Liverpool’s pier on the eve of Conference, Jeremy Corbyn gave a radical speech to rapturous applause and loud chanting

Jeremy Corbyn delivered a fiery speech to a big crowd at Liverpool’s pierhead on the night before Labour’s conference begun. With his usual energy, he had spent the day touring round Liverpool meeting people at two football matches, the Museum of Slavery, a market at the heart of Liverpool’s historic black community and the Hillsborough memorial.

His speech started by taking on his attackers in the media and elsewhere calling them out as people who ‘simply don’t want change to happen.’ He praised Liverpool’s history of resilience and struggle and made the point that change is always the outcome of protests and popular battles. ‘Slavery wasn’t abolished by a compassionate parliament’ he said, ‘there were inspirational abolitionists in Britain, but slavery came to an end more than anything because of uprisings in the slave colonies themselves.’

Telling the thousands who had come to see him that he wanted to see change that would empower ordinary people he talked about the lack of control most people feel over their lives at the moment and the need for ‘democracy in every part of people’s lives, and particularly in their workplaces, in their factories and offices.’

He spoke of breaking from the free market; ‘the truth is we all know, the free market destroys people’s lives it doesn’t build them up, too many people have to make choices between whether to eat or whether to stay warm, too many people don’t have a home, too many children can’t study because they are hungry when they get to school.’ He promised a programme of nationalisation that would bring the railways, water, gas and the mail under public ownership. To loud cheering, he promised too to restore trade union rights after decades of attacks.

He also warned of the dangers of the racist right growing if people didn’t feel there was a chance of real change and he encouraged people to join the campaign against ‘the toxic ideas of the far right.’

One of the biggest cheers of the night came when he spoke about the need for change in foreign policy. ‘I will make sure that the wars end’ he said ‘and that we move towards a different way of dealing with the rest of the world, one that is based on negotiation and building trust and delivering a more just world’.

His speech ended with a call for people to get involved in a popular campaign for change that could reach every corner of the country and ensure that the next Labour government would deliver for all those people who are hurting and in need and a society based on compassion and solidarity.

It was a fighting speech that got a fantastic response from the riverside crowd despite the cold and the rain

During the day thousands of people had attended the first day of The World Transformed conference organised by Momentum. The conference is bigger than the last time it came to Liverpool two years ago. The panels, mostly packed, addressed a wide range of subjects including the European Left, rebuilding the unions, Trump and Trade and Labour and internationalism. The session on Britain’s new far right was one of the biggest, showing real concern amongst activists about the emergence of. The speakers at it stressed the urgency of moving against the right. Leeds MP Richard Burgon spoke rousingly about the need to get organised and to make sure the National Unity Demonstration in London against the fascism and racism on November 17 is a serious show of strength.

The background to all this is a Labour conference that is being watched closely by the whole movement. Labour’s policy on Europe and the question of internal democracy are amongst the key issues. The position on democracy being proposed by the NEC falls far short of what the left has been campaigning for. In particular, it would make standing for Labour’s leadership harder by setting a threshold of 10% of the parliamentary parties vote and 5% of the affiliates, or constituency parties. The debates at conference start today. They will be critical to Labour’s future course.