MHP’s Insider panel reviews Corbyn’s speech

MHP’s Public Affairs team assesses Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to Labour Party Conference.


Deputy CEO

For a few brief moments, it seemed as though Corbyn might have found another setting. He appeared on stage, smiling and playing with the crowd. But within minutes, he had reverted to type.

Anger, injustice and the perfidious Tories were the key themes. “People before privilege” on his lectern jostled with “For the many, not the few” beside his face, in case his speech wasn’t subtle enough.

Tapping public anger is fine, but if he wants to lead the country, he must learn to love it. There was no hint of what Corbyn likes about Britain or its people, save perhaps for the NHS.

When he did talk about solutions, rather than problems, his rhetoric was thin and unconvincing – particularly his blueprint for a Green Industrial Revolution. He has no passion for the subject and it showed – the only time his sounded like he meant it was when he used environmental concerns as a stick to beat Bolsonaro, Trump and Johnson with.

This was the speech of an activist, not a Prime Minister.


Joint Head of Public Affairs

Disrupted and delighted. The BBC summed up the mood at Labour conference in three words.

This is not what Dominic Cummings meant when he ordered Tory spindoctors to upstage Jeremy Corbyn.

The Labour Leader’s conference speech is normally the top story of the day. As the Today programme said in its interview with Corbyn this morning “These are not normal times”.

Watching Corbyn felt like being at a Brighton home game as the rest of the country tuned in to the must-win England match in London.

The Mirror had planned a big front page today previewing the speech. Instead with just one new policy announcement remaining in the stripped-back speech, the paper relegated it to pages 8-9 and splashed with “Court ruling damns Johnson”. The Mirror, whose conference ad describes it as “Britain’s best red news brand”, was also delighted with the disruption.

This has been a bad conference for Labour, dominated by a failed plan to oust Tom Watson and allegations of a stitch-up over the party’s Brexit stance. As delegates chanted “Johnson out”, Corbyn knows Johnson got him out of trouble.


Joint Head of Public Affairs

It was what the Party faithful had wanted to hear.

Corbyn delivered a long list of spending commitments and state interventions which sent activists away from the hall buzzing with optimism for the coming electoral fight.

Skirting around the still tender subject of Remain, his equation of a ‘no deal Brexit’ to a ‘Trump deal Brexit’ even enabled him to pivot to a quick attack at the USA and their purported desire to buy the NHS. Deprived of the scheduled final rehearsal stages,

Corbyn’s delivery still leaves much to work on if it is to communicate wider than the Party faithful who understand the triggers and the references.


Digital Director

Following the Supreme Court ruling, Jeremy Corbyn moved his Party Conference speech to 4.30pm yesterday. Twitter reactions during the speech showed that this issue then dominated. Five out of the top ten topics to emerge were related to the return of the House of Commons tomorrow following the decision to shut down parliament. This was supported by calls that the unelected Prime minister should now resign and that the country needs a general election.

Only one distinct policy announcement featured in the Top 10; Corbyn’s health policies to take on big pharma.

Topic Mentions
1 Tomorrow 590
2 unelected Prime minister should now resign 537
3 held to account 515
4 shut down parliament 312
5 young people 251
6 divided country 234
7 Labour’s plan 232
8 Labour government 218
9 general election 209
10 big pharma 192



Associate Director, Public Affairs

Moving Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to Tuesday afternoon forced some hasty rewrites.

Corbyn’s most important announcement was that Labour’s strategy on election timing has not changed: no vote of no confidence, and therefore no election, until a no deal Brexit has been definitively postponed.

The Supreme Court news overshadowed a big new policy: forcing pharmaceutical companies to make vital drugs available to the NHS at prices it can afford.

That effectively dramatises Labour’s “People before privilege” frame and sets up a fight Labour will relish – but it does not really create a retail offer for voters, who get drugs free at the point of use anyway, especially given Labour’s pledge to universalise free prescriptions.

Boris Johnson’s legal troubles make his life more difficult, but they may also make it even harder for Labour‍‍‍’s policies to cut through.


Account Director, Public Affairs

Saved by the Boris? As a new, prorogation free, day rises over London, there is no doubt that Corbyn had a lucky escape at Labour conference. His speech is no exception.

Perceived by many as a failure to capitalise on the Supreme Court ruling, the Labour Leader took to the stage yesterday following a last minute schedule change to ensure he got to speak to his Party before a mass exodus back to the Houses of Parliament. Corbyn yet again backed down from his continued threat to call a no confidence vote in the Prime Minister, instead opting to rehash Labour’s ill thought out election – public vote – delivery Brexit process.

He focused, instead, on a series of policy announcements which would see wide-sweeping renationalisation and increasing state control of the economy, and railed against the “born-to-rule” Tories currently in government.

With attention fixed firmly on the Supreme Court ruling and the Prime Minister’s quick return to the UK later today, it is safe to say that Corbyn’s opportunity to make headlines with his speech has already passed him by.


Account Director, Health

If Jonathan Ashworth’s speech contained proposals that were evolutionary rather than revolutionary, then Corbyn’s speech contained the real fireworks for the NHS. The section on pharmaceutical regulation saved the last minute edit as his missive was cut in half – and was latterly accompanied by a 52 page report entitled Medicines for the Many – setting out Labour’s vision for public investment and control of the pharmaceutical industry.

Among the headline proposals are plans to use Crown Licensing and patent law to secure access to medicines without Industry negotiations, introducing Government directives to channel investment into specific therapy areas or conditions, and increasing public control of the pharmaceutical supply chain. Speaking on Today this morning, Corbyn also re-affirmed that if elected Prime Minister he would establish a UK Government-run drug manufacturing and development centre.

In an era of ‘blink and you miss it’ politics it’s no surprise that the announcement was overshadowed by the Supreme Court ruling and the announcement of the return of Parliament. But make no mistake: this is an enormous move in policy terms from the Labour Party – and could bring medicines pricing and access to the surface as one of the key issues in the looming general election.


Senior Account Manager, Public Affairs

A functioning political party, in normal times, would have been hardly able to believe their luck if this set of circumstances had greeted their Leader’s Speech.

And today was a golden opportunity for Labour to present Jeremy Corbyn as the inspiring and uniting Leader that the country needs to get us back to normality.

As it happens, Corbyn’s speech was all about running through the greatest hits and shoring up the faithful in the hall.

The days of the Opposition Leader trying to appear as a credible candidate for Prime Minister feel like a very long time ago indeed.