A triumph for Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech as Labour leader will have underpinned his position and won over new supporters. It was a further stage in the political fightback by the incoming Labour team. Delegates left the hall buoyed by both the new style and the new substance of leadership.
Following the speech and the conference as a whole, Corbyn’s support is clearly both growing in numbers and deepening by drawing in layers who did not previously support him. Therefore his committed opponents inside and outside the party will increasingly resort to smear, scandal and undemocratic manoeuvres in order to fight back.
It was an extremely well-crafted speech, combining two key areas. A growing majority of voters is opposed to the cuts, privatisations and fall in living standards that are central to the austerity programme. Corbyn advertised his long-standing and principled opposition to these policies. He correctly argued that investment is central to any regeneration of the economy.
On international matters, he emphasised those areas where there is strong popular support; human rights, adherence to international law (and opposition to illegal wars) and support for the refugees caught up in the crisis. He reaffirmed his opposition to Trident and to tackling climate change.
This is the key alliance the Corbyn leadership has to solidify, between committed left and socialist forces alongside those activists who are primarily focused on living standards and ending austerity. The internationalist threads of the speech were woven into that anti-austerity fabric. There was even scope to build on that politically, with the bold idea to consider introducing maternity pay for self-employed workers.
The rapturous reception to the leader’s speech indicates the widespread desire for change and an alternative to austerity, not just in the conference hall but also beyond. Given the brickbats he has faced it was also a personal triumph.
The Corbyn team, including key allies like John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, has registered some notable successes at the conference. Those successes need to be built on politically and organisationally. But the leader’s speech was the best possible springboard for moving forward.