Owen Jones

“Well firstly I’m very proud to be on the same platform as these principled campaigners of the labour movement and I want to say first to Lisa [Forbes] – and embarrass Lisa, sorry – I had the honour of going up to Peterborough and doing a big public meeting in support of her campaign.

Lisa, you’re going to be a fantastic campaigning MP when you boot out the absolute disgrace of a Tory MP – or human being – that is Stewart Jackson. And I just want to urge every body to get to Peterborough, back her campaign, she stands in the finest traditions of our party, she’s there pushing an alternative to austerity and to kick that man out of Peterborough.

It’s also an honour to be on with Katy Clark, a Labour MP who’s been a voice against austerity, who’s been pushing consistently ever since she was elected in 2005. For peace, for justice, fighting for working people, and of course Steve [Turner] who is a leading pillar of Unite which has been savaged and demonised by the media, for good reason, because it’s there trying to offer an alternative to austerity and standing up for the people it’s there to represent.

Friends, I want to start by saying we’re winning. There was an article in City AM last week, I don’t know if people saw it? I think many of you did. City AM being the choice for the City types in London, and the headline was this:

‘There is sadly mass support for nationalisation and price controls’, it begins – you can hear a violin in the background – ‘slowly but surely, the public is turning its back on the free-market economy and re-embracing an atavistic version of socialism which, if implemented, would end in tears.’

Cry me a river! And it goes on…

‘On some economic issues, the public is far more left than the Tories realise or than Labour can believe.’

It’s emotional. And of course the reason for this, there’s a poll by Class the thinktank, by a whole range of trade unions, which did a poll which YouGov conducted, which showed that the public backed price controls on energy and transport and public ownership of Royal Mail, energy and rail.

Even the majority of Conservative voters want rail and energy re-nationalised, as well as the Royal Mail.

And here’s the truth – this is where the truth comes in – we’re often, people who want an alternative to austerity, we’re portrayed as extremists who languish on the fringes.

So let’s just consider for a minute who the real extremists are. It’s those who leave millions languishing on social housing waiting lists. Without a secure home, with no home to allow their kids to develop and have a good upbringing. Forced to languish in the private rented sector, where landlords charge extortionate rents. Where billions of pounds of public money is spent subsidising private landlords. They’re the extremists.

It’s those who leave millions of people getting up everyday, first slogging their guts out all day, then coming home with a pay packet that doesn’t let them look after themselves, let alone their kids. They’re the extremists.

It’s those who leave millions in unemployment, or zero hours contracts, a return to a supposed bygone-era, a return to the Victorian era where dockers would march to the yard every morning and stick their hands up hoping they’d get some work. They’re the extremists.

It’s those who let the richest in society pay absolutely no taxes whatsoever. Those people are the extremists.

It’s those who paid billions of taxpayers money to the banks and allowed them to continue business as usual. Paying bonuses, not lending, unaccountable to those who bailed them out. Those people are the extremists.

It’s those who let the Big Six energy companies hold the country to ransom, who drive millions of people into fuel poverty, who let elderly people freeze to death in their homes because of price rises. Those people are the extremists.

Those who subsidise the rail barons four times more than when it was publicly owned. Those people are the extremists.

And finally, those who bomb and invade foreign countries. Who leave British soldiers killed and maimed, and hundreds of thousands of those in other countries left maimed and killed. Those people are the extremists in British politics.

So it is us, we are the moderates. We, if you like, are the common-sense, centre-ground of British politics. Because we say, rather than subsidisng bosses with tax credits, instead of allowing the majority of those living in poverty who are actually in work, we say, its not enough. A living wage for everybody, a moderate proposal. We say that for instead of millions of people without an affordable home. We should let councils build housing, which would create jobs, stimulate the economy and bring down those social housing waiting lists.

Instead of unemployment and zero hours contacts, and people forced to do part time work because there is no full time work. The state should intervene with an industrial strategy to create hundreds of thousands of renewable energy jobs, that instead of being held to ransom by the rail and energy companies, they should be run by the public in the interested of the public.

That everybody, whoever they are, however many smug accountants and lawyers they have at their disposal. They have to pay all the taxes that they owe. And of course to support a policy of peace, rather than sending young people to kill and be killed.

These are moderate proposals. That’s what we’re talking about. Moderate proposals which have the support of the British public against the extremism of austerity and making people who had nothing to do with the crisis, pay for the crisis in the way millions of people are doing today.

Now im an optimist and I think many of you in this room share that optimism. Because not only is public support shifting our way, we have seen because of pressure from below, because of the demand for an alternative, the beginnings of an alternative being offered by the Labour leadership.

What was suggested by the price rise and Ed Miliband’s temporary freeze upon energy bills is the absolute hysteria that unleashed of Marxism, of reds under the bed, the sort of rhetoric that belonged to Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Because that’s that we have people at the top who are so used to wealth and power being shovelled in their direction by government after government, that even a moderate deviation from that path is seen as frothing-at-the-mouth communist revolution.

But we’ll see more of this. We’ve already seen the Daily Mail, a paper that backed Adolf Hitler’s genocidal regime trying to smear Ed Miliband as the man who hated Britain. Funny for a paper that seems to hate absolutely everything about Britain.

But we will see far more of that, as City AM panicked when it realised last weekend that the winds of change are shifting in our direction, that the public want an alternative, a coherent alternative. That instead of suffering the longest fall in living standards since Queen Victoria sat on the throne. That instead of being resigned to the fact that their kids are going to be poorer than them, for the first time in over 100 years, they actually want an alternative. And that’s where we’ve got to come in.

We’ve got to offer people hope. And that’s what we’ve got to get the Labour leadership to do, offer people hope.

Because there’s so much anger out there. So much fear. And that’s the one thing missing hear. And without hope people just get resigned. Or even worse, their anger is turned on their neighbours. And that’s what this government has done. That’s what their outriders in the media are doing, they’re saying to the low-paid worker, whose wages are being slashed by their boss, whose tax credits are being slashed by their government, turn your anger on your unemployed skiver neighbour. They’re saying to people in the private sector, where pensions have been decimated, don’t be angry with your boss who’s responsible, be angry with the nurse next door who’s pension is still in tact. And where has it ended, it’s ended with public money being spent on vans being sent to proudly mixed communities, spray-painted with the slogans we saw on National Front posters in the 1980s. It is the politics of divide-and-rule and that is why it is so important that Labour offers an alternative.

We have to remember our history. We were founded as a party to represent working people, at a time when there were two other parties that existed to represent people at the top. That historic mission is as relevant now as it has ever been and that is what we need to be arguing. We need to stand in those traditions, the party that built the National Health Service, that built the welfare state, in times when economic crisis was worse than it is today, with worse debt and bigger deficit, but they had courage to use the crisis they then had to build a better Britain.

We must learn as well – and this might sound a bit odd – from the Thatcherites of the 1970s who saw the winds had shifted. Who used the crisis to their own advantage. Who created the political space for those policies. We have to do the same thing.

Let’s go out and create the political space. Let’s win the argument, in the way we’re all doing. It’s funny, we’ve got all these results, we’ve got all the polls shifting on all these policies, without us frankly, being able to yell in the public domain, in the way many of us would want to, often not in the boxing ring in the first place, but we’re still winning. Imagine if we have a national campaign, that loudly and vociferously spoke about these policies, we would win the public support and we would get the Labour leadership in the way they committed to repealing the bedroom tax, because people supported those policies.

So let’s go and win those arguments, let’s win public support, let’s proudly claim our mantle, as the moderates against the extremists of austerity, and let’s get a Labour government that stands up for the people it exists to represent and builds a country of working people. Thank you.”

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