As you well know, I am no Jeremy Corbyn fan. But his speech at Senate House (which Corbyn himself pointed out was what Orwell had based the Ministry of Truth in “1984” upon) this morning left me with little to quibble with. How about this for an opening:
“The Labour party is overwhelmingly for staying in – because we believe the European Union has brought investment, jobs and protection for workers, consumers and the environment, and offers the best chance of meeting the challenges we face in the 21st century. Labour is convinced that a vote to remain is in the best interests of the people of this country.”
Boom. We’d been told beforehand how much equivocation there would supposedly be in this speech; how it would very much be a “Let’s stay in Europe, but on these conditions” type of a thing. And there were moments when he was critical of the European Union – but even then they were there simply to clarify his pro-position in regards to what he’s said in the past. This was actually quite effective within the body of the speech.
Corbyn hit all of the crucial marks for his audience: workers rights, why the EU is not to blame for the steel industry’s problems, the human rights issue, the EU and climate change, why immigration can be a good thing – he covered the lot.
What I found really odd about the speech was that Corbyn sounded more convincing than I’ve heard him on anything since he became leader of the Labour Party. For someone who is supposed to be lightly Eurosceptic, he sure didn’t sound like it today. Given the oomph of this speech regarding EU membership, I wonder why Corbyn hasn’t been able to summon this sort of passion more often. Perhaps we’ll see more in the months ahead – God knows he may need it if next month’s elections go poorly for Labour, as many predict.
Even the biggest criticism I could make of this morning’s speech from Corbyn – that it’s been a little while in coming – is actually meaningless in the broader course of the pre-referendum debate. People are only just now starting to tune at all to the issues surrounding whether or not we should remain in the EU, so anything said before today wouldn’t have made much difference anyhow in the grand scheme of things.
For a long while, I thought we’d vote Remain as a country for sure – perhaps even by a reasonably wide margin. Of late, I have begun to seriously doubt whether we’ll stay in at all. This morning, I feel more hopeful that we’ll do the sensible thing as a country on June 23rd than I have done in a while. Who would have ever thought that the man giving me that sense of assurance would be none other than Jeremy Corbyn.