Grenfell tragedy was product of ’brutal’ system of inequality: Jeremy Corbyn

Grenfell Tower stands as a symbol of a failed political system which has held sway in Britain for the past three decades and which Labour will replace, Jeremy Corbyn is set to declare.

In his keynote speech to Labour’s conference in Brighton, Mr Corbyn will say that the fire in which around 80 people perished in west London in June was the product of a "brutal" system of rampant inequality, hollowed-out public services and disdain for the powerless and the poor.

And he will say that Labour is now a government-in-waiting ready to implement a programme to put power in the hands of ordinary people and offer them a share in the benefits from accelerating technological change.

With developments in automation and robotics expected to make swathes of jobs redundant, he will say that Labour wants "the fourth industrial revolution" to deliver extra leisure time and more fulfilling work for the many, rather than simply concentrating wealth in the hands of the rich.

Following up on his attacks on a Government which has "run out of steam", Mr Corbyn will say he is ready for office and tell Conservative ministers to "pull themselves together" or make way for Labour.

He will tell delegates in Brighton that the policies set out in Labour’s manifesto for the snap election, denounced by critics at the time as extreme, represent a "new common sense" shared by the mainstream of British people.

He will promise to put skills at the heart of his administration, highlighting proposals from the June manifesto for free further education college courses and vocational and technical training, at a cost of £2.5 billion a year by the end of a five-year Parliament, on top of £1 billion in investment in new facilities.

Mr Corbyn will say that the result on June 8, when Labour gained 30 seats and robbed Theresa May of her majority in the Commons, "put the Tories on notice and Labour on the threshold of power".

"We have become a government-in-waiting," he will say. "And our message to the country could not be clearer: Labour is ready.

"Ready to tackle inequality. Ready to rebuild our NHS. Ready to give opportunity to young people, dignity and security to older people. Ready to invest in our economy and meet the challenges of climate change and automation. Ready to put peace and justice at the heart of foreign policy. And ready to build a new and progressive relationship with Europe. We are ready for government."

The Grenfell fire was not just "the result of bad political decisions" but stood for "a failed and broken system, which Labour must and will replace", Mr Corbyn will say..

"The disregard for rampant inequality, the hollowing out of our public services, the disdain for the powerless and the poor have made our society more brutal and less caring," he will tell delegates.

"Now that degraded regime has a tragic monument - the chilling wreckage of Grenfell Tower, a horrifying fire in which dozens perished, an entirely avoidable human disaster."

A Labour government would "place power in the hands of the people", by making public services accountable to communities, business accountable to the public and politicians accountable to voters, Mr Corbyn will say.

And he will stress the importance of lifelong education to allow people to retrain for redeployment into new jobs as technology develops.

If managed properly, technological change can be "the gateway for a new settlement between work and leisure, a springboard for expanded creativity and culture, making technology our servant and not our master at long last", he will say.

Reaffirming his commitment to a National Education Service to match the NHS, he will promise: "Labour will build an education and training system from the cradle to the grave that empowers people, not one that shackles them with debt."

Buoyed by opinion polls putting them ahead of the Tories, Labour has shown a confident face to the world at its annual gathering.

Despite spats over Brexit and anti-Semitic comments on the fringe, the positive atmosphere has been a far cry from the divisions seen in Mr Corbyn’s first two conferences as leader, when centrists openly spoke about winning their party back.

His speech will reinforce the impression that the party now believes the path is clear for it to make a credible bid for power at the next election, whenever that comes.

Party officials said that shadow ministers are holding talks with former civil servants in order to ensure that Labour is ready to operate the government machine. The June manifesto has been retained in its entirely as a framework for policy, but its contents are being fleshed out in preparation for a possible poll.

As Brexit talks remain deadlocked in Brussels, Mr Corbyn will say: "The Tories are more interested in posturing for personal advantage than in getting the best deal for Britain. Never has the national interest been so ill-served on such a vital issue. If there were no other reason for the Tories to go, their self-interested Brexit bungling would be reason enough.

"So I have a simple message to the Cabinet: for Britain’s sake, pull yourself together or make way."


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