Jeremy Corbyn’s first major speech as Labour leader included old passages first written in the 1980s and offered to every party leader from Neil Kinnock to Ed Miliband.
Corbyn, a veteran MP who has called for a “new politics”, told conference delegates in an hour-long speech in Brighton yesterday that people with “property and power, class and capital, status and clout” tell “the many to be grateful to be given anything at all”.
“They say that the world cannot be changed and the many must accept the terms on which they are allowed to live in it,” Corbyn said, adding: “Our Labour party came into being to fight that attitude. That is still what our Labour party is all about. Labour is the voice that says to the many, at home and abroad: You don’t have to take what you’re given.”
But it was revealed after the speech that the passage - and many other similar lines - had not been written by Corbyn and his team in recent weeks, but instead by the author Richard Heller nearly 30 years ago.
“I have always been proud of that passage, both for its content and its cadences,” Heller wrote on the Guardian’s website last night. He added: “I offered it regularly to every Labour leader from Neil Kinnock onwards and to other Labour speakers.”
Kinnock was Labour leader from 1983 until 1992, leading the opposition against Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s governments.
Heller, a former political adviser, confirmed that he offered the speech to Corbyn and his chief of staff Neale Coleman following Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership contest. He said that he had not heard from Corbyn or any of his advisers, and only learned that his words would be used in the speech yesterday.
A Labour spokesperson said last night: “Heller was consulted and gave permission for his material to be sourced as Jeremy Corbyn felt it captured perfectly what he wanted to say to the British people.”
The speech rejected the government’s austerity plans, with Corbyn saying he would deliver more welfare benefits for the self-employed and expand the building of council housing.