Jeremy Corbyn launches leadership campaign stating he wants to tackle nation's "five ills"

James Nickerson
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Jeremy Corbyn Visits The North East
Corbyn wants an update on principles set forward by William Beveridge (Source: Getty)

Incumbent Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to fight "five ills of 21st century Britain" as he launched his bid to retain his place at the top of the party.

Corbyn promised to fight against inequality, neglect, prejudice, insecurity and discrimination as he launched his campaign today in central London.

Future Labour governments will require firms that employ more than 21 people to publish equality pay audits. Former Prime Minister David Cameron made this compulsory for firms with more than 250 staff.

"Last year Britain was ranked 18th in the world for its gender pay gap, below Nicaragua, Namibia and New Zealand. We can and must do better. So Labour is calling time on the waiting game," he said.

In a speech that attempted to make policy prescriptions, Corbyn said: "It is Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell who earlier this week made the case for a National Investment Bank and a network of regional investment banks to redistribute wealth and power."

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Corbyn argued for an update on the "five evils" set out by William Beveridge, but for the 21st century.

“The injustices that scar society today are not those of 1945: want, squalor, idleness, disease and ignorance. And they have changed since I first entered parliament in 1983. Today what is holding people back above all are inequality, neglect, insecurity, prejudice and discrimination,” he said.

In my campaign I want to confront all five of those ills head on, setting out, not only how Labour will campaign against these injustices in opposition, but also spelling out some of the measures the next Labour government will take to overcome them and move decisively towards a society in which opportunity and prosperity is truly shared.

So Labour is calling time on the waiting game, and I am making the commitment today that the next Labour government will require all employers with more than 21 staff to publish equality pay audits detailing pay, grade and hours of every job alongside data on recognised equality characteristics.

Setting out his stall, Corbyn also said that Labour had become stronger since he took over, winning a number of mayoral and local elections. He said Labour's opposition in parliament to the government's welfare policies had benefited people, especially when it opposed tax credit cuts.

"But we have also delivered concrete results for millions of people as the opposition in parliament to a callous Tory government three million families are over £1,000 better off this year because Labour stood up and opposed cuts to tax credits," he said.

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However, a number of Conservatives and the House of Lords were also against those cuts, which put pressure on the government.

He also made a veiled dig at a faction of his own party: "Just over a year ago there were those in our party in parliament who were unsure about whether to oppose a bill that threatened to take £12bn from welfare cash support for the less well off, low paid workers and the disabled."

The Labour leader also took aim at the Conservatives: "Every single plank of George Osborne’s failed and destructive economic programme is being torn up.

From a year ago, when Labour was too cautious in criticising cuts. Now, you’re hard-pressed to find even a Tory to defend it as one fiscal target after another has been ditched first by Osborne, and now by Theresa May. The long-term economic plan is dead.

Corbyn is up against Owen Smith, whose campaign has suggested Corbyn has failed to turn rhetoric into concrete policies.

Smith is one of a number of former frontbench Labour MPs who resigned ahead of a vote of no confidence in Corbyn last last month.

However, in response to questions about MP's confidence in Corbyn, the leader said he will appeal to them to unite and come together after the election to fight the Conservatives, and expects loyalty after the election.

"I think the MPs will recognise the election is about having the debate but it's also about showing loyalty to the party."

On whether he can lead an election: "This party is going places, this party is strong, this party is capable of winning a general election. And if I'm leader of that party I will be prime minister."

Some 183,000 people have signed up to the Labour party in the past 48 hours, each paying £25 to become registered supporters by yesterday's 5pm deadline. That is more than the Conservative and Liberal Democrat membership combined.

In addition to these people, the 380,000-plus members who joined before 12 January, as well as those tied to an affiliated union, will be able to cast a vote. It is not known whether the people who have signed up are supportive of Corbyn or Smith.

Corbyn is expected to trounce Smith, according to the latest polling, which puts the leader 22 per cent ahead of the Welsh MP.

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