Thursday, 29 September 2016

Dissecting Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Conference Speech 2016: The Verdict From 4 Lincoln Key Voters.

“One lesson is, that there is a responsibility on all of us to take care with our rhetoric, respect democratic decisions, respect our differences and respect each other”.  Jeremy Corbyn, Labour 2016 Conference Speech, Liverpool, 28/09/2016.

Jeremy Corbyn's speech was widely anticipated to be of epic "Likey or No Lighty" proportions prior to delivery yesterday. Most Conservatives had already written him off as "low energy", a "magic money tree socialist" who had no desire to grapple with the key societal and economic pressures facing the UK today, instead receding back to a "simpler time" when trade union shop stewards could bring the country to a standstill with the flickering of power switches. Many within the Labour party were questioning whether his tone and stance on anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and immigrants would be appropriate to help sell him as the "unity candidate" post a divisive, corrosive leadership contest. It was surprising (and quite gratifying) to see Jeremy deliver a powerful, passionate speech which addressed his critics whilst not stooping to name calling, which set out a plan for a "21st century kind of socialism" whilst recognising he has "an electoral mountain to climb" if Labour is to win the next General Election under his leadership: "The central task of the Labour party, must be to rebuild trust and support to win the next general election..." even if the Labour party is "about campaigning and it's about protest too.” Critics of the speech claim Jeremy didn't touch enough on policies that could convince swing voters to put the X on the ballot box for Labour. I wanted to test this out, so I invited 4 Lincoln based voters who hadn't watched Jeremy Corbyn deliver his speech in the afternoon to come and watch his speech and read a transcript of it in the evening so they could offer their thoughts on some of the policy statements Jeremy touched on. Lincoln matters because it is a very close marginal or bellwether seat, currently held by the Conservatives under Karl McCartney, which Labour would need to win should they wish to gain power at Westminster. Lincoln also happens to be the oldest constituency in the UK but this hardly ever gets mentioned by pollsters.

I'm going to compare this report on Jeremy Corbyn's speech with one on Theresa May's speech at the Conservative conference in Birmingham next week to see which policies are enthusing or disengaging certain voters in Lincoln. I hope my blog readers find the responses as interesting as I found them!

Location: Birchwood Ward, Lincoln, Lincolnshire.
Date: 28/09/2016.
Panel: No party members just "ordinary" voters:
Voter A:  Accounts Assistant, Female, 24, Labour voter.
Voter B: Self-Employed Graphic Designer, Male, 32, swing voter considering Labour (voted UKIP at GE 2015).
Voter C: Business owner, Male, 67, Conservative voter.
Voter D: Nurse (in care home), Female, 48,  swing voter considering Labour or WEP at next GE.


Policy statements:
Voter A
Voter B
Voter C
Voter D
Labour will, as Teresa Pearce said, build over a million new homes at least half of them council houses. Labour will remove the artificial local borrowing cap and allow councils to borrow against their housing stock....to build an extra 60,000 council houses a year.”
Great idea but is it practical in the long term? How many councils would consider borrowing against their existing stock? Would 60,000 council houses end up getting built? Who would be given most priority on the housing list...would disabled/elderly people be given appropriate housing- e.g. Ground floor bungalows
for wheelchair users/ stairlifts for those with knee problems?
Why do we need to focus on council houses that will only get flogged off in the next round of Help-To-Buy/ Thatcheresque policies 20 years down the line? Would the new council houses be given to native Yellowbellies or migrant families first? Corbyn hasn't really said anything about the migrant impact on housing stock.
I bought my own home after saving up for 20 years; I couldn't have holidays or new mobile phones every year. So how does this policy benefit me?
Agree with Jeremy and Teresa on their council housing policy; we haven't build enough homes and it's time for a mass building programme to ease pressure on local housing stock. I wonder if City of Lincoln council or Lincs County Council would ever take Corbyn up on this offer if he was elected, though?
We will raise the minimum wage to a real living wage (£10 per hour) that brings working people out of poverty.”
As an Accounts Assistant on the current Conservative NLW, this would really benefit me. It'd allow me to save up a deposit for my first home and pay my bills on time without having to rely on an overdraft. If you work hard you deserve to be paid well.
I'd need to see whether local SMEs would be able to pay a £10 an hour wage to their cleaners/ admin assistants whilst still trying to maintain a working profit. As a freelancer I'd love to be earning £10 an hour but I know it's not practical.
Everyone deserves to be paid a decent wage for the work they do but I don't know whether cleaners should be paid the same wage as office staff though. Different skills?
I work hard every day as a nurse in a care home and I feel undervalued and underpaid for the work that I do despite receiving more than the NLW. £10 an hour would be a real boost to productivity and improve worker motivation in workplaces such as care homes.
Labour councils increasingly have a policy of in-house as the preferred provider...e.g. bin collections, cleaners and IT services being brought back in-house. “
Councils should be in charge of the services they provide; the recent Serco debacle surrounding incorrect wages being paid to school staff in Lincolnshire shows the folly of outsourcing for the sake of “saving money”.
I thought councils were still responsible for bin collecting/ cleaning up the streets. If not, they should stop outsourcing these jobs. Serco needs to improve their quality standards; give them time to do this.
I think councils should be responsible for most services but if better IT services are best monitored by experienced professionals not directly employed by the council, then returning to in-sourcing might increase costs and reduce standards.
I agree with Voter A: councils should be running key services. And Serco should lose their contract with Lincs County Council- they keep messing up and never learn from their mistakes.
We will ban zero hours contracts.”
Workers should be guaranteed a certain number of hours a week if they haven't agreed to a zero-hours contract at the start of their employment. I'm not sure banning zero-hours contracts would change working conditions in the hospitality/agricultural sector. They'd just hire people seasonally and then lay them off in Winter, as they have done in the past.
I've been on a zero-hours contract in the past and had no problems with it. I guess if you have a family to support or need to get a mortgage I've heard it can be an issue. If you don't want a zero-hours contract, don't accept the job! I'd like to hear Labour talk more about improving self-employment rights though – e.g. pensions/ claiming contributions based JSA.
I rely on office staff that on zero-hours contracts; I can't afford to guarantee staff a certain number of hours if business is quiet. That's just a fact of life. If Labour did end up banning the contracts I'd just lay people off and then take others on when I need them again.
Zero-hours contracts have caused some care workers and nurses to walk out of my care home recently. We want to know whether we will be paid for the services we provide. Sometimes managers forget that nurses aren't there as volunteers, even if we care about the happiness of our residents. Banning the contracts is a good idea.
We will take the railways back into public ownership.”
(Renationalisation)
If this meant that trains would be updated, customer service improved and prices might begin to stabilise or even fall, I could support this plan.
Royal Mail has been privatised and I haven't seen any negative changes to my postal service. Corbyn would need to show me that renationalisation would reduce prices of train tickets for all users, not just concessions.
Renationalisation for the sake of it is ridiculous. It hurt the national finances and we can't afford to go into debt over such pipe-dreams. I can't support this.
I don't know whether I agree or disagree with public ownership of the railways but I'd be happy if train services were improved to London and prices fell as my grandson is a student at University College, London (UCL).
We’ll establish a National Investment Bank (£500 billion) at the heart of our plan to rebuild and transform Britain.”
Owen Smith proposed increasing the amount of investment so it's good Corbyn agrees public investment is needed, especially for infrastructure projects.
I'm not sure such a bank would work in practice but I'll be interested to see him put more “meat on the bones” RE the running of the bank. Borrowing when the interest rates are low does sound appropriate.
I'm hoping that this isn't one of those “Magic Money Tree” policies like the £350m promised for the NHS after Brexit. It'd be great to see money being available to upgrade rural Lincs roads, including filling in all the potholes.
This is “Pie in the Sky” thinking at its most clumsy. I didn't think Boris Johnson and Corbyn had much in common till I heard this soundbite. I want investment in public infrastructure but borrowing £500bn to do it. Typical Loony-Left economics.
I think public investment is a good idea; I want to see amazing roads, great schools, more green energy projects, more funding to build modern A&E facilities and more care homes to help our clients (elderly) to have a happy, healthy and secure retirement.
We are pledging to raise corporation tax by less than 1.5 percent to give an Education Maintenance Allowance to college students and grants to university students so that every young learner can afford to support themselves as they develop skills and get qualifications.”
I benefited from the EMA whilst at sixth form college, so I'd like to see it reinstated for working class kids who want to aspire to go to University or want to become Accountants like me. I think raising the corporation tax is a good way of providing for the EMA rather than asking lower paid workers to contribute more.
EMA seems good in theory; it should only go to those students who need it the most so should be means-tested. The Tories haven't come up with an alternative system of support that works.
Raising the Corporation Tax may dissuade businesses from expanding in the UK, reducing job numbers in the long term. EMA is good in an ideal world but we can't afford it currently. Not till the national bank balance is back in the black.
My grandson would have benefited from receiving the EMA whilst studying. It was a challenge helping to buy him coursework books and fund his travel every day to college. EMA is a good idea and businesses should pay more to support future workers' vocational development.
We will introduce an arts pupil premium (£160 million) to every primary school in England and Wales and consult on the design and national roll-out to extend this pupil premium to all secondary schools.”
Allowing students to take pride in expressing themselves creatively is a great idea. Many working class kids never get the chance to learn an instrument or take part in a national singing competition. Now they may get a chance to achieve their dreams.
Arts education has been knocked by the current Tory Govt. We can't keep neglecting those who are working class and have a musical or theatrical talent, just because the Govt has failed to sell STEM subjects to bright students. More money is needed to help fund Lincs schools, so projects like this are welcome.
If a pupil wants to learn an instrument, let the parents fork out for it. Otherwise let the school pay for lessons out of the budget already allocated to them by LGA/councils. The focus should be on improving Maths and Science standards in primary schools to produce future coders and engineers, not more deluded contestants for the X Factor.
I never got the chance to learn how to play an instrument or take part in national competitions. I feel Arts education makes students well-rounded. However more money is needed to improve Maths/Science grades and that includes providing computer labs and chemistry sets for every school.
We will be scrapping the punitive sanctions regime and the degrading Work Capability Assessment.”
Stop shaming disabled people who cannot work for genuine health reasons. Show more compassion!
Sanctions have seemed harsh; I know a friend with MS being told her benefits would be stopped for turning up 10 mins late to a Job Centre appointment. I don't know how effective Work Capability Assessments have been...I need to know more about them before I say anything more on them.
Disabled people can work given the tools and encouragement to do so. We can't mollycoddle those with depression over their hamster dying. Give money to those who genuinely are disabled. Sanctions should be appropriate, not punitive for the sake of it.
The Work Capability Assessments need to be reformed. Punitive sanctions are meant to be a deterrent but may have been used too many times without being questioned for effectiveness. I don't think we should totally scrap either without thinking about other options.
Labour will reinstate the Migrant Impact Fund, and give extra support to areas of high migration using the visa levy for its intended purpose. And we will add a citizenship application fee levy to boost the fund.”
The Tories were wrong to scrap the Migrant Impact Fund. Places in Lincs would have benefited from being able to use the money to expand healthcare and education services to help deal with the increase in Eastern European migrants. I think Corbyn is right to suggest a citizenship application fee levy as long as the money only goes towards the MIF. Labour are taking a fair approach to the immigration issue; don't blame the migrants, blame a lack of investment in local public services and lobby to improve them. MIF is part of the solution.
The MIF isn't enough to help reduce pressure on local services. The only way to do this is to cap the number of migrants coming in from the EU. Citizenship fee seems a good idea but use it to fund the treatment migrants receive on the NHS. Labour have been very weak on immigration so far. I'm glad I voted UKIP in 2015 and I probably will still vote UKIP in 2020.
The MIF didn't work in the past, otherwise the Conservatives wouldn't have scrapped it. We need to reduce numbers coming into Lincs as a matter of urgency. We can't afford to keep supporting Eastern Europeans who can't be bothered to learn the language. Citizenship application fee levy should have been implemented before.
As Corbyn has said before, we need to stop demonising migrants. Many work in Lincoln care homes and do a fantastic job of looking after elderly residents who have complex needs. The MIF sounds good and I hope it will help address overcrowded schools, lack of dentists and GPs and housing crisis. Citizenship application fee levy seems fair but should be means-tested.
Under a Labour government when there are credible reports of human rights abuses or war crimes being committed British arms sales will be suspended, starting with Saudi Arabia.”

I think we should never sell guns to a government like Saudi Arabia. We hear on the news every day about civilians being killed in Syria or Yemen and yet some of the weapons being used were supplied by us. It's shameful!
We don't have a responsibility to police nations who we happen to trade with. Once Saudi Arabia buys the guns from us, it's their choice what they do with them.
Did the Govt really know Saudi Arabia was going to use UK guns to fight a war in Yemen when we sold the guns to them? If we stopped selling products/services to every country whose foreign policy/ human rights policies we didn't agree with, we wouldn't have a chance of growing our GDP or reducing the national debt. Corbyn is too much of an idealist on this.
I don't think it's right to sell guns to countries who are willing to commit human rights abuses. If we don't want to continue trading with Russia after Crimea, why do we want to trade with a country like Saudi Arabia? It doesn't make sense to me.
Best Policy
NLW increase to £10 an hour.
Arts Premium in Primary Schools.
Reducing number of Punitive Sanctions.
Building 60,000 more council houses a year.
Verdict /10 for Policies
8/10
5.5/10
4/10
9/10
Are you more or less likely to vote Labour at the next GE?
More Likely
Unchanged until immigration policy fully revealed.
Less Likely
More Likely

Analysis:
Jeremy Corbyn's speech seems to have played well amongst voters who already identify strongly with Labour values and approved of Labour policies in the past. The responses to the reintroduction of the Migrant Impact Fund (MIF), Educational Maintenance Allowance and a commitment to introducing a National Living Wage at £10 an hour were welcomed by Voters A and D.
Voters A and D both seemed receptive to more "radically socialist" policies mentioned in the Corbyn speech such as the plan to stop arms sales to countries who have committed human rights abuses such as Saudi Arabia and establishing a "National Investment Bank" to fund public infrastructure projects. Voter A did seem a little unsure as to how it may work in practice but hopes Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell (Shadow Chancellor) will help fill in the detail as the policy continues to develop.

Conservative/UKIP voters seem more sceptical about bringing back old policies or rehashing them to appeal to new voting groups. Jeremy Corbyn claims that most of his policies do not originate from New Labour but Corbyn cannot deny that EMA, NMW, MIF were all products of that government.
Voters B and C represent the type of swing voters in Lincoln who Labour are hoping to try and get to vote for them at the next GE. However Corbyn didn't win their support on the key policy announcements in the speech; Voter B sees the "National Investment Bank" idea as another example of "Magic Money Tree" politics and Voter C doesn't believe everyone should be paid a NLW because their skills bases are different (not to mention he may not want to pay his workers more as it may hit his working profit margins). That being said, there are a few differences between Voters B and C worth exploring further.

Voter B is keen on the Arts Premium being available for all primary schools in England and Wales to be able to access arts education regardless of geographical location, school identity or social background of school pupils. Voter C thinks parents should pay towards arts education, or if not, schools should use their existing diminishing budget to provide for their students. Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education funding is more important for Voter C. Voters B and D recognise the need for better STEM funding in schools but not at the detriment of arts funding. Equally, Voter C thinks providing the EMA for poorer students is "idealistic", whereas Voter B agrees with Voters A and D that it should be reintroduced, albeit on a means-tested basis.

Renationalisation of the railways is viewed with some skepticism but 3/4 in this group seem to be open to discussing whether renationalisation would be effective, with emphasis being placed on the cost/availability of tickets for all rail users post renationalisation and whether train stock number/quality would improve as a result of it. Voter C seems ideologically opposed to renationalisation but as a Conservative voter I already expected this prior to Corbyn's speech.

One policy area Voter C did seem to agree at least in part with Corbyn on was that of punitive sanctioning; he believes it should be "appropriate" and only delivered as part of a considered response to the actions of the jobseeker/claimant concerned, something Voters B and D seemed to agree with.

Conclusion:
Jeremy Corbyn's speech was certainly listened to with a degree of seriousness and keen interest in Lincoln. A number of policies were of interest, including renationalisation of the railways, increase in the NLW to £10 an hour and creating a "National Investment Bank" which can be used to fund key infrastructure projects such as improving train stock and filling in potholes on Lincs roads. The voters saw how they could apply Corbyn's policies to Lincoln constituents and the fact that 2/4 (50%) said they were more likely to vote for Corbyn is heartening. Voter B (a UKIP voter) said his views on Corbyn's electability were "unchanged" due to the haziness of Corbyn's immigration policies I feel is fair. Corbyn needs to demonstrate to Brexit voters who may have voted UKIP in 2015's GE that his Labour party can tackle the issues raised by immigration, especially those created in Lincs during the last decade. Corbyn needs to show that the MIF can truly work here, that it can relieve pressure on the NHS and help fund the building of extra social/council housing, whilst insuring a proportion of that housing goes to "native" Yellowbellies. Considering the make up of the Lincoln constituency is 90% British (according to the 2011 Census), this shouldn't be an issue. Positive integration policies need to be pushed to the fore and Corbyn putting aside funding to create multicultural arts/sports projects may help in this endeavour. These sentiments are hinted at in Corbyn's speech but were not addressed head on. I hope Corbyn will be more forward in his rhetoric on immigration in the future, particularly when the Brexit negotiations begin after Article 50 is triggered.

The views of Voter C show that Corbyn's brand of "socialism" will never win certain voters to his cause. The focus therefore should be on those voters who feel change is needed to help the working and middle class feel their quality of life is getting better, not worse. By addressing housing, by addressing transport infrastructure, by addressing concerns over public service pressures and by espousing a kinder, more compassionate form of socialism which can also deliver an element of fiscal responsibility both locally and nationally, Corbyn may gain the voters he needs to turn marginal seats from Conservative to Labour. At least in Lincolnshire and the East Midlands! So onwards to Theresa May's Conservative Conference and the policy goodies/baddies she may unveil next....arbitrary cap on immigration is my best bet!