Corbyn to call for part-nationalisation of Britain's steel industry

14 November 2015

Jeremy Corbyn is to call for immediate state intervention in Britain’s declining steel industry this weekend in a speech that will also also seek to explain his patriotic vision for Britain.

The Labour leader will urge David Cameron and George Osborne to part-nationalise the sector, following the loss of 4,000 jobs in October. The industry has blamed cheap Chinese imports for a collapse in steel prices.

Reacting to some internal party criticisms that he has failed to show pride in Britain, Corbyn will also claim that Labour stands for some of the country’s greatest traditions, including trade unionism, the suffragettes and individuals such as the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, the athlete Mo Farah and the Beatles, he will say on Saturday.

Corbyn’s intervention in the debate over steel comes as he prepares to raise the role of Indian companies with the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, at a meeting on Saturday.

Last month the Indian company Tata Steel announced 1,200 jobs were being axed in Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire. Tata’s chairman, Cyrus Mistry, is part of Modi’s delegation but has declined to meet unions while in the UK.

In a speech to Labour’s Eastern regional conference in Stevenage, Corbyn will say that the prime minister should follow the interventionist route of Gordon Brown during the banking crisis and step in to help workers. “We need Cameron and Osborne to act as decisively in 2015 as Gordon Brown did in 2008, when Labour part-nationalised RBS and Lloyds to prevent economic collapse,” Corbyn will say.

“If the Italian government can take a public stake to maintain their steel industry, so can we. That’s why Labour will be pressing Cameron to use the powers we have to intervene and, if necessary, take a strategic stake in steel – to save jobs and restructure the industry.”

In a wideranging speech, Corbyn will also take on criticisms that he is not proud of Britain. “How dare Cameron’s Conservatives pretend that they speak for Britain. We stand for this country’s greatest traditions: the suffragettes and the trade unions, the Britain of Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley, Alan Turing and the Beatles, and perhaps our greatest Olympian, Mo Farah – the working people of this country who fought fascism, built the welfare state and turned this land into an industrial powerhouse,” he will say.

Many MPs will scrutinise another part of Corbyn’s speech that calls for a “democratic revolution” within the party to open decision-making to ordinary members who have joined the party since May. Some party moderates are mistrustful of any proposed changes which will hand power to new members who tend to be left-wing Corbyn supporters.

In the speech, Corbyn will urge a non-sectarian transformation of the party. “We want to see that democratic revolution extended into our own party, opening up our decision-making to the hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters that have joined us since May.

“It’s a huge opportunity for Labour: to remake our party as a real social movement, organising and rooted in our communities. That’s not about fighting sectarian battles or settling political scores. It’s about opening up to the people we seek to represent and giving them a voice through our organisation and in our decision-making, and drawing individual and affiliated members into political action,” he will say.

It was reported on Friday that a rule change could be discussed by Labour’s national executive committee at its meeting next Tuesday. The proposal would guarantee Corbyn a place on the ballot paper if he were challenged for his job. Sources close to Corbyn have denied knowledge of any such plan.