Ditch neoliberalism to win again, Jeremy Corbyn tells Europe’s centre-left parties

Jon Stone

Jeremy Corbyn has warned centre-left parties across Europe that they must follow his lead and abandon the neoliberal economics of the imagined “centre ground” if they want to start winning elections again.

The Labour leader was given a hero’s welcome at the Europe Together conference of centre-left parties in Brussels, where he was introduced as “the new Prime Minister of Britain” and received two standing ovations from a packed auditorium.

Continental centre-left leaders are looking to Mr Corbyn’s Labour as a model to reinvigorate their movement. Across Europe from France to Germany, Austria to Netherlands and Spain to Greece, once-powerful social democratic parties have been reduced to a shadow of their former selves – with Labour a notable exception.

Mr Corbyn said low taxes, deregulation and privatisation had not brought prosperity for Europe’s populations and that if social democratic parties continued to endorse them they would continue to lose elections.

He berated the longstanding leadership of the centre left, telling delegates from across the EU: “For too long the most prominent voices in our movement have looked out of touch, too willing to defend the status quo and the established order.

“In a desperate attempt to protect what is seen as the centre ground of politics: only to find the centre ground has shifted or was never where the elites thought it was in the first place.”

Citing the rise of the far right in countries like Austria and France, Mr Corbyn said the abdication of the radical end of politics by the left had created space for reactionary parties.

“Our broken system has provided fertile ground for the growth of nationalist and xenophobic politics,” he said.

“We all know their politics of hate, blame and division and not the answer, but unless we offer a clear and radical alternative of credible solutions for the problem we face, unless we offer a chance to change the broken system, and hope for a more prosperous future, we are clearing the path for the extreme right to make even more far-reaching inroads into our communities. Their message of fear and division would become the political mainstream of our discourse.

Mr Corbyn with Gianni Pittella, the president of the socialists’ group in the European Parliament (Getty)

“But we can offer a radical alternative; we have the ideas to make progressive politics the dominant force of this century. But if we don’t get our message right, don’t stand up for our core beliefs, and if we don’t stand for change we will founder and stagnate.”

He continued: “The neoliberal economic model is broken. It doesn’t work for most people. Inequality and low taxes for the richest are hurting our people and harming the economy as even the IMF now acknowledges.

“It is, my friends, possible to win those arguments if you engage with them and put them out there. We will continue to do that. If our message is bold, and our message is radical, if we listen to what the majority actually want, we will prove the elites and their pundits wrong.”

Mr Corbyn is in Brussels on the same day as Theresa May attends a European Council summit. He used the opportunity to warn against a no-deal Brexit, arguing the PM had created “chaos”.

“The idea of no deal would … be catastrophic for manufacturing industry jobs and we would have real problems all through the economy.

“I don’t want to see that, I want to see an agreement being reached, that’s why we’re were and doing our best to see that agreement can be reached,” he told Sky News.

“We have to recognise the seriousness of the situation and the chaos in which our Government is operating. It’s a chaos of their own making.”

Mr Corbyn is also set to hold talks to EU officials about Brexit, including chief negotiator Michel Barnier and European Parliament president Antonio Tajani.