UK's new Labour leader fires up faithful in 1st speech

AP News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2015 11:47 AM
UK's new Labour leader fires up faithful in 1st speech

LONDON (AP) — He smiled, he poked fun at himself, he wore a tie and even told a few jokes.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn used his first conference speech — a nationally televised event Tuesday — to try to soften his image as a radical left-winger who will dash the party's electoral hopes by bringing back discredited policies from the past.

The unconventional 66-year-old leader did differentiate himself from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives by criticizing the government's austerity program as unneeded and unfair to working people.

"Our Labour Party says no," Corbyn said, rejecting what he characterized as Cameron's contention that there is no alternative but to further cut public services, including education and the much-beloved National Health Service.

Corbyn said globalization has been used as a way to justify keeping wages for workers throughout the world low while the leaders of global companies made vast amounts of money. And he repudiated the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was launched with the strong backing and participation of Labour's own Tony Blair, who was prime minister at the time.

"It didn't help our national security when we went to war with Iraq in defiance of the United Nations and on a false prospectus," he said.

Corbyn, who had offended some by declining to sing the national anthem at a recent memorial service, emphasized his patriotism, proclaiming his love of Britain and British values.

And he took a few jabs at the unrelenting hostility he has raced from some in British's rambunctious tabloid press, pointing out that one paper had gone so far as to say Corbyn was welcoming the possibility that mankind would be wiped out by an approaching asteroid.