UK's Corbyn criticises cuts outside Conservative conference

5th October 2015, Comments 0 comments

British opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn railed against the government's austerity policies in Manchester on Monday, breaking convention by appearing on the sidelines of the rival Conservative party's conference.

"We challenge the whole notion that austerity is some kind of economic necessity when in reality it's a political choice made by those who wish to see a growing gap between the richest and the poorest," Corbyn told a cheering crowd at the public event.

"I want us to run our economy on the basis that everyone in society matters."

About 7,000 people attended the rally organised by the Communication Workers Union in Manchester Cathedral, according to organisers, a number too great to fit inside the venue.

Corbyn gave a separate speech to the hundreds gathered outside, in a scene recalling his leadership campaign which saw the veteran campaigner from the left-wing of the party ride a surge of grassroots support to be named leader last month.

His appearance went against an unspoken rule that party leaders stay away from rival party's annual conferences. The Conservative party of Prime Minister David Cameron is gathering its members in Manchester for a series of events that wraps up on Wednesday.

As the conference opened on Sunday, some 60,000 people marched through the northwest English city in protest at the government's austerity policies, which have curtailed spending in a bid to balance Britain's budget.

Corbyn criticised the privatisation of postal service Royal Mail, saying the public had been "ripped off big time" by the government's selling of a chunk of its stake.

He demanded the government not sell its remaining 15 percent stake.

The Labour leader also called for "civilised debate" and urged activists not to engage in personal abuse, after some protesters were criticised for hurling insults at attendees outside the conference entrance. Some journalists complained of being spat on.

Campaign groups have planned a series of events coinciding with the conference to protest the policies of the Conservative government, which was re-elected with a slim majority in a general election in May.

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© 2015 AFP

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