Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to lead the ‘reindustrialisation’ of the north of England as he demanded David Cameron should make a formal apology to miners whose livelihoods were ruined by Margaret Thatcher.
The leftwing frontrunner in the Labour leadership contest spoke out as he unveiled his own plans to bridge the north-south divide, accusing George Osborne of a ‘cruel deception’ with his Northern Powerhouse plans to devolve power to the region.
The Islington North MP, who leads the Labour race in opinion polls among members and in local party nominations, last night attracted a huge crowd as he addressed them from on top of a fire engine.
Today, after another round of packed meetings that are seeing him described as Labour's 'rockstar' candidate, one Twitter account even mocked up an Obama-style logo.
In a speech in Leeds, Mr Corbyn called for a full inquiry into the miners’ strike conflict at the Orgreave plant and demanded that the Prime Minister make a full apology to the miners and people of the north for their treatment by the Thatcher government.
“The government should make a formal apology for the actions of the previous Conservative government during the time of the strike and for misleading the public and set out all details of the interactions between the government and the police at the time of the strike,” he said.
He made the plea as he outlined the latest plank of his ‘Vision for Britain 2020’ economic policy this week.
As well as a mass housebuilding drive and new jobs to tackle climate change, Mr Corbyn set out his ‘Northern Future’ proposals to reverse “unfair funding of the arts”, a bias against northern transport schemes and manufacturing skills.
The Islington North MP added that the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse rhetoric was undermined by big cuts to council funding enacted by the Lib-Con coalition and being deepened under the current Tory government.
And he attacked Tory proposals to only allow devolution if councils agreed to directly elected mayors, declaring it is wrong for them to be strong-armed into the change or to go ahead without a public referendum.
His new policy paper, which has a foreword from former Ed Miliband ally Jon Trickett, calls for greater local control of privatised bus services, as well as fast broadband for rural and coast areas.
It states: "Most parties on the surface agree to some sort of devolution to the north of England. What the Conservative government has embarked upon however is a cruel deception.
“They have devolved cuts to spending, but not the power to do anything to stop them. They have also added extra financial commitments that local councils will have to meet but without any extra money.”
In his speech today, Mr Corbyn added: "It is in the long term interest of the UK to rebuild a resilient industrial base and with its people, energy, land and water, the North of England is the place to do lead this.
“There is a lack of faith in the Conservative’s Northern powerhouse agenda which combines powercuts for rail electrification with the devolution of crude cuts.
"Despite this, the need for reindustrialising the north of England and providing the investment and freedom to innovate and prioritise has never been stronger. There is an appetite for a real alternative and this important conversation has begun.”
NUM leader Arthur Scargill arrested at the Orgreave coking plant
Mr Corbyn said that five million people live in former coalfield communities whose economies were ‘destroyed when the pits were closed by Mrs Thatcher’s government’.
“We owe a special duty to communities damaged in that way. The present Tory government has effectively turned off the investment funds which remain necessary to modernise and regenerate the coalfield areas.”
He also said that Cabinet papers from the Thatcher years that were released recently confirmed that the government at the time of the 1984-5 strike not only misled the public about the extent of the pit closure programme, but also sought to influence police tactics during the strike.
A full investigation into the treatment of miners by police at the Orgreave coking plant should take place, he added.