The next Labour government will end the “broken” political and economic system that caused the Grenfell disaster, Jeremy Corbyn is set to declare in his keynote party conference speech.
Vowing that he was ready to “govern differently”, Corbyn will declare on Wednesday that both Tory and Labour governments oversaw a hollowing out of public services that led directly to the tower block fire that killed 80 people.
The Labour leader will close the conference in Brighton by claiming that his party is now “on the threshold of power” and “a government-in-waiting” that would radically redistribute wealth and influence in Britain.
In his speech, Corbyn will also declare war on the UK’s long-hours culture with a pledge to force companies to use new technology to allow employees to work less and enjoy more leisure time.
And he will underline a promise to scrap fees for not just university tuition but also further education and vocational training.
But the Grenfell Tower disaster will form a central plank of his speech as he argues the burnt out block is “a tragic monument” to the failures of the neo-liberal economic model and privatisations started by Margaret Thatcher and continued by New Labour.
“The disregard for rampant inequality, the hollowing out of our public services, the disdain for the powerless and the poor have made our society more brutal and less caring,” he will say.
“Now that degraded regime has a tragic monument - the chilling wreckage of Grenfell Tower, a horrifying fire in which dozens perished, an entirely avoidable human disaster.”
Corbyn will quote the tenants’ group of Grenfell residents which had warned before the fire that a “catastrophic event” would expose the incompetence of its landlord, “words that should haunt all politicians”.
“Grenfell is not just the result of bad political decisions. It stands for a failed and broken system, which Labour must and will replace,” he will say.
A senior Labour spokesman said that “the failed economic model introduced in the 1980s” across the world, but in “an extreme form in Britain”, lay behind the West London disaster.
The spokesman added that although Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had ‘modified’ some aspects of the Thatcherite model, they had failed to halt privatisations and the erosion of council housing.
In a passionate address to the conference, local Kensington activist Portia Thaxter said the disaster had proved the Tories were “not human beings” and “need to be removed” from office.
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner told the conference on Tuesday that Labour would spend £13bn renovating the nation’s schools, with a chunk of the cash devoted to making buildings safe in the wake of the Grenfell deaths.
Flammable cladding would be removed and sprinklers installed in hundreds of schools identified as having inadequate safety, she said. Some of the cash would come from scrapping the Tory plans to build more new Free Schools.
In his speech, Corbyn will say his government would “make public services accountable to communities, business accountable to the public and politicians accountable to those we serve”.
He will argue that the drive towards more automation of jobs and increase in new technology should be “planned and managed” by government rather than left to private businesses.
Pledging that Labour would deliver “a new common sense” to politics, he will call for “a new settlement between work and leisure” for all workers.
“We need urgently to face the challenge of automation; robotics that could make so much of contemporary work redundant. That is a threat in the hands of the greedy but what an opportunity if it’s managed in the interests of society as a whole.
“But if planned and managed properly, accelerated technological change can be the gateway for a new settlement between work and leisure, a springboard for expanded creativity and culture, making technology our servant and not our master at long last.”
Aides said that big business could not be allowed to control the productivity gains to make the UK’s long-hours culture even worse.
“When you’ve got big leaps forward in technological change and therefore productivity, that can be shared in various ways, both in profits and wages and salaries on the one hand, and increases in wages and salaries and increased leisure time ie shorter working hours, and how that pans out is something that is up to political decisions and corporate decisions,” a spokesman said.
“What we’re talking about is the potential for this big technological leap and the increase in productivity to be shared in different ways. If it’s under the control only of large corporations, as it is currently, the sharing out is in one direction in long hours, the fall in real wages and increased profits.
“Who is in control of that process? If that process of big employment transformation is going to be managed for the benefit of the workforce, that needs to be planned at a national level, it can’t just be left to the companies employing those people or introducing advanced robotics.”