Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett spoke fervently in support of an NEC statement, which was carried, on the Labour party’s Brexit strategy in a future general election as he called for unity over division.
“Tories thrive on division – it is in their DNA,” he told conference. “They breed racism Islamophobia, xenophobia, they create hostile environments. Be in no doubt that Brexit is the latest Tory vessel for division.”
Beckett argued that prime minister Boris Johnson and his adviser Dominic Cummings “seek to divide our class over leave or remain, knowing it is their only chance to return themselves to power”.
He added that Jeremy Corbyn presents a clear alternative – one that acknowledges the “democratic legitimacy” of the 2016 referendum but likewise acknowledges “when a Labour deal is agreed it is legitimate to ask if people want that deal or want remain”.
In an attempt to dissuade conference from supporting Composite 13, which will commit the Labour Party to backing remain now against any negotiated deal, Beckett said, “As anyone who has watched Question Time will know, it is simply unsustainable to send Jeremy into a general election saying a credible deal can be negotiated when our policy is to reject that deal come what may.
“Composite 13 is precisely what the Tories want – a guarantee that the next election is about Brexit and Brexit only.”
Beckett said he saw the NEC statement as Jeremy Corbyn’s statement.
“He is saying do not tie my hands – allow me to talk of unity because I am a person of unity; allow me the chance – the only chance of having an election where I can talk of other domestic issues,” he explained. “Let me stand not for the 48% not for the 52% but for the 99% against the privileged 1%.
“Jeremy Corbyn is the man Len [McCluskey] described — he defines his core, and others, not by Brexit but by democracy, trade unionism and socialism.”
Urging conference to back the NEC statement, Beckett reiterated a call for unity.
“Do not let these Tory bastards divide us,” he said, to rapturous applause.
Conference overwhelmingly backed the NEC statement.