Free speech in the UK is under threat as the government have adopted anti-union tactics reminiscent of the measures Spanish dictator General Franco enforced, according to Jeremy Corbyn. The new Labour leader launched the fiery attack against David Cameron and the Conservatives during his speech at the Trades Union Congress in Brighton on 15 September.
The left-winger claimed the Tories had "declared war" on the British Labour movement with the government's Trade Union Bill, which would enforce a minimum strike ballot threshold of 50% and promised to repeal the draft legislation if he gained power after the 2020 general election.
The controversial bill was voted through by MPs in its second reading in the House of Commons on 14 September, despite opposition from Corbyn and his shadow business secretary, Angela Eagle. But the 66-year-old promised to oppose the proposal at all of its stages in parliament.
"They declared war on organised labour in this country ever since they won the general election, albeit with the support of 24% of the electorate. The Tories champion deregulation whenever deregulation is mentioned, how many times have we heard that – ministers for deregulation, department for deregulation? But the one thing they really want to regulate is organised labour and the trade unions in this country," the Labour leader argued.
"We have to oppose it and recognise what they are doing. The burdens they are placing, as one Tory MP [David Davis] admitted, is actually the strategy used by General Franco in Spain. They seem to still think that it's right just to attack trade unions because they exist. I'm proud to be a trade unionist – that's why we are going to fight this bill all of the way and when we have been elected as a majority in 2020, we are going to repeal this bill and replace it with a workers' right agenda."
'Free speech under attack'
Corbyn went on to claim the proposed anti-union laws were in contravention of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), because the Trade Union Bill apparently threatens free association. The Labour leader also argued free speech was at risk because the draft legislation puts limits on what trade union members can say on social media during an industrial dispute.
The address was Corbyn's first major speech after winning almost 60% of the vote in Labour's leadership contest. The Islington North MP also confirmed 30,000 new members had joined the party since his victory just three days ago on 12 September. The figures mean Labour's total membership has surged past 342,000.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have attacked Corbyn as a threat to the UK's national and economic security. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon even went as far as claiming Labour was a risk to "your family's security" after Corbyn's victory.
"Whether it's weakening our defences, raising taxes on jobs and earnings, racking up more debt and welfare or driving up the cost of living by printing money – Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party will hurt working people," the top Tory said. "This is a very serious moment for our country – the Conservatives will continue to deliver stability, security and opportunity for working people."