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29 September 2015updated 26 Jul 2021 10:28am

How original was Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour conference speech?

Chunks of the Labour leader's speech came from passages offered by a speechwriter to Ed Miliband in 2011, and he also used a joke already told by a comedian.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Jeremy Corbyn has delivered his first party conference speech as Labour leader. But it already appears to be unravelling. Alex Massie over at the Spectator points out that a number of its sections seem identical to passages written by the author, professional speechwriter, and former political adviser to Denis Healey and Gerald Kaufman, Richard Heller, on his blog in August 2011.

Parts of Corbyn’s speech sound very similar to what Heller wrote in his blog, which is a series of passages he suggested were available to Ed Miliband – “speaking passages offered to Ed Miliband, without reply” – to use in his conference speech in 2011 (Miliband declined to do so). Heller later criticised the speech Miliband gave at the 2011 conference.

The Times‘ Sam Coates tweeted that Corbyn’s team initially denied Heller’s involvement:

But that story has changed, with Labour saying his remarks were used as a “template”:

Heller himself has said that his passages were available to others, upon request. Corbyn’s team claim that he was “happy” for them to use his writing.

I have contacted Heller to ask if he expressly gave them permission to use the passages. It’s likely – he appears to be supportive of Corbyn, praising his authenticity in an opinion piece for the Yorkshire Post.

But that’s not the only thing. One of Corbyn’s jokes about his negative press coverage was one written by the leftwing comedian Mark Steel. Steel mocked the Times’ description of Corbyn’s bike as a “Chairman Mao-style bicycle – a less thorough reporter might only mention that he rides a bicycle” in an article for the Independent, and made the same joke on a recent episode of BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz. Corbyn used the same joke at the beginning of his speech. I have yet to confirm whether he asked Steel’s permission to use the joke.