Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters on the Labour left are “tankies and trots” who deploy the tactics of divide and rule as ruthlessly as “the old colonialists they purport to despise”, Boris Johnson will tell the Conservative party conference.
In the strongest attack so far on the new Labour leadership by a senior Tory, the London mayor is to accuse Corbyn’s supporters of fomenting sectarianism and seeking to “accentuate and to Balkanise” ethnic and religious divisions.
Johnson is expected to tell the conference in Manchester on Tuesday: “I know these people, my friends. They are the London Labour party: tankies and trots with interesting vests and militants with vested interests.
“They are the people who idolise the late Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and believe the only problem with socialism is that it has never been properly tried.”
Johnson, who says he knows the London Labour left well after defeating Ken Livingstone in the capital’s mayoral contests in 2008 and 2012, will lay into Corbyn in his last speech to the Tory conference as mayor. He is likely to have calculated that a harshly worded attack on Corbyn’s supporters will do him no harm among Conservative members, who will vote on the party’s next leader from a shortlist of two, which will be voted on by MPs.
The London mayor will say of Corbyn and his supporters: “I know them because we have fought and beaten them twice, and the reason I first wanted to get into that fight eight years ago is that I am fundamentally opposed to that style of politics. They have the same ruthless methods as the old colonialists that they purport to despise, in that they believe in divide and rule.
“Where there is a grievance, they foment it; where there is sectarianism, they take sides. Where there are racial or religious or ethnic divisions, their instinct is always to accentuate and to Balkanise.
“And of course, there is one conflict they relish above all others, and that is economic class war – the irrational belief that you can somehow exalt the poor and the needy by bashing the wealth creators.”
Cabinet ministers have used speeches from the conference platform to attack Corbyn as a threat to Britain’s financial and national security. But the ministers have chosen their language with care for fear of appearing complacent about the political threat posed by Labour.
Johnson will make it clear that such constraints do not apply to him. But he will also use his speech to highlight his credentials as what he calls a “Heineken Tory” who has a record of reaching beyond traditional supporters, as he speaks of a society that is bound together by “an irreducible set of values”.
In a jibe at David Cameron, who once campaigned on championing a the “big society”, Johnson is expected to say: “We believe in using capitalism to deliver social and economic progress and we do it in a one-nation way – by bringing people together.
“That is the society we need – not just a big society, but a united society where the different elements are bound together by an irreducible set of values: democracy, freedom and equality under the law.”
Johnson will speak after the former Yukos oil executive Alexander Temerko said he would be supporting his eventual bid to become the party leader. Temerko said he would back Johnson because he understands business better than the chancellor, George Osborne.
The multimillionaire Conservative donor told Bloomberg: “George is a very good technical chancellor. I like George personally, he’s a very good man, but without global vision.
“Boris is a driver. He can build a team. I will fight for Boris. And put all my resources, influence and everything to give Boris [the] chance to lead this country.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010