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Jeremy Corbyn launches Labour’s election campaign

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to fight the election for the people. But there’s little mention of Brexit despite Brexit having the biggest consequences for them.


Jeremy Corbyn launched the Labour party’s election campaign today with a rousing people vs the establishment speech. He even stuck around for some questions. It shouldn’t sound like such a plus for the Labour leader but it is because Theresa May launched the Tory election campaign yesterday and didn’t take any questions. But the prime minister isn’t fond of scrutiny.

As the Guardian’s Jessica Elgot noted, Corbyn’s anti-establishment speech also worked particularly well given that May began her campaign by dropping into a golf club in a helicopter…

But back to the Labour leader’s speech. For Corbyn, the “establishment” are the multinational corporations who don’t pay their fair share of tax and the governments who have allowed them to continue to do so.

Here’s a bit of his speech on the Tories’ record in government:

We will overturn this rigged system. For all Theresa May’s warm words on the steps of Downing Street the Conservatives will never do any such thing.

Seven years of broken promises show us that on pay, the deficit, the NHS, our schools, our environment.

It was their wealthy friends in the City who crashed our economy. How dare they ruin the economy with their recklessness and greed and then punish those who had nothing to do with it? It was not pensioners, nurses, the low or averaged paid workers or carers who crashed the economy.

The Conservatives boast of record numbers of jobs. But what good is that if people in work are getting poorer and don’t share in the profits of that economy while the Conservatives look after the wealthy few?

Our offer is to tackle elderly poverty and loneliness, invest in our economy, NHS and schools, to improve rights at work and the ten pound living wage.

You can read the full speech at labour.org.uk.

With local council elections due in May, Labour had already got into campaigning mode and started introducing policies including one on free school meals and a £10 minimum wage by 2020. We’ll have to wait and see what else they come up with in their election manifesto. The Financial Times suggests it will be an “anti-establishment tax-and-spend manifesto” that will be its most leftwing since 1983 when the party suffered dramatic election losses under Michael Foot.

There are lots of messages in his speech that will be welcome to lots of people in the country. Britain’s public services including the NHS and schools need investment. However, where the Labour leader fails again on is Brexit. There was only a small mention of Brexit and offered nothing in terms of what their negotiating priorities would be. As it currently stands, it’s not that far off from the Tory government’s. There is no commitment to the single market or to free movement. They have their “six tests” for the deal, which includes the final deal giving us the “exact same benefits” as single market membership. Labour reject a deal that doesn’t pass all six tests but they haven’t specifically said they would be open to EEA membership or revoking Article 50 altogether if it doesn’t. Both Corbyn and the shadow chancellor John McDonnell refused to rule out the possibility of a second referendum when the Brexit terms were known. But a Labour spokesperson later said that “a second referendum is not our policy and it won’t be in our manifesto”.

Not being clear about their Brexit position is a missed opportunity. As much as Corbyn would like this election to not be about Brexit, Brexit is an almighty big elephant in the room. And their message of investing in public services and in people is a lot more feasible with the UK continuing to be a member of the single market. It’s better for the economy and it’s better for jobs. It’s also a better and more secure environment for the kind of investment Labour want to do.


Image: © 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com
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