Jeremy Corbyn has kicked off Labour’s general election bid promising the “most ambitious and radical campaign the country has ever seen.”
“Real change is coming,” the Labour leader told party activists gathered at London’s Battersea Arts Centre, repeatedly asking them: “Whose side are you on?”
Corbyn said this is “a once in a generation opportunity” to transform the UK’s political and social landscape and laid out the theme of the December 12 general election campaign.
“We are going after the tax-dodgers, we are going after the dodgy landlords, we are going after the bad bosses, we are going after the big polluters because we know whose side we, the Labour Party, are on,” said Corbyn.
“The big question in this election is, whose side are you on?”
Corbyn ‘declares war on the elite’
Corbyn’s core message and theme is fixing a corrupt political system that has been broken by elites and “born-to-rule Tories”. The priorities have to change, he said, so that the country works “for the many not the few.”
His speech named individuals including the billionaires Jim Ratcliffe, the Duke of Westminster and Mike Ashley as representatives of a “rigged system” – a theme the Huffington Post described as “declaring war on ‘elite’ Britons’.
Among the promises made, Corbyn said Labour will end austerity; save the NHS from Trump and further privatisation of services; take real action on climate change; renationalise rail, mail and water; reverse benefit cuts; scrap tuition fees; and, of course, hold a Brexit referendum where the choice will be between a “sensible deal” and remain.
“Whose side are you on?” he asked, ramping up the theme by pitting “tax dodgers hiding money in havens” against the side of children with special education needs?”
Labour activists lapped it up and even the Daily Mail’s Dan Hodges conceded it was “one of Corbyn’s most effective performances. Boris has a fight on his hands here, especially with the Trump/NHS line.”
PM’s ‘do-or-die day’
Johnson’s “do-or-die day “ saw the prime minister visit a prison, a hospital and schools ahead of the Conservative’s general election campaign launch, rather than celebrating the UK’s Brexit.
He blamed Corbyn and Labour for the delay and will be paying close attention to Nigel Farage’s plans for the election amidst speculation of splits within the Brexit Party, according to the Telegraph.
In the paper, Gordon Rayner writes the Brexit Party is “considering withdrawing hundreds of its general election candidates in what would be a major boost to Boris Johnson’s hopes of winning a majority.”
There are splits within the party with Farage having suggested they would field as many as 600 candidates in the general election but other voices suggesting 100 and some as few as 20 to target their limited resources in Leave voting Labour constituencies.
‘Clear-out’ of Remain MPs
Johnson has ruled out an electoral pact with the Brexit Party but has seen the exodus of more moderate Tory MPs continue. The culture secretary Nicky Morgan and former home secretary Amber Rudd are the latest high profile MPs to say they will not be standing in December’s election.
In all, 31 Remain-voting MPs in Leave supporting constituencies are “standing down in a clear out that could significantly shift the balance of power between Leave and Remain in Parliament,” writes Rayner.
In the 2010 general election, 149 MPs stood down largely because of the expenses scandal which forced resignations ahead of candidate re-selections by constituencies.
The BBC say there are currently just over 50 MPs standing down in December’s election, citing the detrimental impact of politics on their personal lives and their families as the main reason – particularly online abuse, worsened by the Brexit debate with the abuse coming from both sides.
Soubry slams senior politicians
Anna Soubry MP, leader of the Independent Group for Change and former Conservative MP, told BBC radio 5 Live’s Nicky Campbell: “It’s not just the abuse, it’s the actual threats to your safety and to your family,”
Soubry said her 85-year-old mother received a letter threatening her safety while her partner had received an “In Sympathy – RIP” card. Like Nicky Morgan, she has also received death threats and seen people jailed because of their abuse toward MPs, and she was scathing about support from colleagues.
“There has been a pitiful lack of response in Parliament from very senior politicians,” said Soubry.