Jeremy Corbyn has signalled he would oppose a Nato request for additional British troops in Afghanistan, insisting a political solution is needed to resolve the conflict as he launched his party’s general election campaign.
It came as the Labour leader, unveiling the party’s campaign battlebus in Manchester, emblazoned with the party’s slogan “for the many, not the few”, used a speech to declare the issue of Brexit “is settled” and promised a reckoning for “tax cheats, rip-off bosses and greedy bankers” if Labour wins the election.
But speaking to journalists after a defiant speech, in which he was flanked by the Shadow Cabinet and Andy Burnham, the new mayor of Manchester, Mr Corbyn responded to questions regarding a request from the United States to its Nato allies about “future contributions” to military presence in Afghanistan.
Mr Corbyn said: “I want to see a peace settlement in Afghanistan, I was opposed to the deployment of troops in the first place in Afghanistan. I think we have to look at promoting political stability in Afghanistan, and we will look at that request when it comes.
He added that British troops in the region had “suffered a great deal” and that he had spoken to soldiers “who have been through awful, awful situations there and they want to see a secure political solution in Afghanistan”.
“At the end of the day, wars are not solved by the presence of foreign troops, they’re solved by political solutions, that’s what I believe.”
He also dismissed the concept of tactical voting in Liberal Democrat-Conservative marginals in order to prevent the Theresa May’s party getting a bigger majority. “We’re a party that covers the whole country, and I want people all over the country to have a chance to vote Labour,” he said.
“There are Labour candidates all over the country, and I want people to vote Labour, for policies we’ll bring forward, which will change this country, which will produce more opportunity, ore equality wherever you are. So vote Labour wherever you are.”
Introducing Mr Corbyn to the stage in Manchester, to the soundtrack “All Together Now” by The Farm, the former Coronation Street Star Julie Hesmondhalgh, who played Hayley Cropper in the soap, told activists that they had a month to ensure that a Labour victory turned the UK into a “society that truly gives a toff about stuff”.
The Labour leader also sought to neutralise the Brexit issue which Theresa May and Tim Farron have put at the heart of their campaigns, insisting that there is no going back from last year's decision for the UK to leave the EU. Despite calls from party grandees, including Tony Blair, to focus on Britain’s exit from the European Union prominently in the campaign, Mr Corbyn added: “This election isn’t about Brexit itself. That issue has been settled. The question now is what sort of Brexit do we want – and what sort of country do we want Britain to be after Brexit?”
“Labour wants a jobs-first Brexit. A Brexit that safeguards the future of Britain's vital industries, a Brexit that paves the way to a genuinely fairer society, protecting human rights, and an upgraded economy.”
After the speech in Trafford, the Labour leader travelled to Salford precinct to address party activists huddled in car park alongside Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s candidate in the general election for Salford and Eccles.
His first appearance on the streets in Labour’s red battle bus comes after Mr Corbyn said he would not step down from his position even if he loses the general election on 8 June. It has been standard practice at every election for a quarter of a century for the leader of the losing party to stand down, but they never promise to do so ahead of the contest, because by convention they never openly admit they might lose.
It is also contrary to what his close ally and Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, told the BBC last year when asked whether Mr Corbyn would resign after defeat. “That would be inevitable,” he said.Reuse content