Anyone who takes on the establishment gets vilified, Jeremy Corbyn says

The Labour leader warned critics not to write off his chances of victory

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Thursday 20 April 2017 18:21 BST
Anyone who takes on the establishment gets vilified, Corbyn says

Jeremy Corbyn has hit out at the political establishment, claiming that anyone who tries to create a “fairer, more decent society” is inevitably “vilified” by those who want to defend the status quo.

In a passionate stump speech in central London to launch his general election campaign, the Labour leader faced his critics and warned the media not to write off his chances of victory, as he said they had done during the 2015 Labour leadership contest.

He also defended Londoners against accusations that they formed an “Islington elite” and said he would be a prime minister for “the whole country”.

“This idea that Labour is somehow or other, as you so kindly described it, a ‘tainted brand’,” he said in a Q&A session with journalists.

“There are people in the audience who are wearing badges of Keir Hardie. He was vilified, vilified beyond belief when he was elected as the first Labour MP.

“They said ‘how can a working man go to Parliament and represent people?’ Anyone who stands up to create a better, fairer, more decent society, gets vilified.

“Our party gets vilified. But I’ll tell you what: we’re bigger than we’ve ever been, we’re stronger than we’ve ever been and we’re more determined than we’ve ever been.”

When it was pointed out that his party was at least 20 points behind in the opinion polls and likely to lose dozens of seats, he replied: “All I can say is that in 2015 I was given 200:1 as an outside chance.”

The Islington North MP defended himself and his constituents against perceptions that they were a wealthy elite – pointing out his borough’s high levels of poverty.

“I am very proud to represent Islington North in Parliament, and it’s absolutely true: there are people in Islington who buy and drink cappuccino every day. I know many of them,” he joked.

“But it’s also true that 40 per cent of our children are living in poverty. Its also true that there are people sleeping on the streets of our borough, as there are all over this country.

“So don’t run away with this idea that everyone who lives in London is living this life of Riley and it’s very wealthy. It’s not the case. House prices are driving many people out. I want a government that deals with the housing crisis for the whole country. I want a government that deals with employment issues for the whole country.”

Mr Corbyn sparked some speculation after he appeared to dodge a question about whether Labour would back a second referendum. However, a spokesperson for the Labour leader later clarified that a second vote “is not our policy and it won't be in our manifesto”.

While the Labour leader was on his speech he was dealt a further blow by Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart, who announced she would be standing down before June and not re-contesting her Slough seat. Her announcement follows half a dozen other Labour MPs making similar pledges, and the revelation that former Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews had defected to the Liberal Democrats.

In a speech pre-briefed to journalists last night, Mr Corbyn promised to overturn “the wealth extractors’ rigged system” of politics and prove his critics wrong by breaking the rules of the "cosy cartel" that runs British politics.

He pledged not to “play by the rules” during the general election campaign and said his party would “put the interests of the majority first”.

Theresa May on Tuesday announced she wanted to hold a snap general election on 8 June, despite months of saying one would create dangerous instability.

On Wednesday Labour and the Lib Dems backed a vote in the House of Commons to give the Prime Minister the power to call an election, as required under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.

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